“During the last few years, I’ve been through all different kinds of bullying. I’m talking about police interrogation, detention... I was detained in 2015, 2016, then again in 2017. These are the ostensible detentions. I had one not long ago. Sometimes they’re not even that tragic, except that you can, for example, lose your equipment. But the cyberbullying and the State Security’s strategy to damage you in your personal, daily life, in your love life, that has been really rough. For example, they’ve used my photos to weaken me and to create conflict in my personal relationships, like private photos they’d stolen from my chats. So, I’ve been a victim of the state’s vengeance. In that sense, it’s been a rough couple of years. Last year, someone made death threats to me and other LGBT activists from a fake profile on social media. All sorts of things happened. Despite that, I don’t behave or feel like a terrorized person, I try to act normal. As a journalist, I try to dissociate or forget these attempts when I have to work as a journalist, when I have to assess the situation in Cuba, I try to forget these incidents.”
“I was one of the journalists arrested in Baracoa during the coverage of Hurricane Matthew. For the people of my generation, this was a breaking point, because few young journalists were fully aware of the repression journalists and activists had suffered in the past. I mean, as a generation, we looked at these people with disdain, thinking ‘you weren’t real journalists and you were much more vulnerable than us, this isn’t going to happen to us.’ And there was like a dozen of us who were arrested in Baracoa. That was 2016. I was one of them. I spent three days in a cell. I lost all my equipment, they took it because of an investigation and accused me of illegal economic activity. Then I found out that this investigation never existed, that it was all a farce. There wasn’t a single record of what had happened. The police just stole my computer and camera.”
“I started writing about the LGBT community and in 2012 something that kind of changed my life happened. The thing is, that year I published a report about the 2012 census. I was the one who discovered that originally, they were supposed to register same sex couples that lived together. But that later on, homophobia won over the National Administration of Statistics and Information. And since the manuals were already printed, and this country is running short of everything, they had to strike it out by hand, one manual after another. That was in 2012. I could prove it all. I published a very long article with sources from the Administration of Statistics, with photos of the crossed-out manuals, and it became front-page news in a half of the world. That’s where my problems started. My bosses immediately thought the report was good, that it didn’t have a fault, but they told me that they had to sanction me and censor it anyway, because the ones in higher places demanded it. And that there was no way a journalist working for the official media could attack the census, which mobilized so many people in Cuba. So I got punished, they demoted me. My salary remained the same, but having been censored did leave a bad taste in my mouth.”
“For those of us who attended them, schools in the rural areas generally sparked neither an interest in work, nor a liking for life in the country. Quite the contrary – rejection. They were places of control. Country schools... these scholarships they came up with in the 70s, I think they were also the goverment’s strategy to separate the youngest children from their families and from the social webs that form in the town. Almost like creating this intimate relationship between someone who’s growing and the power, the state, which is like the center all life swirls around in a country like this. I think that was pretty much what it meant. Well, and I had to take part in it and work in the countryside a bit.”
“I have a lot of memories regarding the daily life in that time (The Special Period). The rationing became insane. You had to show your ID to buy something as basic as minced meat, and the queues were huge. It’s a bit like what we’re going through now – different but similar – with the crisis created by the pandemic. Well, and by the structural crisis of the Cuban economy, which has deep roots. You know, the distortions of matter of the decisions and economic policies have led us to the current crisis.”
People say they’d like to live in the world of TV news, because everything is much better there
Maykel González Vivero was born in the province town Sagua La Grande in central Cuba. The initial years of his life, in a family that (in general) still supported the Revolution, were years of relative well-being; a well-being which Cuba owed to its tight economic ties with the Soviet Union and which soon ended with a deep economic crisis at the beginning of the 90s. Maykel was aware of the doctrinaire character of Cuban education from a very young age, and school didn’t spark much interest in him. Since a big part of his family were journalists, he, too, chose this career. He spent a few years working for the provincial media of Villa Clara. Then he got into a conflict with the authorities because of the articles on his personal blog. His analyses of the discrimination of the LGBTI community resulted in oppresion from his employer and from the authorities of the state. He spent three days in a prison cell after covering Hurricane Matthew in Baracoa in 2016 for the Diario de Cuba. As he grew more and more inclined towards independent journalism, he took part in UN workshops for journalists and in 2017 he founded the online magazine Tremenda Nota which centers its articles around the problems of marginalized communities. He is one of the few journalists who cover the persecution of the San Isidro Movement and its leader Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. In his journalistic work, he thinks it’s very important to provide the most complete information possible without getting carried away by personal feelings.