Journalism, Cuba

Bohemia. One of the most important weekly illustrated publications in Cuba, and the oldest in Latin America.

Bohemia was issued on May 10, 1908, during the second military occupation of the United States in Cuba. Its founder, Miguel Ángel Quevedo Pérez suggested publishing a “society magazine” which he entitled Bohemia in homage to Giacomo Puccini’s opera. Quevedo abandoned this project after publishing a few sixteen-page issues; he took it on anew two years later with better luck. In this first stage the magazine did not deal with political themes. Trying to attract readers, the magazine sponsored car races, beauty contests, lotteries, among other social activities.

Besides, it reported on the world of Havana elegant society. Thanks to the influence of its artistic director, the painter Antonio Rodríguez Morey, the work of important artists were present on the pages of Bohemia, such as Leopoldo Romañach, Armando Menocal and Conrado Massaguer. Different important people occupied the post of Chief Editor, among them Enrique Coll, Rodrigo Cervantes, Ramón Rivera Gollury, Víctor Hugo Tamayo and José A. Giralt.

They modeled a basically literary magazine. Bohemia published stories, poetry, literary criticism, and reviews on drama, music, film, and plastic art. At that time there were other collaborators among them Luis Felipe Rodríguez, Federico de Ibarzábal, Armando Leyva, Alfonso Hernández Catá, Rafael Suárez Solís, Fernando Lles, Francisco J. Pichardo, Agustín Acosta, Aurelia Castillo de González, Arturo R. de Carricarte, Antonio Iraizoz, Luis Rodríguez Embil, Gustavo Robreño, Salvador Salazar, Luis Amado Blanco, Emilia Bernal, Arturo Alfonso Roselló, Emilio Gaspar Rodríguez, Mario Muñoz Bustamante, Sergio Cuevas Zequeira, Félix Soloni, and Esteban Foncueva. After October 7, 1915 Bohemia adopted the subtitle “World Illustration”, increased the number and size of pages, and renovated its printing technique, utilizing trichromatic printing for the first time.

Furthermore, it included a logo in its front page. In 1928, Miguel Ángel Quevedo de la Lastra, the magazine founder’s son, became its director. Bohemia then changed its cultural profile for a more political one, bringing sharpness and criticism together. Because of this stance, Bohemia was closed and its director was jailed several times. During the 40s and 50s Bohemia consolidated its position as a magazine of general information, with a marked interest in national reality, intended for a diverse reading public. The magazine supported Eduardo Chibás’s moralizing campaigns, and opposed Fulgencio Batista’s regime after his March 10, 1952 coup d’état. The magazine also continued to publish articles related to the legacy of the leaders of the independence wars like Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y del Castillo, Máximo Gómez, Antonio Maceo and, above all, José Martí. Likewise, the deeds of figures such as Julio Antonio Mella and Antonio Guiteras were also remembered and appreciated in the magazine.

The publication earned prestige abroad thanks to undertaking international issues such as advocating for the Spanish Republic; systematically opposing fascism; supporting Jacobo Arbenz’ popular government in Guatemala; exalting Augusto César Sandino’s stature in Nicaragua; defending the independence of Puerto Rico; and condemning Latin American tyrannies like Rafael Leónidas Trujillo’s in the Dominican Republic, Anastasio Somoza’s in Nicaragua, Jorge Ubico’s in Guatemala and Marcos Pérez Jiménez’ in Venezuela. On July 4, 1943 the section “In Cuba” was published for the first time, considered the most widely read section in Cuban journalism.

Anonymously published, the section presented the latest current national events at that time, sometimes making it extensive to Latin American events too. The space was created by Enrique de la Osa and Carlos Lechuga, and collaborators like Marta Rojas, Ángel Augier and Fernando Campoamor among other outstanding journalists. During the mid 50s Bohemia acquired the nine-by-twelve-inches format which still maintains to our days. The number of pages was increased to 162 – plus a supplement of sixteen to forty-eight pages. In addition, it began to be distributed in cities in the United States like New York and Miami, and Latin American countries - Paraguay, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panamá and Venezuela. In this second stage, the magazine continued to publish literary articles, but its focus was on political and social issues.

The main Editors and collaborators were among the most renowned writers and journalists of the epoch, like Juan Marinello, Raúl Roa and Fernando Ortiz. The triumph of the Revolution in 1959 was a motive for three successive issues, called “liberty issues”, which gathered valuable graphic and testimonial materials of the years of revolutionary struggle. Quevedo de la Lastra continued to be the director and owner till the mid 60s, when he left the country. The magazine was intervened by the Revolutionary Government and directed by Enrique De La OSA till 1971. The weekly publication became then a total defender of the socialist ideal, and its content was made fit for this. Bohemia has continued to maintain an update of the most relevant events of the Cuban Revolution and the international sphere.