85th Anniversary of the Cuban Radio. A Story to Tell

85th Anniversary of the Cuban Radio. A Story to Tell

Competing against a large network of commercial radio stations, the 1010 emerged in the 1940’s as the “the Voice of the Communists in Cuba”, who managed also to have a newspaper called “Hoy”. In terms of access of the leftwing sector to the mass media, this set an important precedent, in a society ruled by rather different viewpoints.

To say and write that is simple, but we ought to remember that the financing of both the radio station and the newspaper was possible thanks to the popular subscription. The money was raised cent by cent with the support of the lower and middle classes; workers and members of the People’s Socialist Party, the communists and their sympathizers. These folks became the main donors of these projects, amid the difficult situation that characterized the World War II period in the island.

Gladys Zurbano Lanza, Cuban actress and radio announcer (1) remembers:

“I was 12 years old when was introduced to Paco Alfonso, director of the theatrical group that performed in Havana’s tents. Right away I was admitted as part of the cast. Amador Domínguez (2), who married me later, was also one of the actors. These presentations were intended to collect money to pay the staff members of “Hoy” and the radio station 1010”.

Although the communists could not hold the control of the radio station for long, it played an important role in the political campaign at that time, defending the cause of the poor, and denouncing the prevailing “status quo”.

However, the artistic and cultural importance of the 1010 gets lost in the shadows of the collective memory.

Without having to pay a cent, the best dramatic artits and musicians voluntarily performed before its microphones in the early stage of the radio station. Finally they got small fee payments, given that CMX received no profits from the ads, as other radio stations did.

The generosity and solidarity shown by Raquel Revuelta Planas, a star of the national theatre and radio is a legend nowadays. Month after month she donated most part of her income to the Party΄s projects. That’s why it is not strange that she worked as an actress and announcer in the 1010.

Many of these actors and actresses held also key positions in the most prestigious radio stations of that period (RHC Cadena Azul and CMQ Radio), that in spite of being aware of their political leanings, let them to participate in their programming. In the 1950’s others reached national and international celebrity working for our radio, television and cinema.

In an unfinished list, you may find names that bet on Cuba after the triumph of the Revolution, and others who decided to migrate.

Ibrahím Urbino (3), then married with singer Olga Guillot, acted as General and Artistic Director. Both afforded their talents to these radio stations, supported by Sergio Nicols and other comrades.

The 1010 brought together 18-karat gold professionals, and if you doubt about it, read the following payroll for you to see how the communists of yesteryear appreciated the culture and the mass media.

Scriptwriter: Marcos Behmaras and Félix Pita Rodríguez, eminent writers of dramatic, humorous and adventure radio serials for the RHC Cadena Azul and CMQ Radio.

There were also a group of actors and actresses that expanded the Cuban culture. A glory of the national drama was Paco Alfonso, who founded the Teatro Popular (People’s Theatre), the first sound project of the community theatre in Cuba, featuring a national and international repertoire. He also was actor and stage director, and assumed the conduction of comedy programs in the 1010.

The cast was formed by Amador Domínguez; Eduardo Egea; Enrique Alzugaray; Paúl Díaz; Luis López Puente; Santiago García Ortega; Elvira Cervera; Raquel Revuelta Planas; Gladys Zurbano Lanza; Antonia Valdés; Magda Iturrioz; Nenita Viera; Estrellita Palacio. The voice that identified the radio station was that of Bellita Borges, leading actress and announcer. Among the latter ones we can mention Juan González Ramos, founder of the Channel 4 Union Radio TV.

Musicians, that is pianists, composers, arrangers and orchestras’ conductors like Félix Guerrero, Enrique González Mantici; Adolfo Guzmán; Facundo Rivero, Telma Norton, pianist and actress.

Singers like Elena Burke; César Portillo de la Luz, all those stars that created a musical genre, known as the “feeling”.

Once the WWII came to an end, Ramón Grau San Martín’s administration (1944-1948) began an anticommunist offensive, intended to silence these mass media and also to eliminate the leaders of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (Cuba’s Workers Federation), then headed by Lázaro Peña.

The 1010 did not continued broadcasting, however, when many have forgotten other former radio stations in Havana, the Radio Station of the People is in the memory of the Cubans when the nation celebrates the 85th birthday of the Cuban Radio.

Legend:

(1) Gladys Zurbano Lanza With an extraordinary career in the Cuban radio and television, she plays for the first time the role of “Mama Dolores” in a TV production of the famous radioplay El Derecho de Nacer, writen by Félix B. Caignet.

(2) Amador Domínguez Also with outstanding work in the radio and television, and founder of the latter, where he participated in diverse and popular programs.

(3) An aspect not too much publicized in the life of Ibrahim Urbino, is when in October 1947, José E. del Valle, owner of the Puerto Rican radio station WIBS based in San Juan travelled to Cuba to hire him as an Artistic Director, announcer and show host with a salary of $1 000 per month. But he could not do the job, because the US authorities prohibited so for having worked for a communist radio station in Cuba

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