I thought I’d use this space to share with you some of the fun I had while reporting in Cuba last week, and some observations I had.
Getting my press credentials was a good example of what the culture is like in Cuba. I went to the address that was supplied to me in Revolution Plaza, but it seemed the office had moved and I found myself miles away. I thought that, since I was (or thought I was) close to Old Havana, it would be a good time for a stroll to get some local culture and color. Cell phone Google maps do not work in Cuba (nor does much of the Internet). AT&T claims to be the only U.S. carrier operating in Cuba but even that is very limited. So, I’d have to use my eye and look for landmarks, like the capitol building, which is similar to ours. The walk was long and took me through numerous neighborhoods, which allowed me to see how the average Cuban was living: long lines for essentials. The economy is on the brink.
After a little sightseeing and lunch at a café in Old Havana, I made my way to La Rampa to get my credentials — only to discover that the person in charge was out for the day. I was told to come back the next day, which I did. It took about an hour and when I got my credentials I noted that there was a mistake: Instead of “Philadelphia Gay News,” my credentials said “Philadelphia Cat News.” Assuming that it was done on purpose, I mentioned it to the man in charge. He told me he could redo the paperwork … I knew this would be a process so I told him I’d use the original credential. What a great souvenir.
Any time Trump was mentioned and I groaned, a Cuban would always say, “Now you know how we have felt for 60 years.”
The Cuban people are wonderful and resilient under an embargo that must end. Normalization between the U.S. and Cuba will bring change. Personally, the trip was like back to the future — similar to stories that I’ve covered in Beirut and the Middle East, Russia and the fall of the Berlin Wall. All those changes were made, from my viewpoint, on the ground due to more communication. Likewise, it will be with Cuba.
I wanted to do this story because it seemed a time that Cuba was on the brink like Berlin, Beirut and Eastern Europe, about to join the world from a closed society. There were three things I learned. First, it will get better there, but it’s a guessing game as to how long that will take. Second, I was proud of the way LGBT media is covering these baby steps. Finally, I’m getting a little old to be a working reporter, but I must admit that it really is in my DNA.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. His recently published memoir, "And Then I Danced," is available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble or at your favorite bookseller. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.
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