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Query:

Is there a religious group or sect in Cuba, possibly called La Fe del Agua and possibly originating in Viñales in the western province of Pinar del Río, whose tenets include the miraculous properties of water and pacifism?

Response:

According to three scholars contacted by the INS-RIC, there is such a group based in western Cuba.

Two of the scholars, one a Miami-based Cuban-American and the other a New York-based Cuban-American, said they knew of a sect in that part of Cuba which believes in the miraculous properties of water and both said that the group was often referred to as Los Aguateros, although they believed it was known by other names as well (Cuban-American scholars 8, 9 February 2000).

The Miami-based scholar believes the sect has about 500 followers, while the New York-based scholar thinks it is “maybe a little more than that” (Cuban-American scholars 8, 9 February 2000).

Neither could specifically confirm that this group has pacifism as one of its tenets, but the New York-based scholar noted that it is common for small sects in Cuba to be against participation in the military on religious grounds (Cuban-American scholars 8, 9 February 2000).

The third scholar contacted is a Florida-based American woman who lived in Cuba for extended periods during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and was deeply involved in studying Santería and other religious sects. She distinctly remembers a water-cure group based in Pinar del Río and referred to as La Fe del Agua. She said that it was a relatively small, local grouping (American scholar 12 February 2000).

The New York-based scholar said that in Cuba there is somewhat of a tradition of belief in water cures, noting that during the 1940s there was a man on Cuban radio who called himself “Clavelito.” He preached of water’s curing properties and told listeners they could better connect with him by placing a glass of water on top of the radio itself (Cuban-American scholar 9 February 2000).

In this regard, the INS-RIC consultant who conducted research for this query, interviewed a teacher in Havana in 1995 who, in relating his family history, said that when he was young his relatives used to bathe in the San Vicente River near the town of San Vicente because they believed the waters had “medical properties.” The teacher did not mention a water-based sect, but it should be noted that San Vicente is only about 15 kilometers northwest of Viñales in the province of Pinar del Río (INS-RIC Consultant February 2000).

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References:

American scholar, Florida-based. Telephone Interview (8 February 2000).

Cuban-American scholar. Telephone Interview (Miami: 9 February 2000).

Cuban-American scholar. Telephone Interview (New York: 12 February 2000).

RIC expert consultant (New York, February 2000).



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