Diana's blog


The Pope Wraps Up His Visit to Cuba

Pope Benedict XVI finishes up his visit to Cuba with an open air mass.  You can watch our report from Eyewitness News at 11 below.

Cubans Attend Papal Mass, Pope Benedict Meets with Fidel Castro

Pope Benedict XVI said mass on his last day in Cuba.  It was an unusually political sermon before hundreds of thousands at Revolution Plaza, with President Raul Castro in the front row.  Here's our report from Eyewitness News at 5pm.



The pope later met with Fidel Castro who grilled him on his daily duties and what it is like to be the leader of the world's Catholics. Watch our report from Eyewitness News at 6.




Pope Benedict XVI Meets with Cuban President

Pope Benedict XVI met with the President of Cuba Raul Castro Tuesday evening.  The pope proposed to the president that Good Friday be made a holiday during their 55-minute closed-door meeting.


Pope Benedict XVI Visits Havana

Pope Benedict XVI made his second stop in Cuba on Tuesday to Havana.  Here is our report from Eyewitness News at 5pm.


Also, on Eyewitness News at 6, we looked at the Jewish faith in Cuba, and how in Havana, there are three synagogues, but no rabbis!



Pope Benedict XVI Celebrates Open Air Mass in Cuba

Pope Benedict XVI led a mass for the faithful in Cuba.  Eyewitness News also spoke to pilgrims who compared Pope Benedict XVI's message to what Pope John Paul II had said.


The Pope Arrives in Cuba

Here is our report from Eyewitness News at 5 p.m. on the pope's arrival to Cuba.



Later, after meeting President Raul Castro, the pope prepared to deliver an open air mass.


Life inside Cuba

We begin our reports from Cuba with a unique look at what life is like inside this island nation.



Reporting without the web

    I admit it, I'm spoiled.  If a question pops up in the newsroom, I "Google it" to find the answer; same goes on my Blackberry, or iPad.  Answers are quick to come by with the internet at your fingertips.  But that won't be the case in Cuba and it could be one of our biggest challenges.  

    Don't get me wrong, there is internet service on the island.  But it's not broadband. Cuba's service comes via satellite connection, and we've been warned it's terribly slow.  Our hotel does offer internet access, but out on the streets, in the cafes, there is no WiFi.  It means no tweets from me or Facebook posts, or connection to our WABC newsroom computer system and the rundowns for the shows. 

    We will have phones that we will get once in Cuba.  And we will rely heavily on them when communicating with our colleagues in New York.  I asked producer Daniela Royes if she had any concerns, she said, "...without the internet it's going to be an adjustment...basically I’m going to have to go back to the old way of working, relying on a land line, the telephone."   I'll do the same and thankfully most of us in this business know how to adapt quickly. 

     The internet will be one of the stories we will cover while in Cuba.  Only 2 percent of the Cuban population has access to the internet.  So what is life like for the average person there without Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest?  We will find out.  And what about the few who do have internet access- how freely can they use it?

    We leave on Friday.  Our first report airs on Sunday night at 11.  I hope you will be watching.


Sad News

You may have noticed a bit of delay between my first blog and this one.  That's because we received some sad news.  Our photographer Gus Alonso will not be traveling with us.  Gus is an experienced and well traveled photog, but as you may have read in my first blog, he was born in Cuba.  His passport says he was born in Cuba, and the Cuban government would not issue him a visa unless he applied for and received a Cuban passport.  Time became a factor, and other issues, but long story short, we have a new photographer, Mike Humphries, now going with us. Mike just came back from covering the Oscars with Sandy Kenyon, so he’s well prepared for the time crunch and the fast paced shooting and editing that a trip like this requires.  We all now have our visas, and while we are excited, we are also terribly disappointed that Gus won't be part of the team.   


This past week we have been doing some interviews in advance.  I spoke with Professor Meg Crahan with Columbia University, an expert on all things Cuban. 

The book case in her apartment is filled with books on Cuba and she has been there multiple times over the past 30 years.  Her expertise will be part of our reports and thanks to Meg we also have a list of restaurants to check out.


We will not be short on stories to tell, so I hope you will watch.  Our first report airs Sunday night at 11.    



Contemplating Cuba

We are going to Cuba.  It's taken weeks of preparation.  A trip to Cuba involves first getting permission from the government and that involves lots of paperwork.  But now our team is in place.  There's me.  I grew up in South Florida- home to many Cuban exiles.  Daniela Royes is our producer.


She is fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese, and covered Pope John Paul II's visit 14 years ago.  She will have a unique perspective on how things have changed since then.   


But it’s our photographer, Gus Alonso, who has the most unique story among us. He was born in Cuba and left when he was just 2 years old.  His mother has told him the story of the family’s exodus many times.  His grandfather left Cuba in 1961 soon after the revolution.  But his mother and father remained.  They decided to leave when his older brother turned 14 and was forced to enter Cuban military service.  The family knew it was time to leave.  His grandfather paid $28,000 for their passage on a boat from Cuba to Florida.


Those of us who grew up in South Florida know it well.  It was called the Mariel Boat Lift.  It was 1980 and the economy in Cuba was at rock bottom and frustrations on the island were escalating. Thousands left Cuba via Mariel Harbor for Miami or the Florida Keys.  The Carter Administration allowed it, until many grew concerned that Fidel Castro was using the boat lift to rid Cuba of its prisoners and mentally ill.   


Gus’s mother still vividly recalls the knock at the door  on the night they were supposed to leave.  She didn't know if it was the government ready to arrest them, or someone taking them to the docks. They had a single suitcase filled mostly with determination.  Even though Cuba is just 90 miles south of Florida, the journey took 12 hours and young Gus was sick almost the entire time.


He spent a few months in Miami, then the family moved to Washington Heights and eventually settled in West New York. 

Gus is now a freelance photographer with WABC, his older brother is a photographer with Univision. 


Gus has never been back to his homeland and still has two uncles there.  We hope for a family reunion. Of course, Gus is fluent in Spanish- Cuban Spanish- and will be a great asset on this trip. 


So back to the preparations. We are doing interviews this week with those who know far more about Cuba than I.  I am a willing student and would love to hear from you.


Please post a comment below or visit our Eyewitness News Facebook page and let us know your thoughts or questions regarding Cuba. (Just don’t ask me for cigars)  And stay tuned, this week we will be posting more blogs as Eyewitness News gets ready to go to Cuba.