Refusing to leave his people and his community, Father Rogelio Cruz continues to stand tall in the face of corruption, intimidation and possible excommunication. Cruz has come to redefine the role of the priest and indeed the church in Loma Miranda, a picturesque community in the Dominican Republic threatened by mining interests Barrick Gold and Falcondo.
After successfully defending the community against the extraction industry in the courts, the national senate designated the area a national park, protecting the area for future generations. However, shortly after, President Danilo Medina vetoed the senate’s decision, paving the way forward for mining.
Amidst this political turbulence, Cruz has come under fire from within the Church. Citing his supposed ‘distance from the Church,’ the Salesian Order has mandated that he leave Loma Miranda and travel to Colombia for workshops and training designed to rework his spiritual and religious life; to take him out of the community and back into the Church’s fold.
Father Cruz’s story is one of ecological threat, political corruption and intransigent institutions but also one of togetherness and the power of community. Father Cruz has become both a symbol and leading authority in Loma Miranda’s struggle for those locally as well as in diaspora. Indeed, his ‘new way of doing church’ does not merely prevent him from absconding from worldly responsibilities but rather it has developed community bonds which preclude him from accepting the invitation to Colombia.
Whatever the cost may be, the urgency of Loma Miranda’s struggle keeps Father Cruz in a community which will not let him go.