Street Interviews in Cuba

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES — A little over a year after I began working with En Caliente Prensa Libre and having been involved in the production of nearly 50 reports, the early days, when my hand would shake on picking up the microphone or I’d think twice about asking someone out on the street for an interview, seem distant.

Practice has taught me how to overcome the challenges that doing journalism in a country like this entails. I am referring to the challenges of a journalism committed only with the truth and not any State institution or ideology.

One of the greatest challenges we face, despite the fact people grow more and more accustomed to our presence on the street, is obtaining statements, particularly those having to do with political matters.

In anticipation of Barack Obama’s visit to the island, we have gone in search of public opinion (quite simply because this is something the press does). Wherever there is news, or the expectation of news, one must go in search of statements.

This task, however, hasn’t been easy. Though many kindly agree to offer their opinions, others turn us down out of stage fright or something along those lines. Some people also adopt cynical and ironic attitudes of thinly-veiled contempt. I wonder why.

Do they know me? Do they know anything negative about me or my colleagues?

The experience we’ve accumulated in over a year and the more than 300 videos the agency has shot to date are clear indicators of our professionalism. The politeness and cordiality with which we address people should spare us reactions like these, but they don’t. Why?

Is politics to prevail over respect? Should we have to pay for the disparaging campaigns the government launches against us? Are we to pay for the mistakes of someone who came before us?

It’s tough, but, in such situations, I always discreetly pinch my colleague in the arm, to keep him from replying to offenses. I smile, say goodbye and continue on my way.