Del Amanecer Conference covers the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo on the eastern side of the island. This area has been referred to as “the high eastern province” for its mountains, which cover a major part of the conference’s territory.
The Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo provinces are basically comprised of highlands and mountains. Two mountain ranges cover this territory: the Sierra Maestra mountain range with the highest mountains in the country (Pico Turquino at 1974 meters, Pico Cuba at 1874 meters, and Pico Suecia at 1734 meters), and the La Gran Piedra mountain range with La Gran Piedra as its highest point at 1226 meters.1 The area also contains Las Cuchillas de Baracoa with Viaducto de la Farola, which is considered one of the seven marvels of Cuban civil engineering.2 The territory is rich in culture and traditions due to the diverse ethnography of the region. Its three major cities have peculiar cultures.
Baracoa: Admiral Cristóbal Colón discovered Baracoa in 1492, and it became the first Spanish villa in Cuba founded by Diego Velázquez in 1511. Some remnants of indigenous customs are still very much alive. The most genuine manifestations of their culture are found in their ancestral culinary traditions. At the end of the 18th century after the Haitian revolution, over 100 French families settled there and influenced the region’s culture.3
Guantánamo: Thanks to multiple migrations, Guantánamo has developed a social conglomerate composed of people from diverse nationalities: French, Haitians, Catalans, Chinese, Africans, and from the Antilles. Therefore, its people are mainly characterized as “mixed,” and among the people are African and Haitian traditions.4
Santiago de Cuba: Santiago de Cuba was the first capital of the island up to 1556. The home of Governor Diego Velázquez still exists and has been converted into a museum. The area still has urban and architectural particularities inherited through the years – a mix of Spanish, African, and French cultures. Its historic downtown depicts places and environments typical to this area and of monumental value. Due to its strong Caribbean influence, it is known as the “capital of the Caribbean” and is a frequented tourist destination.
The Del Amanecer Conference territory has a population of 1,566,930.5 The conference has 8,593 members.6 That shows a ratio of one Adventist per 182.3 inhabitants. Members meet in 61 organized churches and 68 companies or what would be churches on the brink of being organized. The ministerial body has 12 ordained pastors, 11 licensed ministers, and four female Bible workers.7 The territory has three churches that are almost impossible to reach by automobile and, therefore, very hard to reach at all.
Origins of Adventist Work in Territory
The Adventist presence is reported to have existed since 1913 in Santiago de Cuba, the second most important city in the country. On December 2, 1913, and on the front page of La Independencia, an informational newspaper edited in that locality, it was reported:
Before sunset, Pastor Allen gave another much appreciated speech at the new evangelical locale on the corner of the Bartolomé Masó (formerly San Basilio) and Reloj streets. The conference started at 7:30 p.m. with Pastor Anderson. … Pastor Allen indicates that the series of speeches that he is offering will deal with some of the symbols in the book of Revelation.8
Genoveva Ramírez Echezarreta accepted the Adventist message in Santiago de Cuba in 1915 and was baptized on May 20, 1917, by Pastor Lane at age 17. She left a beautiful testimony as her legacy. She said that those who had accepted the Adventist faith before her had told her that the first missionary in that territory had been Adela Burgos. Even though it appears that she has worked for a short time, Adela left a group of Sabbath observers among high-class society. It is worth mentioning that one of Genoveva Ramirez’s sons, Vicente Rodríguez, was a pastor and the last director of Colegio de las Antillas in Santa Clara from 1962 until its expropriation by the government in 1967.
Hebert S. Moll, an evangelist and colporteur from North America, arrived in Santiago de Cuba in 1915 and became a notable transmitter of the Adventist message. He efficiently combined the sale of religious publications with intelligently sustained work of evangelizing and proclaiming Biblical truths. Moll stayed in Santiago de Cuba for two years.9
Pedro Godoy Céspedes, a member of the Baptist Church, accepted the message of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming and was convinced that the Sabbath was the day of rest instituted by God. Several people also accepted the newfound faith, among which were Eudosia Carbonell Araujo (Pedro’s wife), Andrea Díaz, Caridad Vallejo, Alejandro Dumas and his wife, Anita Rueda, María Ávila, and Adela Preval. These became the first people to observe the Sabbath in that city.10
The Adventist Church in Santiago de Cuba was officially recognized on November 24, 1917. The General Conference had suggested that the Cuban Mission administrators purchase a property near Santiago de Cuba to build a house to serve as a school and church, but this had not been possible. On May 7, 1920, as a legal representative of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, John Emil Anderson purchased a plot of land with the purpose of building the first Adventist church in the city that could also later serve as a school.11
On January 22, 1922, Pastor Kelman dedicated the church of Veguita de Galo in Santiago de Cuba; the church became a center of proclamation of the Adventist message in the region.12 The valuable contribution of Estela Bleisten, a missionary during those formative years, was remarkable.13 The proclaimed message reached different regions of the territory, and there, as in many other areas of the country, churches grew in numbers.
