Remembering Gianni Minà, a journalist out of the chorus

On March 27, 2023, Gianni Minà died aged 85. Minà was not simply a journalist, he brought the voices of Latin America and of its social redemption into Italy

March 30, 2023 by Maurizio Coppola
29-03 Gianni Mina Tribute
Gianni Mina with Fidel Castro. (Photo: via giornalistitalia)

The first picture of Gianni Minà I remember, is the one I have from my childhood, when, during the football World Cup in Italy in 1990, he interviewed Diego Armando Maradona who, just hours before, eliminated Italy itself in the semifinals: a little, chubby and bald man with a mustache asking questions to my absolute idol. Already as a child I recognized that Minà was different from other journalists: the poetic words he used, the deepness of the questions he asked, the way he approached the world’s most popular game as a social phenomenon situated in a world full of injustice and inequalities revealed its human, professional and political sensitivity.

When I grew up and entered the comrades’ world, Gianni Minà returned to be part of my life. In his 1995 published book O Continente Desaparecido (The Disappeared Continent) he interviewed Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Amado, Eduardo Galeano, Rigoberta Menchú, Samuel Ruiz García, Frei Betto, and Pombo and Urbano, Che Guevara’s fellows in Bolivia, and offered me a first understanding of the complexity of the continent. Then, from 2000 to 2015 Minà edited and directed the literary magazine Latinoamerica e tutti i sud del mondo (Latin America and all the souths of the world), a quarterly geopolitical journal with contributions of the most prestigious intellectuals of the continent. Thanks to his work, a whole generation of scholars and political activists learned about Latin America, a continent that was literally desaparecido in Italy at that time.

But Minà’s engagement beside the people of Latin America in the struggle for social justice started way before. In 1978, while covering the 1978 World Cup as a reporter for the Italian public TV RAI, he was admonished and then expelled from Argentina for asking questions about the desaparecidos of the Videla military dictatorship to Carlos Alberto Lacoste, head of the World Cup organization, during a press conference, and then for trying to gather information about the countless disappeared young people.

His deep love for the Argentinian people was replicated in many occasions, the last time in an article dedicated to Hebe De Bonafini two days after she died on November 20, 2022: “The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in front of the Casa Rosada are one of the most distressing images of the last century for those with a true democratic conscience,” Minà wrote, remembering the heroic struggle of all the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, which still continues today.

Minà paid particular attention to Cuba, of course. In 1987, he spoke to Fidel Castro for the first time in a historic interview that lasted 16 hours; this conversation was adapted for a book. From that same interview was taken Fidel racconta il Che (Fidel talks about Che), a report in which the Cuban revolutionary recounts the saga of Ernesto Guevara for the first and only time. In the 1990s, just after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and in the middle of a changing world, Minà interviewed Fidel a second time, a historic record that still today forms young generations. In an article published on his website, he praised the capacity of the Cuban people to develop vaccines against COVID-19 despite the blockade that has lasted for over 60 years. Additionally, Minà supported the Let Cuba Live solidarity campaign.

It was in 2003, and on his return from the Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, when Minà interviewed Hugo Chávez. One year later, in 2004, he spoke to the then-leader of the EZLN Subcomandante Marcos. In these stories, he showed the depth of the Zapatista movement and of the Bolivarian revolution, their projects and programs were outlined, showing how, over time, they have transformed—and are still transforming today—Chiapas, Venezuela and all of Latin America, offering seeds of hope to save themselves from the crimes of imperialism and neoliberalism. Minà proposed the Chavez interview to the public TV RAI, but it was rejected. Years later Minà explained: “They no longer wanted me because I interviewed Fidel, Lula and Chavez. Whoever says something that diverges from the US way of thinking, risks being isolated.

But Minà didn’t bend to the blackmail of those in power. He remained an upstream reporter and never gave up his critical voice. In his last published article bearing the title Pace (Peace), Minà took a side in the ongoing war in Ukraine. Paraphrasing Fidel’s Doctors and not bombs, Minà formulated a pungent critique to the warmongering politics of Western governments and to the rhetoric of mainstream media: “You cannot bargain with peace, it is not one option among others. Peace has to be embraced without ifs and buts, even at the cost of losing.

To this morally decadent Western world, Minà highlighted the struggle of a whole continent, Latin America, for a good life for all, as Gabriel García Márquez did in 1982 when awarded the Nobel Prize (“However, in front of oppression, plunder and neglect, our response is life.”): “Yet that continent, voiceless since immemorial time, unlike us westerners, now reduced to alienated consumers even of wars, exporters of an emptied democracy, of which we no longer even know the meaning, is always in search of the ‘buen vivir’, in a circular dimension, which produces well-being for all, spiritual and material, without excluding anyone.

On March 27, 2023, Gianni Minà left us. He died after a short heart disease. That same open heart with which he practiced his profession as a journalist and with which he conducted interviews with the most important personalities of the second half of the twentieth century, betrayed him.

Today, I imagine Minà somewhere, continuing conducting his interviews with Fidel Castro, Diego Armando Maradona, Gabriel García Márquez, Hugo Chavez, Muhammed Ali, and many others, always with his notebook in his hands and the smile on his face as only for people who know to sit “on the wrong side, because all the other seats were occupied.”