The wealth of knowledge that Argentine journalist and writer Stella Calloni expresses in her conversations is difficult to summarize, but it is worth considering her concerns and ideals.
Granma International visited her apartment in Buenos Aires, decorated with reproductions of works by Cuban painter René Portocarrero, handicrafts, books and objects relating to different Latin American countries. The lucidity with which she explained the continent’s historic events was stimulating, something that also marks her participation in social struggles, and permanent activity to contribute to the unity of different progressive political forces.
The author of the anthologies Los Subredes (1975); Cartas a Leroy Jones (1983), Poemas de Trashumante (1998), and the book of short stories El hombre que fue Yacaré (1998), confesses that her love for Cuba began from the moment she learned of the Rebel Army's victories in the Sierra Maestra and, like so many young people, decided to work to defend the social process initiated on the island.
When the first Cuban embassy opened in Buenos Aires following the triumph of the Revolution, she worked for a time as its receptionist, assisting those who arrived seeking information. She recalls a special request for books: “Here there was a publishing house led by Arturo Peña Lillo, considered the “Publisher of the Homeland,” because he produced many texts on national history by popular authors, a kind of voice of the people. I am referring to intellectuals with consistent serious nationalist thought, defiant of the history taught by the ruling classes, which concealed events like the May Revolution of 1810. It turns out that Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara requested the greatest possible number of books related to this subject and we sent several texts produced by that publishing house,” the Argentine intellectual emphasizes.
This work saw her come into contact with Che’s mother, Celia de la Serna, and from there a great friendship arose. The writer tells of her admiration for the frugality in which Celia lived, her education, her strength, and human honesty. She especially came to know Che’s youngest brother, Juan Martín Guevara, who lived with his mother at the time.
Celia helped her during difficult times and even took care of Stella’s eldest daughter when she had to work.
“We became close friends,” the Argentine journalist recalls, “she adopted me like a daughter. I was also friendly with Roberto, another of Che’s brothers and a lawyer for the Navy sector. He was a member of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party and was summoned to Bolivia in October 1967 to identify Che’s body when he was assassinated.”
Because of this link with the Guevara de la Serna family, in 1960, Stella’s apartment in Buenos Aires was raided by three strangers.
“They destroyed a lot of my oldest poems and one took as an accusatory book of an Argentine writer about General José de San Martín, because the title included the words Latin America. I told them about this independence patriot and explained briefly his efforts in the history of our country. I asked them to let me go to the bathroom, I took my wallet with me and from the front pocket I took out the card which identified me as a member of the Communist Party and placed it inside the grille, in the pipe that goes to the bath.”
Her work in support of Cuba increased over the following years and she participated in the formation of solidarity groups in the 1970s and 80s. She recalls that in those days, taking direct flights to Havana was prohibited, and they were obliged to travel through several countries to reach their final destination. She met Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz in the 1980s while working in Nicaragua as a correspondent in the Sandinista press, and their first dialogue took place on a trip from Managua to North Korea, with a delegation led by Nicaraguan Commander and Interior Minister Tomás Borge. The group made a brief stopover in Havana, which Fidel took advantage of to talk to them.
Another meeting occurred when the Cuban leader met with the delegates of the international event on Latin American and Caribbean external debt, held on August 3, 1985, in the Cuban capital.
In 1986, Stella Calloni received the José Martí Latin American Journalism Prize and at the reception for several intellectuals participating in the activity, Fidel began an informal chat with her and Colombian Nora Parra. They spoke about various topics. The Argentine writer invited him to talk about more personal matters.
She notes: “I asked him about his dreams when he was asleep. He confessed that he often dreamed of the period lived in the Sierra Maestra, mainly with the mist of the mountains. Then I wanted to know about his nightmares and he told me that he dreamed he was enjoying a cigar and that made him feel as if he were cheating the Cuban people, because he himself tried to be an example on quitting smoking to help eliminate that habit due to the diseases it caused.”
“He also expressed how he suffered Che’s absence; he praised the sense of honesty of the revolutionary and his commitment to telling the truth. Fidel greatly suffered the physical loss of his comrade in arms. They sought to build a different socialism, something new, based on the Martí school of thinking and the theoretical experience of the progressive thinkers of the world,” stated the author of Operación Condor, an investigation into and denunciation of the atrocious crimes committed by Latin American military dictatorships, sponsored by the United States.
Of the recurring themes in her conversations with Fidel, Stella notes the exchanges of views on the situation in Latin America, from the perspective of the people.
“I remember telling him about a real person from Mexico named Superbarrio. He was lawyer Marco Rascón Córdova, who decided to dress up like Superman, but using the name Superbarrio to appear during evictions. He was alerted through light signals and improvised rockets. He would arrive surrounded by reporters and prevented the evictions of very poor families. He then founded an organization to fight for housing called the Asamblea de Barrios, the success of which made it an emblematic symbol of the urban-popular movement of that country.”
Another important moment of a long talk with Fidel occurred in 2008, when the Cuban leader was recovering from illness, during which they spoke of women’s struggles. They spoke of communist leaders Fanny Edelman of Argentina and Gladys Marín of Chile. They also remembered Celia, Che’s mother, and Fidel wanted to know more about this woman who was so loved by her son, and was surprised to discover the similarities between them in terms of their discipline, iron will, and honesty. Fidel expressed his regret on not having been able to spend more time with Celia, whose gaze struck him when he first met her.
Stella is moved when referring to the great teachings she received from the conversations with Fidel. She describes him as a Latin American Marxist who in his most intimate words and public speeches opened the doors to understanding the world. “With his analysis he showed you the path to choose,” she states.
One of Stella Calloni’s main tasks has been to raise the voice of the people faced with media campaigns that distort their respective national realities. For this reason, in October 2010 she founded the group Club Argentino de Periodistas Amigos de Cuba (Argentine Club of Journalist Friends of Cuba, APAC), composed of journalists and students of related careers, to disseminate information on the Cuban reality. They are now part of the Frente de Comunicadores por la Libre Expresión de los Pueblos (Journalists’ Front for the Free Expression of the Peoples), working to resist the disinformation and media wars of hegemonic powers. The movement defends social progress in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and shows solidarity with Honduras, Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina.
They also divulge the thought of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez Frías, as a driving force for change in Our America.
Stella is convinced that the Cuban Revolution will continue to exist, because it has a coherent revolutionary leadership. She believes the essence of this success lies in the mass education of the Cuban people and the consolidation of national identity to combat the island’s main enemy, U.S. imperialism, and provide solidarity to any country in the world.
In this respect, she notes: “Latin America has suffered cruel colonialism and we need to definitively leave this behind. Until now, independence has only been achieved by Cuba, but nonetheless our resistance struggle remains latent. This Latin American resistance is the current form of class struggle.”
In the prologue to the book Stella Calloni íntima. Una cronista de la historia, Fidel Castro wrote: “Stella is, indisputably, a recognized specialist in communications; she unravels the objectives of the media war as part of the counterinsurgency, the silent invasion and the disinformation transformed into a weapon of war. Her testimony is an unquestionable lesson for experts and students of this subject.”