Carlos Serpa Maceira, 43, a freelance journalist born in the former Isla de Pinos, now Isla de la Juventud, is one of the leading communicators of the activities of The Ladies in White. More than a few times the taking of photographs or the writing of notes has ended up with his being dragged along the ground by a mob, at times with physical abuse.
Serpa Maceira, a mulatto, Indian-looking, with dark eyes and medium height, is committed to journalism from the trenches. Some free journalists in Cuba have specialized in exposing all sorts of abuses.
Thanks to Caridad Caballero Batista, a freelance reporter in Holguin, from the very beginning Serpa Maceira knew and denounced the brutal beatings and mistreatment Orlando Zapata Tamayo, whom he had met in Havana in March 2003, during the fast called for the freedom of Oscar Elias Biscet and other political prisoners.
Another independent journalist, Roberto de Jesús Guerra, a young mestizo, with a stout constitution, was the first journalist who reported the deaths of 26 patients at the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana, known as Mazorra.
Almost all of these communicators commonly report the news on Radio Marti, a station of the U.S. government that emerged in 1984. They also write on different websites, including Cubanet, Miscellaneous of Cuba and Spring from Cuba, an electronic newspaper entirely made on the island, or in their own blogs.
The independent media emerged in Cuba in the late ’80s. At first, it was made up of reporters coming out of official circles, such as Indamiro Restano, Rafael Solano, or Rolando Cartaya. Then in the ’90s, others joined such as Raul Rivero, Tania Quintero, José Rivero, Tania Díaz Castro, Iria Gonzalez Rodiles and Ana Luisa López Baeza, people who had worked in the government press.
You can not ignore the work of free journalism.
There are reporters still with a simplistic style to their writing. Others label their news without much importance. But they are, have been and will remain the people who write about another Cuba that the government intends to ignore.
There are about a hundred men and women of various ages and from all provinces. Most are without resources. Several have taken the path of exile. Twenty of these journalists are serving long sentences in prison for reporting.
Through their individual prisms and from their respective locations, they make known to the world events that do not otherwise leak out of “the most democratic country on the planet”.
They have limitations. They don’t know journalistic techniques. They learn on the job, writing reports, columns and articles, recording interviews, shooting photos. In the words of José Martí, referring to the crude poets of the countryside, they rhyme badly, but they think well.
Others, like Luis Cino, Jorge Olivera, Oscar Espinosa Chepe or Laritza Diversent, could hold their own against any news or information professional.
Much of the time, they write for a small group of readers. Including for themselves.
Major media correspondents accredited in Cuba can surpass them in quality and scope. But not in immediacy. Nor in coverage of a multitude of events that the foreign press on the island overlooks.
Some risk their necks, like Carlos Serpa Maceira, a barricade reporter who is ever there. Others, like Roberto de Jesús Guerra, with the patience of a goldsmith, weaves a network of people who inform him about what is happening in a hospital or an important factory in the country.
They practice journalism as if it were the priesthood. They have only one hope. To inform. One way or another.
Photo: Carlos Serpa Maceira, on the right, next to Orlando Zapata Tamayo, taken March 19, 2003.
Translated by: CIMF