About the Author: Juan M. Navia Ph.D., M.A. Theo.
Dr. Navia was born in Havana, Cuba and
received his secondary education at Ruston Academy. He enrolled at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he obtained
BSc, MSc and PhD degrees
in Nutritional Biochemistry.
He returned to Cuba in 1951 and taught at the
Catholic University Santo Tomás de Villanueva in Havana until the university
was closed by the Marxist government in 1961. He was able to escape from
Cuba and came to the USA with his wife and four children on the 4th
of July of 1961. He was offered a faculty position at MIT, where he remained
until 1969. When a research institute was established at the University of
Alabama at Birmingham, Dr. Navia and his family moved to Birmingham. He
accepted a faculty position at the university and, eventually, became Dean of the
UAB School of
Upon retirement in 1993, Dr. Navia started a new career in the
humanities and enrolled in the Theology and History Master program at
Spring Hill College in Mobile,
It was there that he began the historical
study on Father Varela and the European immigrants to the USA in the XIX
He received a Master of Arts in Theology in June, 2000. He is now a
Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA.
This book came to be as a result of my graduate studies in theology and
church history at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. These
graduate studies facilitated the investigation and understanding of the
meaning of the exile experience for such an outstanding Cuban Catholic
priest. My Cuban heritage has contributed the love and sensitivity to
interpret the historical and socio-cultural environment where Father Varela
my former experience as a researcher provided the right tools to explore this
subject rigorously. It is my earnest hope that those who learn about Father
Varela will be inspired to achieve the high moral and religious ideals he
demonstrated in his daily life, always full of love and service for all who
came within reach of his voice or his pen.