Father Bladimir Navarro with a Cuban couple aided by Cobijo / Courtesy of Proyecto Cobijo

Madrid, Spain, Oct 5, 2022 / 17:20 pm (CNA).

With the increasing number of Cubans settling in Madrid, a group of Catholics has launched the Cobijo Project to welcome and help their compatriots to integrate into Spanish society.

Cobijo was started by Father Bladimir Navarro, a priest originally from Camagüey who has lived in Madrid for three years, along with fellow Cubans Glaisys Carbonell, Yanaika Lafuente, Lázaro González, Ronald Bolaños, and Jany Gálvez García.

The project’s logo shows a silhouette of the Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba, with the colors of the national flag.

“Cobijo began as an act of Divine Providence,” Fr. Navarro told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency.

The priest recounted that since he arrived in the Spanish capital he felt that “God was asking me to welcome people who, like me, arrive from Cuba, who arrive with just what they’re wearing.”

The house where Cobijo operates is located in Alcobendas on the outskirts of metro Madrid, and has been leased to a lady at a generous price, fully furnished.

Fr. Navarro said that by Aug. 1 the group already had the key. 

“A young Cuban man began living there and a week later we already had a married couple who came from Serbia with a one-and-a-half-year-old baby, and then we took in another young woman; so we’ve taken in five now. And that’s how Cobijo began, as an act of Divine Providence,” he said.

The priest told ACI Prensa that although many Cubans continue to seek to go directly to the United States, lately the number of their compatriots who go to other countries is growing.

“They leave everything and travel through different routes, through Nicaragua, through Serbia and through Moscow. These are the three places that don’t require a tourist visa. So they travel, risking everything with their journeys, even months, taking routes where you have to pay a lot of money,” he recounted.

However, he said that sometimes they also get into debt, “because to make this type of journey they have to borrow a lot of money and sell their houses, all their belongings and arrive in Madrid with nothing.”

Fr. Navarro said that “we are seeing one of the largest migratory waves that Cuba has ever had.”

“The Cubans who are leaving are very desperate. They arrive here very sad, they arrive with the desire to start a completely different life; but the Cuban person is very cheerful, very enterprising, very sociable; and all that has also been stolen from us by communism.”

“They come to these countries with the desire to help their own who remain there, because Cuba is falling apart,” he said.

Given this reality, the priest explained that the three important bywords for the Cobijo Project are “welcome, transform, and send.”

“The first thing we offer a Cuban when he arrives, crossing borders from Russia, from Serbia, to Spain, is to welcome them. We offer him shelter, a home, a family.”

The migrants are given psychological support through Yanaika Lafuente, a member of the Cobijo coordinating group, and “my spiritual support as a priest.”

For the Cubans who arrive at Cobijo “we help them with registering as a Madrid resident, requesting political asylum, all the procedures from the health point of view. Also the process of sending children to school –we do this through Diocesan Cáritas– and also help them in their search for work and integration into Spanish society,” the priest explained.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.