Want to join people such as Louisiana's governor, some mindless Canadians, and Lucia Newman in visiting Cuba. Just join a Santeria church.
Religious groups get travel licenses with little or no trouble. Back in November, I ran into a group at St. George Episcopal Church in Jacksonville as they were packing up for a trip there. While the Episcopal Church has been losing members, Knight-Ridder Newspapers reports Santeria has been exploding since folks found out the church will help them get a trip to Cuba.
Jose Montoya, head of the Sacerdocio Lucumi Shango Eyeife in Miami, said between 1996 and July 2004, he took about 60 people to Cuba under his religious travel license. Since the restrictions took effect in July, he has taken about 2,500, he said.
"Before, people didn't have a necessity, and Afro Cubans who practice our religions could travel to Cuba without a license, but now they need a license," Montoya said. "This is a ticking time bomb. They will give a religious license to anyone."
Montoya says he is the Maximo Sacerdote General, the Maximum High Priest, though admits he has no church building nor temple.
Under the old rules, one could travel from the U.S. to Cuba once a year. Now it's once in three years - except the Treasury Department allows unlimited travel for religious reasons.
Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) thinks the religious licenses are being abused and plans to investigate. Tom Cooper, who operates an airline that still makes flights from the U.S. to Cuba, says it's a case of resolver.
"I have my own questions about it," Cooper said. "I think the Cuban people are very industrious and ingenious, and I think that they really will find a way to visit their relatives in Cuba."
Yes, the Cuban people always find a way.
Maybe I'll look into this. I've always been somewhat partial to Chango.
But before you go, you might want to remember that Cuba's new rules prohibit tourist interaction with the locals. To understand how the locals live, read this from Val.