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Cuba: Blogger Yoani Sánchez Introduces Voces Cubanas

As a philologist and a blogger since 2007, Yoani Sánchez has been a big part of the phenomenon, which has been described by some as “blogostróika” in Cuba. Her blog Generación Y [es] is currently hosted on the portal Desde Cuba [es], which happens to be blocked within the country since the last week of March 2008. However, it is still available by anonymous proxy. Together with Reinaldo Escobar, she has helped organize the “itinerant blogger gatherings [es]” held during the past two months and is also on the jury for the blogging contest “A Virtual Island.”

Photo by Claudio Fuentes Madan and used with permission

Photo by Claudio Fuentes Madan and used with permission

She has been awarded with the Ortega and Gasset prize for journalism, the Bitácoras 2008 prize, and the BOBs organized by Deutsche Welle. On January 28, the new Voces Cubanas [es] (Cuban Voices) project was launched, which aims to gather citizen bloggers from across the island. To date, there are 8 active blogs and 15 in development.

Claudia Cadelo: What are the goals of the new portal Voces Cubanas and how does it differ from Desde Cuba?

Yoani Sánchez: Voces Cubanas is a blogging platform and differs from Desde Cuba [es], which also contains a virtual magazine and other universal spaces. It is a website where all those who want to express ideas, put their projects online, can do so. It is born and inspired by the experience that we gained through the administration of other sites, but there is not an editorial policy that guides it, rather each blogger is his or her own director, editor and even censor.

CC: What does one need to do to have a blog in Voces Cubanas?

YS: The fundamental requirement for the new blogging platform is to live in and write from Cuba. Those who want a space at Voces Cubanas only needs to let us know in person or through an email to bloggers@vocescubanas.com. We'll help them with a proposal for a design and we'll teach them ways to administer their own blog themselves. We accept any type of subject matter, only when it does not incite violence, pornography, racist or discriminatory propaganda.

CC: What are the blog that are hosted on the site so far, could you make a brief introduction to each one?

YS: By the end of February we have had 7 blogs, and little by little we will have another 3. The greatest difficulty to have these blogs ready is internet access. Since we cannot have internet connection at home, we are forced to use public sites, usually hotels or others sites that are very expensive to use. Nevertheless, we have been building Voces Cubanas without trying to do it all at once, despite the limitations and obstacles that Cubans face when trying to develop projects in the virtual world.

To date, there are the blogs Reportes de Viaje [es] (Travel Reports) written by Henry Constantin from the province of Camagüey, Veritas [es] written by Eugenio Leal is dedicated to opinion surveys, my blog Generación Y has a mirror on the domain Desde Cuba, the independent journalist Iván García has a blog called Desde La Habana [es] (From Havana), and we are working with the blogs Octavo Cerco [es] by Claudia Cadelo, Habanemia [es] by Lía Villares and Lunes de Post Revolución [es] by Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo.

CC: What is the concept of blogostróika? Do you feel that blogs can contribute towards the expansion of freedoms for the Cuban people?

YS: The idea of calling this new phenomenon with the label of blogostróika came from Cuban writing their blogs from exile. They called this new wave of personal and collective sites with Cuban themes that have appeared in the past five years. The use of this term is a clear allusion to the process that came about when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, especially during the information transparency process called glasnost. Even though the term sounds nice, I have to make a small comment that perestroika was pushed from a position of power, while the alternative Cuban blogosphere did not ask permission from anyone to exist.

CC: Talk to me about how your experiences with all of the international recognition that you have received and talk about the different stages of your life, before you were a blogger, as a blogger and as a blogger that traveled distances to teach people how to open a blog. What can you say? Have you changed? Have you discovered something about yourself?

YS: My life has changed in many aspects, while others remain the same. Ever since the foreign press discovered my blog, I have received many interview requests, offers for collaboration, and messages of encouragement. I was a person profoundly shy and I had to evolve and adapt when people on the street recognized me and even asked for my autograph. I have also learned to live with the unjust judgements against me, the acts of defamation, the lies to make me out to be an employee of the CIA. My family has seen my free time decrease, but they have given me all of the support to free from daily chores.

