I left a somewhat chilly Philly for San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is a hub for many flights between the US and parts of the Caribbean. I have been there a couple of times on my way to somewhere else, and although we flew in low over the city, I haven't really been to Puerto Rico, since I have never left the San Juan airport. The airport is a strange experience since the stores and fast food cafes belong to the familiar US airport chains.
Flying to Santo Domingo is a different matter. To go there you need to complete an immigration card and a customs declaration, and on arrival buy what is called a tourist visa, but seems to function as a non-negotiable $10 tax on visitors. You then have to go through immigration (which doesn’t happen if you are flying from the US to Puerto Rico) and finally get some Dominican Republic Pesos. After all that, and friendly welcomes, I knew that I had truly arrived in a Hispanic Caribbean country.
When I got out of customs I saw the IHP – Iglesias Historicas de la Paz sign that was being held up to welcome participants at the Conference of the Historic Peace Churches of Latin America. After many hugs and handshakes we were dispatched in groups of fifteen onto a shuttle bus to the hotel where we would spend the night before moving to a Catholic retreat center for the rest of the week.
70 people are expected. Apart from a group from the US (mostly denominational staff like me) the majority are from the Caribbean and Latin America. In descending numerical order they are from the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Jamaica, Peru and Venezuela. The Cuban Friends who couldn't get visas will have their talks read and I will show video clips of interviews I did with them when we were together last week.
The proceedings will be mainly in Spanish, with interpretation to and from English and Haitian Creole.
Please join the conference. You can watch it live over the internet in English or Spanish at http://www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcasts/PeaceConf2010