left corner left corner
China Daily Website  

Cuban journalist relishes ties to 'Bicycle Kingdom'

Updated: 2014-07-23 07:34
By Chen Weihua in Havana ( China Daily)

Before Luis Melian Alfonso traveled from Cuba to China for the first time in 1993, he had read and heard about the "Bicycle Kingdom", but was still surprised to see so many people going to and from work by bike, often while carrying their children.

Melian said he found cycling a good way to fit into Chinese society. "A few months later, I rode a bike to and from work to feel close to the Chinese people," he said, despite there being a shuttle bus he could take.

"If you are in a foreign country, you cannot say you're close to the people if you're not close to the working people," he said.

During his three years working at Xinhua News Agency as a Spanish-language copy editor, Melian discovered the Chinese mentioned two names when talking about Cuba: Cuban leader Fidel Castro and another Luis.

He was confused by hearing his own name at first, but learned the Chinese were referring to Mireya Luis, a legendary Cuban volleyball player regarded as a "nemesis" by the then-powerful Chinese women's volleyball team. In the early 1980s, the Chinese team had a host of international titles, including an Olympics gold medal.

Melian was proud that his Chinese friends marveled at how the small Caribbean nation had produced such a great sportswoman.

Cuban journalist relishes ties to 'Bicycle Kingdom'

"She is very much respected in Cuba," Melian said.

At Xinhua, Melian helped his young Chinese colleagues who had studied Spanish at college. He wanted to ensure their stories were the best they could be before being put on the international wire and said he admired his fellow journalists for their Spanish abilities.

Returning to China to cover the Beijing Olympics in 2008 for Cuba's state news agency, Prensa Latina, Melian said he saw China had made major strides.

He came back again the following year, again for Prensa Latina, and stayed until 2012.

While here, Melian traveled to Zhengzhou in Henan province, where a local company, Yutong, has been manufacturing buses for Cuba. Yutong buses run on Havana streets and more are expected to be assembled in Cuba in coming years.

Melian said Cubans are starting to learn more about China as Chinese students go there to study and as Cuba trains Chinese doctors, translators and nurses.

"We may not know your 5,000-year history, but we know you want to build a modern and prosperous country by 2020," he said.

"If you can do that, why can't we? We should try that, we should do that here too," he said.


(China Daily 07/23/2014 page3)