Edited by Rev. Stan Perea with contributions from Dr. Stephen Bevans, Dr. Carlos F. Cardoza, Dr. Zaida Maldonado-Pérez, and Dr. Marcos Antonio Ramos, this book takes us through 50 years of Dr. Justo L. González’ ministry. The book includes a reflection of Justo, his biography and the conferences of the First Lecture Series of The Justo González Center for Latino/a Ministries, held in 2012 under the general theme: "Justo: His Legacy to the Church." The book includes full text in both Spanish and English.
Editado por el Rev. Stan Perea y con la participación del Dr. Stephen Bevans, el Dr. Carlos F. Cardoza, la Dra. Zaida Maldonado-Pérez y el Dr. Marcos Antonio Ramos, este libro nos resume cincuenta años de labor en el ministerio de Dr. Justo L. González. El libro incluye una reflexión de Justo, su biografía y todas las conferencias de la Primera Serie de Conferencias del Centro Justo L. González, la cual fue dedicada al legado de Justo a la iglesia Hispana/Latina y más allá de ella. El Libro está publicado en español e ingles.
Highlighting the works of hispanic theologian Justo González, this book is the result of the First Lecture Series of The Justo González Center for Latino/a Ministries, held in 2012 under the general theme: "Justo: His Legacy to the Church."
The Justo Center was established in 2011 by the Association for Hispanic Theological Education (AETH) as a centralized resource for Latino/a Ministries to address the need for accessible and affordable Latino-focused and Latino relevant resources.
Through its annual Lecture Series, the Justo Center gathers denominational leaders, seminary professors, directors of Bible institutes, and pastors for reflections on topics relevant to the Hispanic church and community. The Justo González Center is housed on the Dunnam Campus of Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.
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About the Author
La Asociación para la Educación Teológica Hispana (AETH) existe para fomentar el diálogo y la colaboración entre educadores teológicos, administradores de escuelas de formación ministerial y estudiantes para el ministerio cristiano en los Estados Unidos, Canadá y Puerto Rico.
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A Legacy of Fifty Years: The Life and Work of Justo González
By Stan Perea
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2013 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
History, Always History
Notes on the life of Justo L. González Marcos Antonio Ramos
Justo González García was born in Rancho Boyeros, in the municipality of Santiago de las Vegas in Havana, Cuba, on August 9, 1937—a most turbulent year. The year had begun with a new resident in the Presidential Palace of Havana. Federico Laredo Brú, attorney at law, had been elected vice president and had taken office as head of state of Cuba on December 24, 1936. His predecessor in the presidency, Miguel Mariano Gómez, had been removed from office through the most polemic congressional decision in the history of Cuba. Gómez had opposed a new tax law that would have allowed the expansion of the educational system to include rural regions where there were no schools. The sugar industry, which largely determined the course of the national economy, was estimated to produce nearly three million tons of sugar by 1937, most of which was intended to go to the North American market. In January, word was out that many day-laborers from Haiti, Jamaica, and other Caribbean islands would be deported.
Certainly, all this was present in the mind of a citizen such as Professor Justo González Carrasco, a Methodist Christian who was always interested in current events in his country. He was critical of the various administrations that would continually come into power every number of years, or months, or even days. One of these administrations lasted but a few hours. As someone well versed in the history of his country, he had actively participated in the revolution of 1933 by which President Gerardo Machado was overthrown. President Machado had been elected in 1928 as the sole candidate; he established a new constitution that year, which would open the way for an extension of his power. That move cost him a great part of the people's support.
Don Justo's wife, Dr. Luisa García Acosta, was likely more interested in the recent creation of a commission to reorganize education in teachers training schools, and in other intermediate training schools, as well as in the new set of standards for the Universidad de la Habana, which had become autonomous as a result of the revolution and of the demands made by students. That polished and intelligent woman, capable of discerning the most difficult pedagogical issues and whose mastery of the Spanish language was unsurpassed, recognized, as did her husband, the development of a political experiment in the biggest island of the West Indies.
