Alfredo Fernandez

A Cuban taxi-confessional.

This brief piece has its roots in an unpleasant impression that has filled me in recent days, fueled by three refusals to grant interviews for this site, the Havana Times.

In each case, the subjects first gave me permission to do an interview; all of them requested a list of questions so that they could respond accurately, promising me that after looking it over they would set a day and time for the interview.  But no one ever got back to me.

When I mentioned to Erasmo and Irina, my colleagues on this blog, what had happened with my interviews, they spoke of having similar “luck” with theirs.  We agreed that it is difficult to carry out good journalism in a place where people refuse to respond to the simplest questions.

A great damage has befallen a society when people tacitly agree to opt for a deafening silence if a media source beyond the official ones asks for their opinion.

I can’t help but feel a pang every time I reflect how today’s Cubans have reduced their right to a critical opinion to the very limited space of the collective botero taxis, (those old US cars from the 1950s).

These hybrids with their spare parts from the former socialist bloc and their bodies forged in North America before the revolution constitute a safe space for Havana residents, given that these fixed route taxis bring together 4-6 people who don’t know each other. While en route, everyone almost always talks about the “internal situation” of the country.

In that setting, I can well imagine that those who denied me an interview loosen up and discuss sensitive themes, where they are familiar with the causes but without any great expectations of finding solutions for them.

It’s a shame that a country with an educational level like Cuba’s, has to make use of these taxis for people to say what they think, as if they were extensions of the Catholic confessional.

A strange place to confess: where you receive no other penitence than the contribution of 10 pesos to the wallet of an anonymous driver who knows little of God and a lot about the devil.


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.

8 thoughts on “When You Won’t Talk to Me

  • Comment to conner. The gender bias was not a translation issue. I was the person who translated the article and it read the same in spanish.

  • Thanks for responding Alfredo (and for being one of the very few people in cyberspace to know I’m XX!)

    You said:
    “I am of the opinion that blogs can be an excellent source of journalism, which is evidenced by increasing readership”

    Large readership is hardly an evidence base for “excellent journalism.” If it were, the National Enquirer and Granma would be considered some of the best journalism in the world!

    (and I agree with Dawn. Your questions are so gender-biased I wonder if it’s a translation problem?)

  • I’m pretty sure if I received these questions, I would not respond either. In my opinion, the tone is rude especially #2, I would not have read past it. You just asked a woman to defend her audacity to leave her home!!! Then # 3, 5 and 7 are almost mocking and #4 is simply accusatory. Why would anyone willing walk into a hostile interview? That’s the point of asking for the questions in advance. So, instead of blaming it on “fear of reprisals” you might want to work on better phrasing your questions. It would probably help quite a bit !!

  • 5 – When is the construction of the “Grand Masonic Temple of Women” planned in Cuba?

    6 – In your opinion, what are the major challenges for Cuban women today?

    7 – Do you think that female Freemasonry in Cuba will have the same success as the male version has? If not what will be the obstacles?

    Thank you very much.

    What else could prevent her from answering these questions besides a strong paranoia about anything non-official?

    I am of the opinion that blogs can be an excellent source of journalism, which is evidenced by increasing readership. Blogs give voice to those who, before the internet, had no possibility to be heard.

  • 2 – If a women’s place, according to Western culture, is “in the home” attending to their husband, raising their children and spending as much time at home as possible, then isn’t it difficult to be a female Freemason?

    3 – Today men’s lodges are filled with iconic paintings of Cuban Mason patriots. What paintings are displayed in the women’s lodges, these same male photos or photos of women Freemasons from other countries?

    4 – On the Internet I saw photos of female Cuban Masons and I found it curious that while more than 50% of the current Cuban population is black or mixed, at least 95% of female Cuban Masons are white or appear to be. Of course I know that is not the intention of Freemasons to discriminate by color. That would violate one of the basic principles of fraternity and equality. But still I wonder: will Cuban black women have to surmount the same obstacles to be accepted in the Masons as they face with other institutions?

    continued…

  • A reader identified as Conner commented on my post titled “When you Won´t Talk to Me”. She asked what the questions were for the interviews that were denied. She wonders if maybe the denials were based on the questions rather than on fear of reprisals. Below are some of the questions submitted over a month ago to one the leaders of the Cuban Women’s Freemasonry.

    1 – While reviewing Google search results about Cubn women’s membership in Freemasonry it jumped out at me that a male Cuban Freemason such as Manuel Collera Vento, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Cuba from 2000 to 2003, is recognized as a “strong advocate for the inclusion of women in this institution.” However, when I asked other male Freemasons what they thought about admitting women, a large percent said they believe it’s not a women’s place. So then, how has the reception of women into Cuban Freemasonry been?

    continued…

  • What were your questions Alfredo? This might have something to do with the refusal to get back to you. Would be interested to see them posted here.

    Also, blogs the world over are rarely, of so very rarely, considered “good journalism” so you might be facing a more complex cultural construct than you present here.

  • Yes, Alfredo, it must be depressing–no, maddening.

    But you can always interview our new movement for a non-Marxist, cooperative form of socialism.

    We have the same basic problem in the U.S. as you have in Cuba–political problem, that is.

    Both you and we–and all those whom we might represent–wish to take hold of our societies and change them for the better. Your problem is much more simple and much easier, for you already have a socialist party with state power in its hands.

    Ours is ten times more difficult because we not only have to contend with the very powerful monopoly capitalist empire, but we also have to confront a torpid, narrow-minded left that is used to the old Marxist, sectarian, coffee-shop mindset.

    If you have any desire to interview the modern cooperative socialist movement, to investigate how our movement and struggle might relate to yours, please just let us know.

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