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Meeting President Obama an ‘emotional' moment for shrine's secretary

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Cristina Brito, secretary at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, serves as an interpreter as her boss, Father Juan Rumin Dominguez,  welcomes President Barack Obama to the icon for Miami's Cuban exile community.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Cristina Brito, secretary at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, serves as an interpreter as her boss, Father Juan Rumin Dominguez, welcomes President Barack Obama to the icon for Miami's Cuban exile community.

MIAMI | Those who know Cristina Brito — or follow her Facebook postings — know that she is not a fan of Barack Obama. Nevertheless, she said after meeting him May 28, “I feel very happy. Very emotional.”

Brito has served as secretary to the rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity for the past 11 years, working first for Auxiliary Bishop Agustín Román, and since his death for his successor, Father Juan Rumín Domínguez.

She served as translator for Father Domínguez during the 15 minutes or so President Obama spent at the shrine. And even though their politics are diametrically opposed, “to meet a U.S. president is a very big deal,” she said.

He even hugged her as she stretched out her hand to say goodbye. All in all, it was “very impressive but very emotional, really, a very emotional day.”

Brito left Cuba at the age of 5 — 55 years ago — and has yet to go back. In her heart, she said, she is “as Cuban as the royal palms” and would like to return “someday — to a free Cuba.”

That made the meeting with the president even more significant.

“I was very happy that Father (Domínguez) was able to say what he said, what he feels,” said Brito, “because truly that’s what we pray for here at the shrine every day — for the liberty of Cuba, for justice, for human rights.”

“It’s a blessing that he visited us and that he got to learn more about us,” she added. “We just ask Our Lady of Charity to truly make this visit fruitful, to truly make Cuba free.”

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