Decades in the Making: Fidel Castro’s Obituary
New York Times journalists recount their work on the Cuban revolutionary’s obituary, first drafted in 1959.
By Randal C. Archibold
作者：兰迪·阿奇博德(Randal C. Archibold)
Every Mexico correspondent in recent years, myself included, inherited and worked on the Fidel Castro “Death Plan.” We all thought for sure it would happen on our watch — only to see Castro outlive our tenures, just as he outlasted presidents.
Azam Ahmed, the Mexico bureau chief, is now that sweepstakes “winner,” though Damien Cave, by amazing luck, is the one who was actually there when it happened — on vacation.
墨西哥分社社长阿扎姆·艾哈迈德(Azam Ahmed)现在成为独占鳌头的“赢家”，虽然达米恩·凯夫(Damien Cave)才是事情发生时真正在古巴的人——他运气奇佳，当时正在那里度假。
Randy Archibold, a onetime Mexico correspondent, is The Times’s deputy sports editor.
By Damien Cave
I was just finishing up a momentous vacation — a return to Cuba with my wife, who is Cuban-American, my two kids, and my father-in-law, who was visiting Cuba for the first time since leaving as a child 56 years earlier.
We were supposed to just get up and fly home. But then I heard a jumble of noises: a loud phone in our hotel room and a pounding on our hotel door. It was dark still, before sunup, and I was far too dazed to hazard a theory about what was going on.
So I opened the door, and there stood Raul, my father-in-law, dressed and wide awake. “Fidel’s dead,” he said. His face held decades of emotion with taut intensity. Then he rushed in to turn on the television.
From there, it was a scramble to figure out what to do, leading eventually to my family leaving and me staying behind. It was all a stunning turn of events. I’d been coming to Cuba for nearly 20 years, but what I kept thinking of was an exchange I’d had with Susan Chira, then the Foreign Desk editor, back in 2006 when Fidel first fell ill.
I was in Iraq covering the war at the time — a young, clueless correspondent with more passion than wisdom, and I volunteered right then to go to Cuba if Fidel was about to depart the island he’d ruled for decades. Never mind Baghdad. I craved Havana.
That request to go turned out to be a premature. I went from Iraq to Miami thinking maybe that would get me here to Havana; then I went to Mexico, from which I made frequent trips to Cuba, living out a dream of covering the island as it edged into an economic transition that many of us had gamed out without really knowing how slow and complicated a process it would be.
Even now, as I write from a Wi-Fi hot spot in Havana (my card is about to run out of time!) I wonder about where Fidel’s death fits into Cuba’s evolution. Because that’s what it is now: evolution, not revolution. Fidel’s obituary, his death, is the end of a chapter, as one Cuban told me, but far from the end of the entire tale.
Indeed, like many others on the island today, I have dreams for this place. More joy. More “Cubanidad,” or Cubanness. And someday, I hope to be here again. With my family. With a chance to write. With a chance to observe.
Until then, all I can say is that I’m happy to have contributed to the enormous effort of covering the end of Fidel’s era — even if took a stroke of luck to make it happen. Maybe because of it.
Damien Cave — formerly a correspondent in Mexico City, Miami, Baghdad and Newark — is deputy national editor for digital.
Countless Edits, Updates, Revisions
By Susan Chira
For years, as we weathered one scare after another that Fidel Castro had died, I kept the Cuba plan close at hand. We had lists of every Times reporter who either had experience with or family ties to Cuba. Some would go straight to Miami; others would try various routes to Cuba, even though no one had visas. The former executive editor, Bill Keller, and I made a pilgrimage to Havana in 2009 to plead for better access, to no avail, although I did have my copy of “Love in the Time of Cholera” signed by Gabriel García Márquez, a career highlight.<-->纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com<-->
多年来，当我们被菲德尔·卡斯特罗逝世的谣言一次又一次地吓一大跳的时候，我手头一直保留着关于古巴的报道计划。我们有一份名单，所有在古巴待过或者在那里有亲人的时报记者都被登记在册。一些人会直接去迈阿密；另一些人则会尝试沿着种种路线前往古巴，尽管谁都没有签证。我和前主编比尔·凯勒(Bill Keller)曾在2009年前往哈瓦那，请求获得更便利的采访条件，但却徒劳无功。不过，加夫列尔·加西亚·马尔克斯(Gabriel Garcia Marquez)的确给我那本《霍乱时期的爱情》签了名，这堪称我职业生涯的一个亮点。
We even had a plan to sneak someone in via the southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where Fidel launched the revolution in 1953 and proclaimed victory in 1959, on the thought it might be easier to slip into the country outside Havana. The Miami bureau had standing instructions to head to Little Havana (and thankfully in Lizette Alvarez we had a Cuban expatriate who had grown up there).
The magisterial obituary, by Anthony DePalma, whose wife had fled Cuba with her family, was copy edited and then revised countless times over more than a decade.
There had been wide predictions of unrest when Fidel died, but that prospect faded after the successful handoff to his brother Raúl. I remember several scares when many of us flocked to the newsroom late at night or on weekends, rereading the obituary, laying out pages, and drawing up coverage plans, only to stand down.
This time it was true, and the years of preparation paid off.
Susan Chira — senior correspondent and editor, gender issues — was foreign editor from 2004 to 2011.
By William McDonald
Fidel Castro’s obituary cost us more man/woman hours over the years than any piece we’ve ever run.
Every time there was a rumor of death, we’d pull the obit off the shelf, dust it off, send it back to the writer, Tony DePalma, for any necessary updates, maybe add a little more polish here and there and then send it on to be copy-edited and made ready — yet again — for publication.
My biggest worry was that when the day finally came, we’d get word at, say, 10 o’clock on a Saturday night and literally have to stop the presses in the middle of the run for the Sunday paper and somehow, on the fly, shoehorn all those thousands of words into it. (Ugh.)
As it happened, the timing worked out fine: too late for the Saturday paper but right on the money for the full Sunday run, and of course digital readers had it with their Saturday morning coffee.
Bill McDonald is The Times’s obituaries editor.