But on that August 9, 1937, Doña Luisa and Don Justo were celebrating for reasons other than politics, revolutions, or laws and provisional governments. On that day, a son was born to them, Justo Augusto González García. The González' home was located in a Havana barrio known as La Víbora, and the friends and family members who ran to their home to congratulate the happy couple could never have anticipated that this newborn would become one of the most prolific and well-respected ecclesiastical historians in America. He would also become author of the most important books to be used in seminaries, religion schools and universities in a number of countries, including the United States.
Five years prior, Jorge González García had been born, the couple's first child and now older brother to this newborn. Later in life, Jorge became a notable Old Testament professor at Berry College, a university in the state of Georgia. He received his academic training at the Instituto Pre Universitario of La Habana, the Matanzas Theological Seminary, and the Candler School of Theology of Emory University, where he completed a Ph.D. degree in Old Testament.
Justo was born in a Christian home, to a family with strong ties to the Protestant community.
Protestantism, though it was a minority, had expanded throughout Cuba. In Santiago de Las Vegas, a Methodist congregation was established at the turn of the century. Justo's father was from the area of San Antonio of Río Blanco, in the province of Havana. His first contact with the gospel had been with the Quaker missionary Arthur Pain, who had dedicated himself to evangelizing that region. It would be Don Justo who, many years later, would write an inspiring biography of that missionary, better known in most of Cuba as "Mister Pain." The book was titled "The Sower," since the author concentrated his efforts on the missionary's methodology, which was more focused on the conversion of souls than on the institutional elements of the denomination. In time, Don Justo joined the Methodist church and eventually was made pastor of that congregation.
Doña Luisa came to the Methodist church through the providence of a relative. An uncle of Doña Luisa, who had been converted in New York, went to visit the young Luisa and her family. During his visit, he spoke of his religious experience. Before leaving, he gave them a Bible and other reading material. Though the family had promised to read these resources, they did not do so until they heard about the uncle being shipwrecked on his way back to New York. As a sign of respect, they decided to read the Scriptures and to visit the local Methodist church. Doña Luisa would eventually become one of the most prominent Methodists in the region.
That is where the romance of Don Justo and Doña Luisa began. The two of them raised a family that would contribute not only to the church in Cuba, but to the Christian church in many other countries.
The tumultuous situation in their country complicated the life of the young couple. Don Justo was imprisoned for opposing Machado's government. For years he had been one of the leaders of the movement known as ABC, which was founded by his friend, Joaquín Martinez Sáenz. The Machado regime was overthrown in 1933, and it would not be long before Don Justo would become frustrated with the many revolutionary struggles. The ABC Movement was not strongly supported and thus was unable to participate except in minor partnerships with administrations following the success of that revolution.
The father of the future historian had distinguished himself as a revolutionary, but many would know him rather as preacher and teacher, though the titles of novelist, editor, and public officer would later be added to his dossier. In journalism, he would also make a name for himself as editor of the ABC newspaper Denuncia and the daily journal Alerta.
In time, Don Justo, together with his wife, founded the literacy program known as ALFALIT, which would eventually expand throughout all of Latin America and the rest of the world, and would receive prestigious awards such as the ones granted by UNESCO, several governmental departments and other institutions.
Don Justo had conceived ideas that would contribute to the development of their country, among them the notion of an office within the Department of Agriculture that would be responsible for the preparation and distribution of scientific material thus promoting an agricultural system that would transform the life of many farmers and agricultural companies. He was the first to serve in that position. By the end of the first term of Fulgencio Batista (1940-1944), Don Justo was forced to abandon this position. However, he filed a lawsuit that would force the government to reinstate him to his office within the department of agriculture; this took place toward the beginning of Batista's second term (1952-1958).
Don Justo's honesty and integrity made him a different type of leader. In a country where politics was considered the "second harvest" for being such a lucrative enterprise, the González always lived a life characterized by modesty and austerity.