Events Conducive to the Organization of the Conference
The provinces that form parts of Del Amanecer Conference were previously part of the East Conference’s territory since East Conference was organized in 1967. In the Quinquennium Congress of the Cuban Union Conference of 2005, after having observed the rapid membership growth in the eastern region of Cuba and the need to have an administration closer to church members, it was voted to study the possibility and conditions that would allow for the organization of a new field in that territory.
After studying and administratively evaluating the situation, on June 3, 2009, the Cuban Union Conference Board in harmony with the policy manual of the Inter-American Division voted to ask the East Delegation to convene a congress with its constituents for the purpose of considering the proposal. On August 27, 2009, the constituent congress voted for the organization of a mission that would cover the Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo provinces.
On October 27, 2009, in Miami, Florida, the Inter-American Division Survey Committee met with the administrators of the Cuban Union Conference and the East Delegation. On November 3, 2009, the Inter-American Division Board approved the organization of the new field and named it the Eastern Mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cuba.14
Organization as a Mission
Once approval was obtained from the Inter-American Division, the Cuban Union Conference Board met in La Habana on November 26, 2009, and named the administrators for the new field, Pastor Jenaro Jiménez de Castro Romero as president and Pastor Eduardo Arodis Lorenzo Rodríguez as secretary-treasurer. It was also voted to convene a congress for the constituents of the mission on March 23, 2010.
The new mission began to administratively and financially function independently from the East Delegation in January 2010. It began working on the organization and creation of an infrastructure that would allow the mission to function efficiently. On March 1, 2010, the mission’s provisional office was established in Rey Pelayo No. 82 lower level, corner of Reloj, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
As it had been planned, on March 23, 2010, the constituents’ congress of the Eastern Mission took place in Fomento Church of Santiago de Cuba. Under the day’s theme of “Born to Serve,” the Eastern Mission was established as local field number 111 of the Inter-American Division.
When the mission was organized, it had 7,441 baptized members, 51 organized churches, 59 companies or churches in formation, 12 pastoral districts, and four ministerial zones. It had one Adventist per 273 habitants. The mission began with seven ordained ministers (two in administration), nine aspiring ministers, six female Bible workers, and 10 staff. Everyone worked intensively to create the conditions needed for a change of status.
In 2014, a church membership audit was held, and the true membership total became known, demonstrating it to be far less than what the initial numbers had been in statistical reports. Regardless of the setback, the church continued to grow and consolidate. During this period, 10 new congregations were organized.
Official Organization of the Conference
After six years of the Eastern Mission making history, a change of status became possible. On August 30, 2015, the Second Congress of the Eastern Mission took place under the theme, “One People, One Mission.” The Eastern Mission became Del Amanecer Conference, but, for legal reasons, it is known in Cuba as Del Amanecer Delegation. The elected conference administrators were Pastor Jenaro Jiménez de Castro Romero as president, Pastor Adaías Lores Rodríguez as secretary, and Pastor Eduardo A. Lorenzo Rodríguez as treasurer. The new office building on Calle 11 No. 214 between F. Marcané and B. Correoso, Reparto, Santa Bárbara, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, was dedicated on August 22, 2016.
Development of the Conference
Currently, the Del Amanecer Conference territory is organized in four ministerial zones that group 14 pastoral districts formed by 61 organized churches and 68 companies or groups that function as churches and are on route to being organized. Since the laws of the country since the 1960s have not allowed for churches to have new locations to conduct church services, only 13 church buildings are recognized by the State. Many congregations gather in certain homes and, in some cases, have done so for over 25 years. This unusual situation makes the organization of new congregations difficult. Regardless, with the “houses of service” modality, the church maintains sustained growth.
Future Development of the Conference
To the Glory of God, new doors are being opened, and, regardless of the political and financial situation, there is trust in a sustained development of the church in the Amanecer region. There is still much to be done. To face the challenge, the conference counts on ministerial pastors and church members committed to the mission.
The church currently continues to grow and conquer new places. Colporteuring has extended greatly throughout the territory and presents Adventist literature and books in an exposition at the Book Fair, an annual cultural event that is considered the most significant event of the Cuban editorial movement. The Book Fair was celebrated in the Teatro Heredia in Santiago de Cuba, a convention center that is considered the second-most important convention center of the country.
