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Day 2- Sept 19

Posted October 19, 2015
Updated October 21, 2015

A group of Cubans gathered to welcome Pope Francis to their country.

Day 2- Sept 19

The pope arrives today.

I asked Andy to take us to a nearby church, and he took us to Parroquia La Milagrosa. When we arrived, church members were getting ready for the pope’s arrival. They loaded up vans with home-made posters welcoming Pope Francis. Several women shared their favorites with me. You could see the pride and excitement in their eyes. They told us a big group from the church had plans to meet at a local park to take a bus to the main stretch of road the pope would take to ride into Havana.

When we arrived, a small group had already gathered in the park. If by chance someone couldn’t see them, they could be heard blocks away. It was a young crowd. They had a guitar, maracas and chants to last for days.

My favorite?

“Uno, dos, y tres, que papa mas chevere.” (One, two, and three, what a cool pope.)

As one group sang, another woman was adding stickers to a poster. Others were getting their face painted. It seemed like a pep rally.

The busses arrived, and I realized part of the story would be capturing the excitement of the bus ride. We were able to convince the driver to allow us to film inside the bus as Cubans traveled together for this historic event- the first Latin American pope to visit the island. The bus was filled, shoulder to shoulder, with people of all ages.

Church members sang almost the entire way, pausing only to pray the rosary.

Once the group arrived, we waited with them, spending most of our time with a young woman named Susanna. She was one of the few willing to speak English on camera. Looking back at it now, I realized the language didn’t matter. Her excitement could be understood in any language.

We waited for about an hour and a half. I was next to a man getting updates via text from a friend at the airport on the pope’s arrival. When the pope left the airport, word spread quickly and people began to make their way to the edge of the sidewalk.

The pope was coming in and so were the clouds. It started to drizzle slightly and the wind picked up as the motorcade quickly made its way down the road.

People raised their signs and waved the Cuban and Vatican City flag while cheering for the pope. Pope Francis waved. The only thing separating the thousands of cheering Cubans from the pope was a human chain. It was over in a matter of seconds. While some seemed disappointed in how fast the motorcade was traveling, it didn’t seem to overshadow the overall excitement.

Susanna had front row seats to it all. When we approached her again, she told me this was what Cuba needed. She struggled to find the words to describe her feelings. I thought to myself, this is what hope looks like.

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