Gente de NAHJ: Sabrina Rodríguez wants a front-row seat to history

A solidarity protest gathers outside the White House on Sat., July, 18, 2021. PHOTO COURTESY OF SABRINA RODRIGUEZ
Sabrina Rodriguez is a reporter at POLITICO who covers immigration issues. PHOTO COURTESY OF SABRINA RODRIGUEZ

It takes Sabrina Rodriguez 15 minutes to get in an Uber and head to the White House, where a crowd of Cubans has converged along the north gate.

Rodriguez, a Cuban-American who covers immigration for POLITICO, called for a ride so she could witness with her own eyes the crowd waving Cuban flags and chanting along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Rodriguez wants to be there for herself to see history as it unfolds, instead of reading about it through the lens of an American media that, she said, has largely taken an Americanized lens in its reporting on protests underway in Cuba.

“So much of the conversation that is happening is like, ‘What is the Biden administration doing?’ ” she said from the back of the car on Saturday.

As a reporter, Rodriguez said she understands the news value in knowing what the administration’s next move may be with regard to the Caribbean island where her own family is from, but she also thinks that news coverage should more closely reflect what Cubans themselves have to say.

On Saturday morning, Rodriguez was featured on a panel at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists virtual conference called “Bringing Balance To News Coverage of the Protests in Cuba.” She was joined by Abraham Jiménez Enoa, a journalist at The Washington Post. But Jiménez Enoa’s internet connection was spotty and he kept dropping out of the video call.

Rodriguez says his connectivity was a great example of the kind of repression and media blackouts that Cuba has been experiencing. 

Since protests in Cuba began on July 11, Rodriguez has been glued to social media for updates. Sometimes, she said, she will translate Jiménez Enoa’s first-hand accounts in Spanish into English so more of her followers, many of whom are English-speaking journalists, can read what he has to say.

“I’m so happy that journalists are educating themselves on the situation in Cuba,” Rodriguez said.

On Saturday, though, she wasn’t just getting updates from afar.

Rodriguez stepped out of the car she hired to drive her to the White House and walked toward the gathered crowd.

“I wouldn’t want anyone else to cover this,” she said before hanging up the phone and walking into a sea of Cuban flags.

Daisy Espinoza is a 2021 graduate of the University of Houston, where she studied broadcast journalism and human development and family studies. A bilingual journalist, Espinoza has worked with Houston Public Radio and at her university’s television station. Reach her at espinoza.daisy.n [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter @daisynespinoza_

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