Health fairs are well accepted and solicited by the community. Blood banks are also well received; they open doors to share the truth. Other activities that impact the community and relate to lifestyle and benefits are also well received by the community and help promote the church’s identity.
Several small groups or companies are preparing to organize as churches, however, more churches cannot be built. Many dedicated brothers and sisters are taking the message of salvation to new areas. Therefore, “our main problem is that we are growing, and to find and prepare homes in which to conduct church services constitutes one of our major challenges.”15
List of Presidents
Eastern Mission: Jenaro Jiménez de Castro Romero (2010-2015).
Del Amanecer Conference: Jenaro Jiménez de Castro Romero (2016- ).
“Baracoa (ciudad en la provincial de Guantánamo).” EcuRed. Accessed July 8, 2019. https://www.ecured.cu/Baracoa_(ciudad_en_la_provincia_de_Guantánamo).
“Cuba y sus maravillas.” mi pais cuba.cu. Accessed July 9, 2019. http://mipais.cuba.cu/cat.php?idcat=50&idpadre=45&nivel=2.
Del Amanecer Conference. Treasurer Statistical Report. July 2019. Secretariat office archives. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
De los Santos Freyre, José. Crónicas: algunos apuntes sobre la Iglesia de Veguita de Galo en Santiago de Cuba. Unpublished, 1995. Iglesia de Veguita de Galo archives. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
Eastern Mission first congress minutes. Crónicas del surgimiento de la Misión Oriental. March 23, 2010. Del Amanecer Conference archives. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
Garcías Vidal, Manuel. Lawyer and notary. Record 141. Segregación y compraventa de una parcela de terreno. May 7, 1920. Del Amanecer Conference archives. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
“Guantánamo (municipio).” EcuRed. Accessed July 8, 2019. https://www.ecured.cu/Guantánamo.
Rodríguez Echezarreta, Genoveva. Unpublished testimony. February 8, 1962. Iglesia de Veguita de Galo archives. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
“Santiago de Cuba (municipio).” EcuRed. Accessed July 8, 2019. https://www.ecured.cu/Santiago_de_Cuba_(municipio)#Relieve.
“Últimas publicaciones.” ONEI: Oficina Nacional de Estadística e Información: Republica de Cuba. Accessed July 8, 2019. http://www.one.cu/publicaciones/cepde/anuario_2017/anuario_demografico_2017.pdf.
Year-end meeting minutes. Presidential Report. 2018. Del Amanecer Conference secretariat archives. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
“Santiago de Cuba (municipio),” EcuRed, accessed July 8, 2019, https://www.ecured.cu/Santiago_de_Cuba_(municipio)#Relieve.↩
“Cuba y sus maravillas,” mi pais cuba.cu, accessed July 9, 2019, http://mipais.cuba.cu/cat.php?idcat=50&idpadre=45&nivel=2.↩
“Baracoa (ciudad en la provincial de Guantánamo),” EcuRed, accessed July 8, 2019, https://www.ecured.cu/Baracoa_(ciudad_en_la_provincia_de_Guantánamo).↩
“Últimas publicaciones,” ONEI: Oficina Nacional de Estadística e Información: Republica de Cuba, accessed July 8, 2019, http://www.one.cu/publicaciones/cepde/anuario_2017/anuario_demografico_2017.pdf.↩
Del Amanecer Conference, Treasurer Statistical Report, July 2019, secretariat office archives.↩
José De los Santos Freyre, Crónicas: algunos apuntes sobre la Iglesia de Veguita de Galo en Santiago de Cuba (unpublished, 1995), Iglesia de Veguita de Galo archives.↩
Genoveva Rodríguez Echezarreta, unpublished testimony, February 8, 1962, Iglesia de Veguita de Galo archives.↩
De los Santos Freyre, 1995, Iglesia de Veguita de Galo archives.↩
Manuel Garcías Vidal, lawyer and notary, Record 141, Segregación y compraventa de una parcela de terreno, May 7, 1920, Del Amanecer Conference archives.↩
De los Santos Freyre, 1995, Iglesia de Veguita de Galo archives.↩
Gladis Rodríguez Ramírez, interview by author, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 1, 2010.↩
Eastern Mission first congress, Crónicas del surgimiento de la Misión Oriental, March 23, 2010, Del Amanecer Conference archives.↩
Year-end meeting, Presidential Report, 2018, Del Amanecer Conference secretariat archives.↩