Meet Cuba's best-known Generation Y blogger
Yoani Sanchez won the Spanish equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, but her
government wouldn't allow her to leave the country to receive it.
By Sara Miller Llana
from the July 25, 2008 edition
Havana - Blogger Yoani Sanchez had just found out that she had won an
2008 Ortega y Gasset award – essentially the Pulitzer prize of Spanish
journalism – and she was nervous. Would Cuban officials give her the
exit visa to fly to Madrid and accept the prize for digital journalism?
At a cafe in Havana, as she talked about the origins of her blog and the
risks she takes chronicling daily life in Cuba, she seemed distracted.
No wonder; at that moment her husband was standing in a line at a
government office seeking instructions on the proper visa protocol.
Ms. Sanchez's no-nonsense – and often contentious – slices of life that
she posts on her blog Generación Y (www.desdecuba.com/generationy/) have
suddenly catapulted her into the world spotlight.
On a recent post, she talks about the wave of Cubans rushing to prove
their Spanish heritage in order to gain citizenship in Spain amid "a
lack of expectations and material hardship" in Cuba. With irony and wit,
she mocks the tangle of Cuban bureaucracy, the senseless privation of
its citizens, and the way the state media views all of it through
rose-colored glasses. Her entries are translated into English, French,
Italian, German, and Polish.
In other words, she is not exactly the ambassador that Cuba – with a
tight grips on dissenters – wants to present to the world. And yet, she
reasoned, permission denied might garner so much media attention as to
backfire in a Cuba trying to present its more tolerant face. After all,
the Raúl Castro administration had just dropped bans on owning
cellphones and computers. How could they deny a week-long trip to a
well-known blogger who recently was named one of the most influential
people in the world by Time magazine?
On the day before she was to leave for Madrid – May 3, World Press
Freedom Day – she kept her readers abreast of the process: Her permit to
leave was "stopped" for reasons unknown to her. That entry alone got
nearly 3,000 responses.
The government may physically be able to stop her, she says, but the
technology that has made her – inadvertently from her perspective – the
spokesperson of her generation is well beyond their grasp. She writes
from her home, pulls out her memory flash, and slips into Internet cafes.
Back in March, she said, when suddenly she could no longer access her
blog from public cafes in Havana, she began e-mailing her entries to
friends who e-mail her back the thousands of commentaries she receives.
She's a "blind blogger," she writes in a recent post, but a determined
one. "Against all the limitation, there is the popular voice, and there
is technology," she says.
Her year-old blog is part of a new crop of commentary leaking from the
island. "This has become a civil space for citizens seeking change," she
says. "They can try to restrict the technology, but we Cubans are very
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