Roberto Escobar Aparicio, a founder of the Periódico 26

He unquestionably does not accept interviews. He confesses that he has never liked advertising, but it turns out that he is the only founder of Periódico 26 who is still active, and from that first day he has worked hard to learn, at only 17 years old, to tame the risks and tortures of sitting for hours and hours in front of a linotype, with that smell of melted lead, the deafening noise and a heat impossible to avoid even in the blades of the fan.

Quiet, but not quite enough to prevent him from integrating very well into a collective marked by revelry, passionate professional debates, and an abundance of criteria, whether for or against. Obstinate in his goals and endeavors, he forbade me to write these lines, but I, persevering as well, and with that faithful friendship that has united us for almost 40 years, disobey him. It is worth doing so.

Many early mornings together from the workshops in Calle Colón. Endless hours to find the best design, a photograph, in those times when the Special Period tightened the screws on the Cuban press and it was very difficult to print galley proofs, or now refilling the old printer ink cartridges to be able to print the pages. Thus, by dint of effort and example, speaks this infinite comrade. That's why I run the risk of being scolded by him and left with the sad feeling of having mortified him.

I prefer it to silence how much Roberto Escobar Aparicio did and does for his second home, which he joined as an assistant to Justo Peña, the only linotypist at the time. He remembers that it was in May and after a few months, he had mastered everything. He became a linotypist.

José Infante Reyes, the first director of 26, now deceased, always emphasized his virtue of innovating and learning. He exemplified this with the idea he had of making the linotype keyboard out of cardboard to practice wherever he could because that single piece of equipment was not enough.

Robert's life - as many of us call him - began at the newspaper, from the great awakening of July 26, 1978. His tireless will allowed him to be on the mural of honor of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC in Spanish) as one of the outstanding young people of that time. Recognition was never lacking at his worktable. National Vanguard on several occasions, prizes in design, and self-improvement courses.

Many years ago, when technology arrived to humanize production processes, he prepared himself and became a designer. Today he is one of our two designers and an innovator without limits. He always finds a way to solve problems and emergencies. It is impossible to quantify how many times everything has been better thanks to his saving hands.

The early riser, disciplined, responsible, and always among the first, Robert is a golden ace on that long road of putting together the puzzle of each edition. He will never forget the trial by fire of the dawn of the Santa Ana, with its fiery image, the fear of failing because of the Duplex, and the madness of that small group of courageous apprentices who, in the style of Joan Manuel Serrat, made the road as they went along.

In a plot that tastes of affection and respect, our colleague and director Elena Diego delves into his memories and Roberto tells her: "That old Duplex machine was dumped. When it arrived in Calle Colón I was already there, with a brigade from Havana that had come to refurbish the workshop. I joined in May and turned 18 there. And the linotype... look, I had a cauldron of melted lead that, as you worked, it wore out. There were 21 of each letter on the keyboard in boxes that were part of the machine and every time you typed they came down and a composer was assembled, and this went through the melting place, and the lead ingots were formed. That's how each line of text was made, and if it was a sheet of paper, imagine, it was a lump of lead like that...".

He spreads his hands apart and smiles. There is passion in his gestures and words. Old Robert continues speaking. "Afterwards, the typographer was the one who put all that on the page, arranging it line by line, but they came in order. That's what I did, I designed it, but manually. The photos were engraved, you couldn't see anything, that was the most horrible thing there was. You could put any photo, of whatever it was, but you didn't know what it was. When we came here for the polygraph in 1985, the quality improved. It was a different machine. That one was from the 1800s and it was thrown away. If you look in the archives of that time you can understand it.

"I started as a 17-year-old boy and we had so much work that I got home and didn't even speak. I was Justo Peña's assistant, I learned with him, he became a linotypist in Santiago and he was the only one there. After six months I was already assessed as a C and then as an A and I even became a mechanic, when the equipment broke down we didn't have to look for anyone.

"It was crazy, every day, the newspaper was daily. We went in at one o'clock in the afternoon and sometimes it was the morning of the next day. We'd sleep a bit and then we'd go back again. If we finished in the early hours of the morning it was a triumph, a joy. Later, over the years, another linotypist was formed, one of us would close, and we would rotate.

"When we came to the polygraph we were four linotypists and ten students, and one of them became a linotypist, Roger Gómez, who started here with me at the newspaper and worked for 20 years, and we didn't stop either, because we did 26 daily, plus all the productions of the polygraph. There was paper and we produced everything. We worked from seven in the morning to three in the afternoon, from three to eleven at night, and from eleven to seven in the morning. We had to respond to all that.

It is also impossible not to recall those intense days of excessive dedication to typing the newspaper's work, first on the linotype and then on the only two computers the newspaper had when it moved to the "Alejo Carpentier" in 1985. Or the times when he arrived home, after almost 20 hours of work, when he was fetched to fix the "burning lead bug" that had just jammed.

Always a lot of work, unstoppable, committed, and even ungrateful at the time. Colleagues he remembers amidst the fires of the workshop, the torn papers and the walking up and down the corridors with a page proof, or the going up and down stairs to clarify a text or a title, the proofreaders Maricely, Marlenys, Valdés, Arturo... or Habana, the only linotypist who stayed for a few years because the others, who came from neighboring provinces, were leaving, they couldn't stand it.

Rober didn't know he was in our stubborn trap, determined that he would tell us about his tracks himself, but gosh brother, we had to do it. Here you are with your years and sacrifices, weathering the hard times of life, but never, not even in the worst of times, did you stop being in front of the linotype or the computer, helping, alerting, and working.

You may hate interviews, but you are a founder of 26... and in what a way. Please don't scold us. Our readers need to know you and we needed to catch your dreams.