CNN correspondent Patrick Oppmann used to cover stories like the debut of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and Occupy Seattle. But his move from the Pacific Northwest to Havana gave him a truly one-of-a-kind beat–a bureau that dates to 1997, when CNN became the first U.S.-based news organization in nearly 30 years with a bureau in Cuba.
“I have lived in Cuba for the last three years as the only American TV correspondent based here,” Oppmann told TVNewser, not long after President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro announced plans to begin talks on normalizing relations. “Despite being 90 miles away from the U.S., it is like covering a country on the other side of the world.”
In November, Oppmann–along with CNN’s Ray Sanchez and Elise Labott–reported that it was not out of the question to think of a possible break in relations between Cuba and the U.S. “Senior administration officials and Cuba observers say reforms on the island and changing attitudes in the United States have created an opening for improved relations.”
That historic process begins now. And what a story to cover. “Many Cubans have had little exposure to Americans,” Oppmann said. “Most of what they read in the Cuban state press is negative and stuck in a Cold War time warp. Still Cubans have treated me, my wife and our two young children with incredible warmth. Today my Cuban friends reacted with joy at the idea of a normalized U.S.-Cuban relationship. Some cried tears. I can only hope – despite their years of struggle – a better future awaits them.”