Kasia Braiter talks to ERNESTO ANTONIO SENTI DARIAS -husband of the Ambassador of Cuba in Poland. Diplomat himself.
Let’s start today’s interview a little differently. Let’s leave the diplomacy for later. Almost every Pole knows the song “Kuba island, like a hot volcano.” Ever heard of this song? Do you think this heat means high temperatures or the heat from the Cuban people? Are Cubans warm and open?
Art is a very rich expression of our soul and the title of this song is interesting because in Cuba fortunately we do not have volcanoes. Instead, we suffer the hurricane season from June to November with an increasing impact on our island in recent years because of climate change. But getting back to the song, there are also other very internationally popular songs about our country, and I am sure they are well known to our Polish friends, like “Guantanamera” or “Chan Chan” by Compay Segundo of the Buena Vista Social Club´s songbook, not to mention the song “Cuba qué linda es Cuba” (“Cuba, how beautiful is Cuba”), symbols of our contemporary Cuba since 1959.
Cuba, located in the tropics, is a country with a very hot climate and as an island the humidity is also very high. That makes our country a timeless source of hospitality, love, friendship, culture and solidarity. Cubans are a very warm, active, creative, open people. We are very proud of our Spanish-African roots and the courage and feeling of freedom that we inherited from our ancestors.
Okay, back to diplomacy. You are married to the Ambassador of Cuba in Poland. How do you feel as the ambassador’s spouse?
This is a new stage in my professional and personal life, no doubt about it!
I am an Ambassador too and it was time to let my wife spread her wings as wide as possible. She is a very experienced and respectful diplomat not only in our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also in the UN and is quite a specialist in gender, women’s and children’s issues, NGOs and many other social and humanitarian aspects.
It is not a secret that I am now facing this new world as an Ambassador’s spouse and now it is my turn to attend the SHOM (Spouses of Heads of Mission) Warsaw, which is a very interesting, nice and great new experience for me. The SHOM is quite an organization with an incredible scope of action.
Exactly, I wanted to clear that up now. You are an ambassador yourself. Was it difficult for you, an experienced diplomat, to come to a foreign country as a spouse? I bet you give advice to your wife.
In the case of Cuba, our “Law of the Foreign Service” provides the opportunity for both members of a couple to work at the Embassy. If both are diplomats it is a win-win situation for the sake of our work, but also there are a lot of opportunities in other administrative or technical posts. As I have already mentioned this is a new challenge in my professional career after many years in various executive responsibilities. In my particular case I am in charge of the trade and economic issues at our Embassy and, as you say, I try to constantly share with my wife the experiences treasured over all these years. The most important thing is to work as a solid team in all senses.
How are Polish-Cuban relations today? In addition to the large number of tourists who visit Cuba, do we act together in other fields?
I prefer to let my wife answer this question as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary accredited in Poland, but I would like to add that our countries are enjoying over 60 years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations, with quite a history of links in almost all aspects of our lives. Thousands of Cuban professionals studied in universities in Poland. We value considerably the contribution of Poland to universal culture, sports and science.
It is important to mark the increasing number of Poles traveling to Cuba as tourists. We really appreciate the contribution of Polish tour-operators and travel agencies promoting Cuba as a safe destination in many senses, not only because you will feel safe, but also because of our achievements in health and culture. Poles enjoy not only the Caribbean sun and beaches on our Island, but also our culture, our history, our struggle to keep a nation safe and independent.
We are working hard in our Embassy to promote our main exports to the Polish market and at the same time to enhance mutual business opportunities, to show our achievements in the biotechnological and pharmaceutical sectors, new developments in medicine and the treatment of different diseases.
Poland, because of your high development, also offers many possibilities for our companies in the agricultural sector, your food industry, your experiences with renewable energy, among others.
Medicine in Cuba has always been considered exceptionally good. What was behind its success?
That is a very good remark you make. And let me confess that being a diplomat and having an International Law Degree, both my parents were doctors of medicine, so I grew up in that atmosphere at home. The government also constantly raises the level of the medical sector and the wealth of our population. The Cuban School of Medicine is quite an historical institution in our society. As I mentioned, after 1959 until now this is a constant priority of our government.
This is one of our treasures, but not only for ourselves. Cuba has been sharing this with the whole world, specially in the Third World, but also assisting many countries fighting and overcoming natural disasters. The latest example is the pandemic. Despite many restrictions we face due to the nonsensical policy of unilateral blockade, Cuba managed to develop five vaccine candidates, and from them we developed three vaccines against COVID-19 that allowed our country to control the disease. Cuban medicine is the highest expression of human solidarity.
What do you like the most in Poland? Do you have any favorite city or place here?
There are still many places to visit in Poland for us. So far, Warsaw is a wonderful host, no complaints at all. But this is a great country, with treasures in every corner. We have visited tiny places in your country that are full of beautiful things, starting with your people, local culture, history, traditions, including cuisine, despite world known places like Krakow, Zakopane, Gdansk, Gdynia, Sopot, Katowice and Wroclaw.
By the way, finishing our dialogue, I would like to promote the Omara Portuondo concert, the Diva of the Buena Vista Social Club, as part of her international farewell tour, in Wroclaw on June 19. It is a great chance for your readers to get closer to this gem of Cuban and World Culture.