Medill sophomore talks school-hosted trip to Cuba

Christopher Vazquez, Digital Managing Editor

CHRISTOPHER VAZQUEZ: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Christopher Vazquez. Thanks for tuning in. Over spring break, the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications arranged student trips to four international locations. In this podcast, we want to take you to Cuba, where students travelled as part of a visual reporting course.

ALEXIS LANZA: The setup of the day was like, we would have lectures or educational activities from like, nine in the morning until three to five in the afternoon, and then after that we had free time.

CHRISTOPHER VAZQUEZ: This is Alexis Lanza, a Medill sophomore who went on the trip.

ALEXIS LANZA: We went to some independent magazines or state-run newspapers. We talked about the internet because there’s basically no internet and so they’ve created their own form.

CHRISTOPHER VAZQUEZ: Lanza said because of limited internet access, she couldn’t do as much research as she would have liked — just one example of how the Cuban government’s authoritarian laws affected the trip, 60 years after Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro established a dictatorship that’s still in place. While Lanza said she was struck by how many Cuban people seemed content living under this government, she also took note of the way they navigated these laws.

ALEXIS LANZA: One thing that we noticed is Cuba has a lot of laws and then people don’t follow them. So there was a thing where we couldn’t say the word interview, and people said it to me. Like, native Cubans would say the word interview to me. But people generally live in this gray area. We talked about that a lot when we were there, where like, there are laws against basically everything and only some of them actually hold up.

CHRISTOPHER VAZQUEZ: Were you able to discuss which ones hold up and which ones you’re able to kind of live in that gray area?

ALEXIS LANZA: Yeah, I don’t remember all of the examples, but like our tour guide gave like, silly examples that sort of hold up here. Like, jaywalking. It would be stupid to be arrested for jaywalking. But I just think that things like, little things like saying the word interview, like no one cares about it, but if the government heard you it would be a problem.

CHRISTOPHER VAZQUEZ: Overall, Lanza said she found the trip eye-opening. While she brought with her some familiarity with Cuban American culture, she was able to learn more about life in the country itself.

ALEXIS LANZA: So I did not know much. I knew about the Castros and I knew the red flag word, “communism,” and the expat community, but other than that, I didn’t know anything about what it what it was like to be Cuban in Cuba. I just knew what it was like to be Cuban in America.

CHRISTOPHER VAZQUEZ: Thanks for listening, and make sure to check out our other podcasts about Medill reporting trips to China, England and Israel. I’m Christopher Vazquez. I’ll see you next time.

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Twitter: @bychrisvazquez