“We journalists are the witnesses to history” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on November 8, 2014
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 7 November 2014 – Of all the faces that
circulate on the illegal information networks, there is a very serene
and well-known one that has been with us for decades. This well-spoken
man who never seems to get upset has received the worst insults in the
official media and the stealthy applause of those who never miss his
programs. Oscar Haza spoke to 14ymedio this week at the MegaTV studios
in Florida, with a baseball cap, a telephone that never stopped ringing,
and many interesting stories about his life, journalism and his other
Yoani Sanchez: People in Cuba know you as a television presenter, but
help us to complete the person behind this sober man in suit and tie who
asks incisive questions. Who are you, besides a face on the screen?
Oscar Haza: I’m an ordinary person, a child from a village in the
district of San Carlos, in the center of the capital city of Santo Domingo
Sanchez: Here is where many of my compatriots interrupt you and exclaim
in astonishment, AH!… because you’re not Cuban!
Haza: I am the grandson of Cubans. My grandfather was Luis Felipe Haza,
a Cuban who moved to Santo Domingo to work in the sugar mills. From
there comes my Dominican side, but my other side is from the province of
Sanchez: If you were not born in Cuba where does so much passion for our
country come from? Just a genetic inheritance?
Haza: In the genes, but also because I grew up in a household of fufu,
ropa vieja and mangú. That special fusion that the Caribbean has
produced. So the Greater Antilles has always been present in my life
because of this exchange between families. The person for whom I decided
to come to Miami was a Cuban-Dominican of very illustrious lineage,
Henríquez Ureña. My friend Hernán Henríquez Lora got me excited and so I
came here. So I’ve always had in my heart and in my baggage this
interwoven history of Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Sanchez: And journalism? Does that also come from your family tree?
Haza: My father was the first face that appeared on television, when
television arrived in the Dominican Republic in 1952. Of course, to
introduce, in turn, the boss.
Haza: Yes, and that’s why I have a trauma with dictatorships. Although
many people think I’m against the Cuban government out of convenience,
because I live in Miami. It’s not that. It’s out of conviction. The
Trujillo dictatorship eliminated seven members of my father’s family. So
I grew up with the trauma of Latin American militarism. To the point
that I don’t even have friends who know how to march. Everything it
martial, everything is strict orders, I reject it. In this sense I’m a
species in permanent opposition to all dictatorships
Sanchez: I have also heard you have a great music collection. Is that true?
Haza: Music is my psychiatrist. Instead of paying a psychotherapist, I
buy discs … or I bought discs in another era, now no, because everything
is on the internet. The music determines the mood. I listen to
everything. I am a great admirer of Beethoven and Claude Debussy. The
other day I had the opportunity to enjoy one of the best pianists I’ve
ever heard and it was a Cuban, Jorge Luis Prats and he was playing Brahms.
But I also like dance music … I’m Caribbean! Imagine our islands: Cuba,
the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico have inspired the public to
dance, the whole world.
Sanchez: And you also like reggaeton?
Haza: Reggaeton is great! No matter the genre, music is divided into
good music or bad music.
Sanchez: This long involvement in the topic of Cuba, has it included a
visit to the island?
Haza: I’ve been twice. The first was in 1988 and I went with the
delegation of Cardinal O’Connor from New York. I went to see my father
who was in Santo Domingo and I told him I was going to Cuba. So he asked
me, “And that won’t cause problems for you in Miami?” “Well, I hope not
because I’m going with the church,” I answered. He said, “Ah… that
soothes me, because two thousand years knows more than thirty,” which
was how long the system had been in power at that time.
Sanchez: You came at an interesting time, because shortly afterwards the
scandal of the Ochoa case broke.
Haza: I enjoyed that trip, because I had finally come to Cuba after
having heard all the versions of my grandparents, my aunts and the
versions of Cuba that are here in Florida. I had a personal list to go
to the neighborhoods that interested me. I did a lot of things, I
interviewed Ricardo Bofill for television in the Mañana neighborhood in
Guanabacoa. Then I interviewed Elizardo Sanchez in the Vibora
neighborhood. It was a difficult time when there was a rupture in the
Cuban opposition movement, so I interviewed the two of them.
My second trip was when the Pope went to Cuba in 1998. The experience
was different, it was more irregular. Then I went to my family’s house
in Matanzas, which was behind the Cathedral. It was unforgettable.
Sanchez: What has been your most difficult interview?
“What would you say if a Cuban went to Argentina to shoot and kill
Haza: Mercedes Sosa. I did not know that she was suffering from
depression. I had a one-hour program with her. She came, sat looking at
the floor and when I asked her a question she answered only in
monosyllables. I looked at the clock and it was five past eight. The
program ended at nine. What do I do, I asked myself. So I said, I have
to say something to get a reaction from her; then it occurred to me:
“What would you say if a Cuban went to Argentina to shoot and kill
Argentinians?” That woke her up and we began the interview.
I also interviewed Fidel Castro in Bogota at the Tequendama hotel,
during the inauguration of Ernesto Samper. It was something sui generis
because it was the day after the Maleconazo. The Air Force refused to
give him military honors when he arrived for the tribute because he had
been supporting the FARC and the Colombian Left. I heard about the
situation, so during the interview I asked several questions about the
Maleconazo and the embargo but left to end the question, “And is this
your first time in Bogota after the Bogotazo?” He quickly responded to
me, “Yes, and if they tell me I’m in New York I would believe it… it’s
changed so much,” so he went with the tourist line.
I was also a war correspondent in Central America and lived terrible
moments, like the day they killed a colleague right next to me.
Sanchez: When you do interviews with Cuban dissidents and question them
about internal issues in front of the cameras, do you have a dilemma
between giving arms to the government, versus not touching on these
Haza: I always have that dilemma. But as a journalist it’s my job to
report. We journalists are the witnesses to history. We are here to tell
it. We can’t control the consequences. To opt for self-censorship would
be to choose our worst enemy. Things have to be said, but with the
social responsibility that we have. Our job is to reveal the truth.
Sanchez: Suppose now you’re in a TV studio in Havana, who would you like
to interview there?
Haza: The job surprises me when I’ve been with people in the villages,
those who have no voice, they’ve given me spectacular stories. One of
the interviews I would like is with a boy or girl to know how they see
the world of the adults and the Cuban reality. Children are very
authentic and very honest. I would also like to interview a great poet.
Sanchez: Do you think you’ll soon be doing these interviews in Cuba?
Haza: I think so, because now those who don’t want change call
themselves revolutionaries. There is nothing more anti-revolutionary and
anti-dialectical than to say everything is already changed and there’s
nothing to do. That is the main enemy of those who today defend the
status quo. I think so, because despite the will of the ruling class
changes in Cuba are close.
Source: “We journalists are the witnesses to history” / 14ymedio, Yoani
Sanchez | Translating Cuba –