Shunpiking magazine was honoured by a friendly and informative visit from Carlos Fernández de Cossío, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Canada, on Saturday, October 30, 1999 during his four-day visit to Nova Scotia. Following a brief lunch, Ambassador Fernandez carried a lively two-hour discussion with editorial and production staff.
Shunpiking is Nova Scotia’s discovery magazine, and the third largest print media in the province. While the number of articles on international questions has been few, our editorial mandate involves not only Nova Scotians discovering our own province and region but also the world. Nova Scotia and the Maritimes share deep historical ties with Cuba and the Caribbean.  Thousands of Canadians have visited Cuba in the recent period and appreciate its indelible achievements.
A broad discussion between the Ambassador and Shunpiking was carried on questions of culture, history, ecotourism, amateur sports, the media and journalism, and developing exchanges between Canadian and Cuban publications, journalists, writers, artists and sports teams.
Ambassador Fernández was previously Director of North American Affairs in the Cuban Foreign Ministry and an experienced, down-to-earth diplomat. In fact, during his visit to Halifax he stayed in a B & B. He expressed a keen interested in the history of the Maritimes and Newfoundland, the roots of our peoples and the crisis in the fisheries which has been very much in the news. Tony Seed, editor, briefly explained how the British colonialists “cleansed” the Highlands and Islands of Scotland as well as Ireland of the peoples who, together with other inhabitants, such as the Acadians, were used to deprive the aboriginal peoples of their land and sovereignty. He traced the evolution of the fisheries’ crisis, whose roots are political and economic in nature rather than of “too many fishermen chasing too few fish,” the role of Canada’s territorial sea, including the plunder of foreign fleets led by the former Soviet Union and the abnegation of the defence of our sovereignty and people’s right by the federal government, and the place and right of the First Nations today.
Speaking as a sportsman, he also explained his own appreciation for the stand of Cuba and Fidel Castro for the ideals of amateur sports at the recent Pan Am Games in Winnpeg, and against the manipulation of the playing field and the media to benefit the United States and Canada, as part of the federal government’s so-called “northern ice” strategy. Ambassador Fernández detailed some aspects of how the United States has maneouvred to remove certain competitions from the games’ format in which Cuba does well, such as some classes of boxing, and to replace them with new competitions in which only a few nations participate, such as inline hockey (the U.S., Canada and Brazil) in order to maximize their medal count and minimize Cuba’s.
Isaac Saney discussed some issues of Black History and the evolution of our Black History Month supplement, of which he is an editor, and photo editor Mike Vavra demonstrated the role of modern digital design and the pre-press operation.
Ambassador Fernández highly complimented Shunpiking on the beauty and depth of the publication.
He invited Nova Scotians to keep up-to-date on Cuba by visiting the Granma newspaper website, now one of the top 100 most visited websites in the world. He said he and his staff are ready to give any practical assistance to any groups from the Maritimes wishing to develop exchanges with Cuba or groups within Cuba or to visit the island nation. He warmly invited sports teams, especially youth, and cultural groups especially to develop exchanges within their spheres of interest, and added that positive discussions had been held with the federal minister of sport to encourage such people-to-people initiatives.
Shunpiking presented the Cuban Ambassador with a selection of independent Nova Scotian periodicals, such as Am Braighe and Cape Breton’s Magazine, as well as a gift of pottery crafted by renowned Halifax artisan Bob Campbell, a selection of posters and, knowing the famous interest of Cubans for baseball, a signed copy of The Kids’ Baseball Book by Curtis Coward and Tony Seed, for his children.
While visiting Halifax as a guest of the Nova Scotia Cuba Association (NSCUBA), Ambassador Fernández de Cassío spoke on Cuba’s stand on globalization to large audiences at St. Mary’s University and at the Political Science Department of Dalhousie University. He also met with the editorial board of the Halifax Herald newspaper.
*Shunpiking Magazine / December-January, 2000 / Vol. 4, No. 8, No. 31. Slightly revised 19 October 2003 and again 24 September 2013.
Shunpiking Magazine, December-January, 2000, No. 31
Prof John M. Kirk points out that “Traditionally the relationship has been built on trade – as can be seen that the first Cuban mission in Canada was based not in Ottawa or Montreal, but in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, in the early 19th century (1903 –ed.), when the salt fish industry was at its peak. The numerous stencils for “Havana” and “Santiago” at the Lunenburg Fisheries Museum speak volumes of this trade in the 19th century. Likewise the comparatively large sections for rum (compared with other hard liquor) in Nova Scotia liquor stores also illustrate traditional trading patterns – lumber, salt cod and potatoes were transported to Cuba in return for sugar, citrus products and rum.” Canada-Cuba relations: applying ‘constructive engagement’, 2001
On the web
The website of the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba is: http://www.embacuba.ca/
The website of the Granma newspaper is: http://www.granma.cu/ingles/index.html