A church built from its foundations

New Word

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Fátima, en Tamarindo, Ciego de Ávila.
Horacio de Jesús Oria Norcisa
Horacio de Jesús Oria Norcisa

His name is Horatio de Jesús Oria Norcisa. He was born a few years ago, enough to have known the old and small church of Our Lady of Fatima in the village of Tamarindo, present-day province of Ciego de Avila. He still remembers with nostalgia that wooden house that for more than seventy years hosted the Catholic temple of the village. Horatio today bursts with jubilation. Although he lives in Havana, he feels attached to his terroir and therefore still enjoys as a recent what happened on May 13, 2016, about what he agreed to talk to New Word about.

casa de madera que sirvió como templo
Casa de madera que sirvió como templo

What happened that day, Horatio?

“In Tamarindo the long-yearned church of Our Lady of Fatima was inaugurated. It was built from its bases, not restored. For a long time the faithful gathered in a wooden house that served as a temple, but as it was about to collapse, they began to perform the Eucharist at the home of one of the members of the community.”

What was it like that temple house that for more than seventy years was the church of the village of Tamarindo?

“The chapel was in the dining room and at the back the little sacristy. It featured a turned and varnished wooden altar, six benches were located throughout the living room. Since the fifties of the last century, there was the idea of building a decorous temple for the village, and for that purpose a plot was donated in a central area of the village. From that moment on, materials began to accumulate for future construction.”

But why wasn’t it until 2016 that the current church was built? What happened all this time?

“To the triumph of the Revolution, the donated land was intervened or nationalized, also the materials. In this space two houses were built and mass had to continue to be celebrated in the church of wood and shingles, which continued to deteriorate. Its deterioration reached such an extent that it was called the ‘temple of bats’.”

You were a child when you attended that church, wood and shingle church; Do you remember any anecdotes from those years?

“I remember a solemn mass that was celebrated and attended by the rebellious bearded who came down from the boquerón hill, where the command of Camilo Cienfuegos was. I even keep a photo from that moment and a seed necklace from St. Joan, which they presented to the faithful of the community. The church had in the portal vigueta, attached to one of the poles, the bell, which for those years disappeared and was later found in the vicinity of the village. Four Catholic ladies went looking for her, sat on the grass and waited a long time until they gave it to her. She was then moved into a lumber, two of them on each side, on a three-kilometre journey. A short time later, the bell disappeared again and never appeared.”

How and when do you start work by building a new church?

“After the visit to Cuba of His Holiness St. John Paul II, it was said in the village that the property of the plot already mentioned was in the Archbishopric of Camaguey, which was the province to which the parish of Chambas belonged before the new political-administrative division of 1975, where the previous six provinces were broken down. For this reason, we had to look for a plot in the village – which was bought by the state – to build the church.
“Many appeared, including some donated by village owners; I mean, there was nothing to buy. But according to government leaders in the territory, none were appropriate, as they were in very central areas or around parks and schools. The government proposed some but on the outskirts of the village. So a piece of land appeared where there was an uninhabited house. It was located on a street that had no exit and the new construction was somewhat covert; it was feasible for the State, which bought it to be handed over to the Church.
“The project was kept by the parish of Chambas and by the priest of chambas, the Spanish father Francisco Iturbi, who passionately supported the initiative. The designer was architect Ariel Escalante. When the inhabitants of the village began to see the uprising of land and the base of the future temple, they were amazed, occupying the entire front of the plot and a respectable extension.”

It could be said that it is a small church…

“It is not the great church, but it is very dignified for the village of Tamarindo. Dignified and fair. Of course, the image of fatima’s virgin presides over her. In the living room, in two sections, there are ten benches of varnished wood; in the background are those of the ancient temple as a souvenir. The only drawback is the bell so small that it does not sit throughout the village, although the design of the bell tower was designed to accommodate a larger one that has not yet appeared.
“Another image that accompanies the new church is that of the Risen Christ, which was elaborated in the workshops of Holguin. The image of current Fatima, larger than the previous one, was donated, and is more appropriate for the new temple; the ancient remains in the Sacristy for the processions of May 13, The Day of Our Lady of Fatima. The new temple is also adorned by an ancient image of the Virgin of Charity who was in the old house and a bronze cross with the crucified Christ donated by my mother in the fifties of the last century and who went to look for Santa Clara – where she was moved by bad handling – for it was my mother’s wish to return to Tamarindo , although she could not see the new temple and its restored cross. This cross was polished in Havana, then in Chambas the base was removed, as it was to put on the altar and a bronze foot was added to fit with the chandeliers. I was the one who introduced her to the community at the opening of the church.”

How was it for that child, now an adult, to attend the opening of the new church?

“The ceremony began with a procession from the ancient temple with the virgin of Fatima to the present temple. The Eucharist was celebrated by the bishop in force in those years in Ciego de Avila, Archbishop Mario Mestril and concelebrated by priests who officiated in previous years, in a total of thirteen, to pay homage to May 13, Fatima Day.
“When the procession arrived at the new temple, which remained with the door closed, a representative of the tamarindo community gave the building to the bishop and presented him with the plans of the construction, as well as documents related to the erection and describing the march of the work. Then the bishop invited the people into the church. After the rite of entry, he blessed the water to spray the people, purify the walls and the altar, and began the Eucharist with representatives of the parishes of the entire diocese of Ciego de Avila. I felt like a kid again.”

Horatio is satisfied. He has been able to share the history of the church he met as a child. At some point he believed it was the first temple to rise from the foundations in Cuba after 1959 and so he considered it urgent to tell the event. Today he understands as the most important thing, that that old yearning of those who dreamed of a new church in Tamarindo, is a happy reality. Ω

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