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 !!

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