Why a Papal Mass Matters in Havana

Cubans share their hopes with GOOD during a historic visit from Pope Francis.

Luisa, 75, on her way to the mass. Image by Julie Schwietert Collazo

By 8 a.m. this morning, an hour before Pope Francis was scheduled to start Mass in Havana’s iconic Revolution Plaza (Plaza de la Revolución), crowds of faithful—and not so faithful—had already filled the large rectangular lot that sits in the shadow of some of the Cuban capital's most photographed structures. To their backs was the National Library, whose facade had been draped with a giant banner depicting Jesus and the phrase “Vengan a Mi,” or “Come to Me.” To their right, were images of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, heroes of the Cuban Revolution, who looked upon the crowd from their permanent locations on the side of two government buildings. “Che and Pope Francis, Argentina’s heroes,” whispered a woman visiting from Argentina, the Pope’s home country, as a chorus began to sing hymns.

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Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City is #3 on The 2014 GOOD City Index. #DF

Headlines have not been kind to Mexico. Take, for example, the case of 43 students who “disappeared” in late September after clashing with police, provoking outrage and raising questions both at home and abroad. The United Nations declared the tragedy “one of the most terrible events of recent times.” But the bad news tends to obscure the inspiring ways that everyday Mexico City life is changing. Projects unlikely to garner international attention—such as parking meters—may not be sexy, but they made a big difference in the lives of locals this year. In the first two years of his administration, Mayor Miguel Mancera has overseen the launch of mobile health clinics, free school uniform distribution to kids in need, a gun surrender program, and the distribution of the Tarjeta Capital Joven, a card used by teens and young adults to gain free or discounted access to hundreds of the city's museums and cultural venues. With a growing number of residents spearheading innovative projects in the areas of food, art, and entrepreneurship, there's a palpable sense that Mexico City is continuing to emerge as a major global player.

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