Enrique Domínguez: a life in radio

A well-known unknown

Until a short while ago, Professor Enrique Domínguez Sosa saved in his home the 4,000 letters sent in 1985 by listeners of the “Clave ocho treinta” programme, a Radio Progreso space that he has been advising since 1972. Those letters were just a sample of his fervour for the media to which he has given almost his entire working life. He is properly a man of radio.

For the work he has carried out since 1969, Enrique has also made use of another great passion, literature. Books have also protected him and he does not abandon them. Thousands of copies remain there, under his custody, despite the disappointments, in his home in Luyanó, from where he tells me how everything started.

At the beginning there were The Three Villalobos, Leonardo Moncada, Bejuco Ramírez, Pedrito Iznaga and the dog Campeón, unforgettable characters from his childhood in the 1950s; but also the radio soap operas his mother used to listen to; the historic programmes; the newscasts; and the programmes that formed his taste for classical music.

He still remembers those programmes as something that greatly pleased him and evokes the names of Félix B. Caignet, Cástor Vispo, Enrique Núñez Rodríguez, Carballido Reyes, Dora Alonso and Iris Dávila, who do honour to Cuban radio, which began a century ago.

It is impossible to avoid mentioning on his list El derecho de nacer (The Right to Live), the radio soap opera with the biggest audience, the most universal, which made a mark in the genre and which still serves as model for TV soap operas, because everything is there: plots, subplots, conflicts, subjects, issues and motifs that have been copied since then by the scriptwriters, producers and filmmakers everywhere.

Enrique also remembers how the suspense plot of Chen Li Po kept the population on tenterhooks and in the Havana movie theatres the screening was interrupted to broadcast that day’s chapter through the loudspeaker located in the theatres, as was later done with El derecho de nacer.

Professor Domínguez speaks of the dignity of Dora Alonso, who, for the sake of not making changes in the content of her librettos, was ready to discontinue her contract with the magnates of the soap industry. The Matanzas writer, whose radio soaps have reached – and are still broadcast – a very high amount of audiences, won the National Literature Prize in 1989.

Regarding another writer he recalls, Iris Dávila, Enrique pointed out the merit of the series she wrote, Divorciadas (Divorced Women), because it presented conflicts and issues from a focus that today we would call genre, at a time when just the mention of the word that identified the space was a blot for women. The interviewee doesn’t forget the slogan for Divorciadas: “married women who enjoy happiness, young women who struggle to build a home, this programme that encloses a lesson and a warning is dedicated to all of you.”

Since radio was something very close to Enrique, when in 1967 he finished his studies as a public accountant at the University of Havana he was sent to the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television as part of a research team, he requested that his task be in radio.

This beginning – still as a student – in the Institute went with his academic profile; but economics was not an activity that was given much value around those years in which “the struggle against bureaucracy” was stigmatising the numbers, statistics, finances, and many were forced to change profession.

However, for Enrique Domínguez the professional reorientation was not traumatic; it seems radio was his destiny. And if initially his work was centred on organisational and methodological functions, he soon started being fuelled by the day-to-day life that was breathed in the studios of the dramatised programmes, making it his. This is why he accepted naturally when Marta Jiménez Oropesa proposed him as a table producer, which he did before being an advisor.

To face his new functions, having to work with actors, writers, directors and librettos, Enrique already had in his curriculum a course on the production and direction of radio programmes, a wealth of knowledge which he increased, between 1977 and 1982, with his BA in scenic arts in the specialisation of theatre and dramaturgy.

His work as an advisor of dramatised programmes is very complex: he has to watch out for the fulfilment of the objective and content of each programme; he is responsible for each work that is chosen, be it original or adapted; as well as for the revision of the libretto, when the characters have to come out and the proposal for the characterisation of actors, which must be discussed with the director. Add to this that he is held responsible if some content-related problem comes up.

But none of that has diminished the passion with which Enrique Domínguez has carried out his profession for 44 years. When we asked him if at some time he has felt tired of reading the librettos, he said to us that on the contrary, that that has kept him afloat in the worst moments of his life.

Enrique Domínguez was the advisor who received the most prizes in the first 25 years of the Festival of Cuban Radio, but he has also been awarded prizes as director. In this last function he was distinguished by Casa de las Américas and by the International Catholic Office, something only achieved by him.

When he finished his career as a public accountant, Enrique preferred to stay in radio before giving classes in the University of Havana, where the house of higher studies had appointed him, but paradoxically teaching has accompanied him almost since his beginnings in this media: he prepared the first higher education graduates sent to be trained as advisors of dramatised programmes and, since then, he has not stopped offering his knowledge in the profession, including the university classrooms.

Because I attended the courses he gave in the Centre of Radio and Television Studies, I was witness to the excellence with which Professor Domínguez Sosa gave his lessons and workshops, and the generosity with which he offered his experience. Moreover, from the information and readings he possesses in literature, cinema, television and theatre.

Finally, when we asked Enrique how much the expression of the dramatised radio programmes has been modified, he told us that the changes produced in the manner of narrating, in literature and in cinema, have been represented in radio representations, which have become richer, more complex. And he commented that whoever listens to some of the works recorded during previous decades and compares them to those of today, can perceive these changes.

For some months, the dramatised programmes of Radio Progreso have been heard on the Internet and, from very faraway places come reports that they are being heard. To face this challenge, Enrique Domínguez continues paying attention to each word that is said, each expression of the librettos for which he is responsible, with the same passion as the first day. (2013)

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