As we have seen, Don Justo combined his role as an educator with other functions. Because of his involvement in activities against Machado's government, Don Justo was imprisoned in the historic yet sinister Castillo del Príncipe, in La Habana, and was later transferred to another prison in the Isla de Pinos (today known as the Isla de la Juventud). It was up to Doña Luisa to raise and care for their son Jorge, until the fall of the regime. She herself personally shared with me that her firstborn ate his first cookie at the Castillo del Príncipe prison.
Doña Luisa's main responsibility was teaching grammar and spelling, and she wrote several textbooks. Doña Luisa participated in the foundation and consolidation of the first phase of ALFALIT. She also became the director of the prestigious Phillips School in the capital city. Generations of Cubans remember her as the author of the wonderful Spanish textbooks, which were used both by private and public schools in Cuba as well as in other Latin American countries. Even today, the mention of her name would bring to mind for thousands of students the Language classes that were part of the curriculum during this time.
As time went by, during the 1940s, the economy was difficult, even during the tenure of governments that were elected constitutionally. Justo's schoolmates were children of diplomats and international business owners, and they owned every type of toy imaginable. But Justo's main toys were a couple boxes full of linotype lines and clichés that he kept safely underneath his bed, as if they were a treasure. For those of recent generations, a linotype machine was a line-casting machine used in press printing. The letters were pressed on a narrow piece of hot metal between six and eight inches long to then be press-printed. A cliché was a wooden block with a metallic stencil of a photograph. These clichés and linotype lines were used to print each page of a newspaper. With those metal and wooden pieces, Justo built castles, palaces, bridges and roads. Today, he would not have been allowed to play with something that contained so much lead to the point of being harmful.
Something that contributed significantly to Justo's formation was his home's lifestyle. Television was not around yet, so more time was available for talking and learning. At night, after dinner, the family would remain at the table talking. The family included his parents and his brother, Jorge, and other family members that for a variety of reasons lived with them—an unmarried uncle who was a proofreader, an aunt who was a teacher, and her husband, who worked for an industrial company but spent his free time writing. Often, the conversations would lead to discussions on grammar or literature—what did this or that poet mean with this verse, or was it proper to say something like this or that. Each family member would turn to his or her authorities, especially the Dictionary and Grammar of the Royal Spanish Academy, which, alongside the Bible, occupied a place of honor on the table behind where Don Justo sat. That was the life of authors, journalists, proofreaders, and style checkers among the family members who were dedicated to the printed word. Even today, among the books that occupy a place of honor next to Justo's desk are the Bible and the Grammar and Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, now in two volumes.
Justo's first memories are of a home that was located on 909 Manrique, in the Cuban capital—the home to which his family had moved immediately after his birth and which was on the second floor of a furniture store. It was there that he was baptized at the age of seven, along with his brother Jorge, then twelve. Pastor Carlos Pérez Ramos officiated the ceremony. When Justo was eight, the family moved to Nicanor del Campo, in the city of Marianao. It was in 1945 that Justo first traveled abroad. It had not crossed the young mind of this future historian that he would be destined to live the majority of his life far from his homeland.
The move from Alturas del Bosque in 1951 was related to his parents' work as professors at Candler College. His new home was located behind that school. They would live there through 1954, when their home was built in Ampliación de Mulgoba, in the city of Santiago de Las Vegas. But Justo would not live there long since that same year he began his studies at the Matanzas Theological Seminary, to continue the academic formation he had begun years prior.
The young González had begun his studies at Phillips School, where his mom would someday become the director. The school belonged to Charles and Rosabel (Gilbert) Sargent. Rosabel was the daughter of a missionary couple who had left the country. When Justo began at that school, it had already become a private school for wealthy children, with the exception of a few children such as Justo. In Cuba and many other countries, schools were called "colegios" (colleges), especially if they included Junior High. Classes at Colegio Phillips were taught in English and in Spanish, and the school was located in the Reparto Kohly. There he would study from Kindergarten through seventh grade.
