Radio in Cuba’s Backcountry

Alfredo Fernandez Rodriguez

Tuning in to Radio Baragua.

This past New Year’s I visited my parents in Santiago de Cuba, and —like I always do— I went another 25 miles to my grandmother’s house in the municipality of Palma Soriano.

There I regained contact with a figure that’s very close to my emotional memories and which is also one of the most interesting in eastern Cuba: the radio.

I tuned the radio receiver while resting up from an awful three-hour trip in a truck bed.  To my surprise, I was again fascinated by programs that I’d heard in the past on Radio Baragua, the local station.  An amazing percentage of the programming has remained intact.

One of the programs served to make up for any lack of telephones or transportation by informing listeners of daily matters:

It reported to Zenaida and Justina that Yurisel had just given birth to seven-pound baby boy, and that both of them were doing fine.  It announced that Hyacinth’s pig had birthed twelve piglets, and that Jorge could now come to pick up the ones he was owed.  Likewise, it notified Lourdes not to leave home on Tuesday because Lina and Guillermo were going to stop by, and that Menelao and Dora should know that Alicia had been discharged from the hospital and was doing well.

Another program that broadcasts Mexican music daily —which has existed ever since I can remember— convinced me of what I’d always suspected: If Cuba had taken Mexico by storm with its boleros, they had done the same to us with their rancheras.

The last program I heard that afternoon, more than a simple radio broadcast, was an homage to “charanga” orchestras (Cuban bands with a format similar to the Aragon Orchestra), widely listened to in the town of Palma Soriano and its adjacent townships.

The only electrical appliances in my grandmother’s house (a refrigerator, an iron and the dear radio) convinced me that a certain portion of the Cuban people is closer to Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s village of “Macondo” than to the Internet.

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

One thought on “Radio in Cuba’s Backcountry

  • February 16, 2010 at 1:18 am
    Permalink

    “Re: If I do something good for you, pay me back by doing something good for someone else,
    Alfredo, that is a good way to live.
    Robert

    Reply

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