I am thinking about Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, winner of a 2009 Maria Moors Cabot Award, the oldest international award for journalism and given by the Columbia University School of Journalism. Sanchez is an ordinary Cuban citizen who won the coveted award for her weekly blog Generacion Y. She was denied permission to travel to New York City to receive her prize at formal ceremonies at the university recently.
As I write I am looking at her blog for the first time. Just a quick perusal and already I have learned things I didn’t know about the way Cubans survive on a daily basis in this restricted island country that is so close to my own. I learned that folks have learned how to loot abandoned buildings for building materials for their own houses because these materials are otherwise unobtainable. I’ve learned that while government radio warns about the need for more hygiene to combat the spread of the flu, many Cubans cannot afford soap. I’ve learned that efforts to bring the technology of internet publishing to Cubans in rural areas will bring on a visit from the state police. And I have learned that one woman speaking out for her human rights on the web can get the world’s attention.
“Yoani Sanchez is an ordinary Cuban citizen using the internet with extraordinary power,” says the Journalism School of Columbia University. “In barely two years her weekly blog has put the rest of the world in touch with Cuba – at east digitally. It is a pitch-perfect mix of personal observation and tough analysis which conveys better than anybody else what daily life is like for Cubans living their lives on the island today. “
Sanchez, a 34 year old philologist, “persues her craft with ingenuity, scarce resources and an enormous amount of guts, buying a few minutes here and there on one of the few internet-connected computers available to Cubans in Havana, quickly downloading and emailing her written and video comments to devoted supporters who post the blog in 15 languages. She has a loyal following of thousands around the world. For her courage, talent and great achievement in such a brief period of time, the Maria Moors Cabot board is proud to award Yoani Sanchez a special citation for journalistic excellence.”
I am not one of those who likes to argue about Cuba. For most of my life my main source of information about Cuba has been the South Florida television news and so I try to do more listening than talking on the subject. But I feel compelled to pay tribute to Yoani Sanchez today, a revolutionary island sister using the power of her voice and the web to tell her stories and to focus the world's attention on her daily struggles and triumphs, despite her government's efforts to silence her. I salute her bravery and the way she has owned her personal power, and her voice, and put it to such good use.
She assures her readers in a recent post: "Offices with uniformed people confirm, "you may not travel at this time," although I am already thousands of kilometres from here, in this virtual world that they cannot understand nor fence in."
Thank you Yoani Sanchez for your bravery, your vision, your world-altering womanish words.