Then came intermediate school, which Justo began at Colegio Candler, where his parents worked for a period of time. "The Candler," as the school was commonly known, was the largest Protestant school in the metropolitan area of Havana. It had been named after Warren Candler, who had presided as bishop over Cuba as well as Florida, and who was the brother of the founder of the Coca-Cola Company. It is also the name of the school of theology of Emory University in Atlanta. "The Cuban Candler" was located in the municipality of Marianao and was well known through the rest of the country. The director of the school was Carlos Pérez Ramos, the pastor who had baptized Justo.
The González family enjoyed an excellent relationship with the denomination and with the Colegio Candler. Doña Luisa was highly respected in the Colegio Phillips, where she also taught. After two years at Candler, once his mother began working full time at Phillips and his dad returned to his employment with the Department of Agriculture, Justo was not able to continue to receive the Candler scholarship, and he enrolled at the Instituto Pre-Universitario of Marianao, where he completed his high school studies in the areas of science and arts. These studies opened the door to the University of Havana, founded in 1728.
Between 1952 and 1954, while still a student at Marianao, Justo began a small tutoring business through which he assisted other schoolmates and for which he received twenty pesos per student, the equivalent of $20 at that time. The young tutor tells the story that at one point he felt he had become rich! That amount, multiplied by twenty students who were being tutored, was almost a fortune in those days.
For a young Cuban man of that time, to be able to study at the Havana University was probably the highest goal. Justo enrolled in the School of Philosophy and Letters, with a concentration in history and geography. For three years he studied philosophy, literature, Greek, Latin, and humanities. His professors were among the most prestigious in the country, and the future historian was exposed to their rigorous exams. The list of professors reads like a "Who's Who" of Cuban intellectuals. Among these professors were Herminio Portell-Vilá, one of the most recognized Cuban historians; Manuel Bisbé, a specialist in Greek culture and a notable politician; Vicentina Antuña, a prominent Latin scholar who would eventually occupy the position of Director of Cultural Affairs in the Department of Education, during the first stage of the Castro administration. Many of these scholars had studied and held teaching posts in universities abroad.
The scholastic atmosphere was highly politicized in the years that Justo studied for his bachelor's degree (1954-1957). A young man born in 1937 such as Justo, though dedicated to his studies, would necessarily live his early years and his youth in a country in which politics was the daily bread. Before completing his high school studies, the military coup d'état took place on March 10, 1952. The armed forces placed the power in the hands of their historical leader, General Batista, who returned to the presidency with a political mindset against any communist participation in the government or in the labor movement, but received the support of both of those groups, which, from 1947 had been mostly led by members of the PRC (A) party. Just as he had done during his prior administration (1940-1944), Batista maintained and even expanded the social reforms of the Revolution of the thirties. But these were the days of the Cold War, and the president of the United States, Harry Truman, wanting to reward his new anti-communist attitude, quickly granted the new government diplomatic status. The American government was putting pressure on Latin American countries to make all communist parties illegal. The Batista administration was also successful in getting rid of the "action groups," but college students, who had often opposed the PRC (A), initiated a new stage in their protest to oppose the Batista regime. It was precisely during this time that Justo enrolled at the University of Havana.
Excerpted from A Legacy of Fifty Years: The Life and Work of Justo González by Stan Perea. Copyright © 2013 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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Table of Contents
History, Always History, by Dr. Marcos A. Ramos,
Scholar among Scholars, Hispanic Among Hispanic, by Dr. Stephen Bevans, SVD,
Images and Metaphors of a Theological Endeavor, by Dr. Carlos F. Cardoza Orlandi,
Justo: His Legacy of Forming of Hispanic/Latina-o Leaders, by Zaida Maldonado Pérez,
Mere Straw, by Dr. Justo L. González,
Appendix: Justo L. González a bibliography,