The Island of Youth: memorable journalistic coverage (+ Photos)

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By Lázaro David Najarro Pujol / Collaborator.

May, 2020.- The Island of Pines, Cuba, (the island of a thousand names), is the site of my most beautiful memories. The first visit was made when I was barely 14 years old, when I was crewing, as a seagoing practitioner of the Carlos Adán Valdés Fishing School in Havana del Este, the number 79 pretty ship.

Since then, my links with what is today the Special Island of Youth municipality began. Sixteen years later, after graduating in July 1983 as a journalist from the University of the East and returning from a trip to the Czech Republic, I decided to reside in Nueva Gerona, the city whose streets are covered with cobblestones and marble fragments.

In the extensive tour of Czechoslovakia (October 1983), I was part of a youth delegation in which the Pinera representation was not lacking. Immediately I established a friendship with the dreamy and fantasy Clara Álvarez, a journalist for Radio Caribe. I discussed my plans to travel to the Island.

Among my purposes was to make the same tour of the Canarreos places that I had known when I was a teenager in order to finish a project of my personal experiences, a kind of diary of my wanderings in the region.

El Diario became a book of chronicles or stories that I had been preparing since the late 1970s, but with the notes I had in my notebook. It required re-living similar experiences but with the vision of a journalist.

Clara Álvarez was the one who told me about the possibility of working at the Radio Caribe station and I immediately contacted the radio operator Dagoberto Consuegra, then director of the station.

On December 4, 1984 around 10:00 a.m. I arrived for the second time in Nueva Gerona. The next day I was immersed in the work of a reporter for Radio Caribe, with my presentation to managers of the sectors that I had to attend.

I returned to my memories: I participated in a coverage of the tourist center of Cayo Largo del Sur, as well as the fishing areas of the Isle of Youth. I wrote a series of ten chapters on the fishermen of the Argues I fishing vessel, under the title Los Guerrilleros del Golpe, National Prize of the May 1st Journalistic Contest.

But my first coverage was beyond my dreams and my goals, when Jorge Alfredo Chales Urquiza credited me for a tour that would be carried out by the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz and the delegation that accompanied the UN Secretary General, Javier Pérez de Cuellar, on May 29, 1985.

The main details of this coverage were collected in the radio script I wrote of the visit of both personalities to the “Hendrich Wilbooi” school for students from Namibia.

I kept it for 35 years, a key point to document the Cassinga Genocide review: THE SILENCE OF THOSE WHO HAVE NO RIGHT TO LIFE? published on May 20 of this year in the Colombian magazine Primicia Diario de Todos, pages 10 and 11, as well as in my personal blog CamagüebaxCuba, among other sites.

That morning in May, when Fidel spoke of the Cassinga massacre, the eyes of survivors who lived through the tragedy were wet. I did not imagine such barbarism, such impunity for such a terrible crime:

«The International press did not speak a word of that; no, those who were dying were not white, they were Namibians, they were African, they were black. The press – North American, of course, did not talk about it, North American television did not talk about it, because, logically, that is not talked about. Africans, blacks, in the imperialist conception of the world, have no right to life, they have no right to denounce, they have no right, to protest in their “free press”, in their “free world …”, he denounced Fidel.

Immediacy was a fundamental premise in those days. The script was written on the same day, May 29, 1985 after an extensive tour with Fidel and Pérez de Cuellar, with the aim that the international and national agencies did not give us the “journalistic stick”.

The documentation was so rich, including testimonies, interviews with some of the survivors and exciting speeches by Fidel and Pérez de Cuellar, that I wrote a documentary radio about the Cassinga Massacre.

The first scale of both statesmen was carried out in the Model Prison. Fidel entered one of the circulars driving a four-door Soviet yippi. Next to him sat the then UN Secretary-General. Slippery, I managed to locate myself a few centimeters from Pérez de Cuellar with a recorder at the ready. I was wearing a light-colored guayabera.

Many memorable tours of Isla de las Cotorras or Isla del Tesoro came, among which also stands out the one that took place on October 1, 1985 when Fidel Castro’s visit with the delegation that accompanied the President of
Tanzanian entity Julius Nyerere.

Both Fidel and Nyerere were excited with the songs and dances of the students of the African nation. Nyerere began to dance, infected with the rhythms of the black continent. Days later, on October 8, Fidel arrived on the Island with the delegation led by Robert Mugabe, President of the Zimbabwe African National Union and Prime Minister.

The Commander in Chief, always tireless, of physical and spiritual greatness, with his giant gait forced us all to follow in his footsteps. It was one reception after another in the same month of October. The Cuban statesman arrived again on the 14th, with the delegation accompanying the President of the United Party of National Independence and President of the Republic of Zambia, Kenneth D. Kaunda.

On one of those trips by Fidel through historical, economic and social centers of interest, the caravan left me and I had to wait for it with the bone-colored Soviet Volga 2410 on the iron bridge of Nueva Gerona. The caravan left me because I wanted to give the “journalistic stick”. The car could not join the caravan and I was admitted to the convertible for personal security, which was always ahead of the column of vehicles.

The Island of Youth is the island of my pleasant memories, both for the experiences on the tours with Fidel and important personalities, and for the nostalgia of my adolescence and youth. Isla de Pinos is and will be, a mystery and a longing, where the smell of orange blossoms dominates the air. (Photos: Bohemia and author’s archive).(Translated by Linet Acuña Quilez)
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