Stories at the Margin
A Cuban independent journalist shouldn’t have grand pretensions. It’s always healthy to flirt with the idea of wielding a “newspaper club” or an exclusive.
But those fantasies need to be set aside. What you can write from Cuba are small stories at the margin. Opinion articles. And some other news, analysis and chronicles. Perhaps an interview, no more.
Then, the best thing is to continue reading the sharp interviews conducted by Oriana Fallaci. Submerge yourself in the great reporting of Bob Woodward. Learn from the real-time lessons of the best chroniclers in the Spanish language like Gabriel García Márquez, Alma Guillermo Prieto or Rosa Montero.
It’s difficult to apply it on the island, but you can always learn something from the great pens. The problem is when it comes time to collect data, figures and governmental declarations. That when you understand that all that is left is the raw stories.
Cuba is not practical territory to practice journalism according to the rules and methods of western universities. Here a nose for news and intuition substitute for statistics and information that the authorities hide with care.
Where there’s a wide enough field to write stories is precisely in the streets and neighborhoods of Havana. In the neighborhoods that are mixed, dingy, noisy and poor of San Leopoldo, Belén or Jesús María.
It’s precisely here that one can polish the stories and testimonies of thieves, beggars, prostitutes and corrupt officials. A portion of Cuba that the regime tries to ignore. Precisely what the alternative communicators show on blogs and websites.
For a Latin American journalist, these marginal stories are the daily life of their countries. It’s true. The difference is the Cuban government wants to sweep the shit under the rug.
This is what I propose. Write about themes that the official media ignore and consider taboo. I don’t get excited by the intention to disparage my country. Tell what happens. Cuba is no better nor worse than other countries of the continent with regards to marginality and prostitution. It’s the same everywhere.
In any event, it never hurts to be optimistic and think that some day you can come across a good story. but the most sensible thing is to leave aside the modern journalism textbooks and the books from García Márquez, Fallaci and Woodward that delude us. And write little stories at the margin.
March 14 2011