The night of January 27, 2019, is one that Fray Gabriel Avila Luna will not easily forget; there were moments when he thought it might have been his last. Winds of close to 200 miles an hour ripped through parts of Havana. For around 16 minutes, the friars living in the parish of Jesús del Monte hovered between life and death. The hurricane tore through a swath of territory some 12 miles long and a third of a mile wide, taking the lives of four people.
“It sounded like a military bombardment, there were sounds like gunshots going off and we really thought we were going to die,” recalls Brother Rodolfo Rojas. “There are still bits of roof tile from the neighboring houses embedded in the walls of our church and monastery. The fear that something like this might happen again is now something that has entered the very bones of many of our neighbors.” And hurricane season is about to begin.
The hurricane vented its fury on the church especially. “The wooden roof, dating from colonial times, and the rubble stone walls were irreparably damaged and almost all the benches, statues and other furnishings inside the church were either destroyed or swept away by the force of the wind, which tore open the large door of the main front entrance.”
“The iron cross that surmounted the bell tower was simply ripped from its moorings and fell down like a projectile on the roof above the choir, leaving a huge gaping hole,” explains Eduardo Andrés, the man charged with the reconstruction plans, for which ACN is providing assistance in the coming months.