What I have learned the most during these two years of blogging is the what an ordinary citizen can achieve, of the immense power that is hidden within each individual.

CC: What do you hope for the future of the Cuban blogosphere?

YS: I hope that it becomes more numerous and more pluralistic. I have the feeling that the Cuban blogosphere will play an important role in the democratization of Cuba and in the field of public opinion. That it will be healthy for a long time because there is a lot to tell and many ways of doing so, and I don't see that it is time to run out.

Translated by Eduardo Ávila
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  • 50′S Havana

    Excelente idea lo de voces cubanas. No entiendo cual es el temor de la direccion del pais en cuanto a blogeros, como Yoani Sanchez que describen el panorama cubano con mucha sabiduria, inteligencia y respeto sin ofender a nadie.Si las autoridades cubanas poseen el poder de la maquinaria militar,de inteligencia y ademas poseen el apoyo de todo el pueblo?. A que temerle?. Que te digan que eres de la cia o que te financia,cualquiera de las dos cosas para mi seria ofensivo como cubano o es que los cubanos no podemos tener rasocinio propio.

  • 50′S Habana

    Los comentarios de los que regresan de visita es que si las calles estan rotas que el trans porte no sirve etc,etc. Pero yo quisiera saber detalles de la habana, que existe que no existe,cosas que conoci en mi juventud y que me llenan de una nostalgia y un sentimiento por mi tierra que no hay pais del mundo que yo haya vistado, ni dinero que yo haya tenido que pueda sustituirlo,durante 27 anos, no he dejado de pensar ni un solo dia en mi pais, de vez en cuando me subo en la ruta 64 y hago un recorrido.

  • 50′S Habana

    Cuando algun dia el pueblo cubano sepa realmente la historia de lo que es la cia, a que intereses sirve y el verdadero papel que han jugado en mantener el unico pais comunista en el hemisferio occidental, solo por intereses geopoliticos y economicos. Solo entonces y no por miedo o por que es incierto,todo cubano se sentira ofendido cuando digan que es de la cia. Hay muchas razones por la cual nuestro pueblo no tiene acceso a la informacion y no solo por que se escriba en contra del gobierno. Pensar asi seria una ofensa a nuestra inteligencia y un simplismo de como los grandes poderes dirigen el mundo. Los que estamos del lado de aca lo sabemos gracias a archivos de la cia y otras entidades que han sido desclasificados, ademas de invetigaciones hechas por muchos autores que no han tenido miedo en desafiar al establishment.

  • 50′S Habana

    Estoy sumamente entusiasmado con la creacion de “Voces Cubanas”. espero intercambiar ideas y opiniones con mis hermanos de la isla, de ser como espero, esto me ayudara a estar en contacto con la corriente del pensamiento cubano actual y con los que no solo se preocupan de buscar el sustento del diario vivir, cosa que por aca sabemos, que la monarquia, ademas de incapaces lo hacen para tenerlos fisica y mentalmente ocupados y no pensar en nada mas ni squiera en que hay un manana mejor, pero afortunadamente se equivocan los que asi piensan, nuetra isla a pesar de ser un pais pequeno y en medio del caribe, con los hojos y los oidos tapados por mas de 50anos, todavia sabe dar en cualquier generacion hombres con ideas e inteligencias capaces de asombrar a los mas ilustrados del mundo, ustedes las nuevas generaciones con la experincia de las anteriores me
    reviven la fe en una Cuba donde el hombre por pensar, escribir y hacer uso de su inteligencia no sera castigado y donde el manana se avisora para todos y cada uno de nosotros podamos aportar sin consignas ni agendas ocultas la creacion de una nueva Cuba, donde la democracia sera un ejemplo para el continente donde vivimos. Espero algun dia conocer personalmente a yoani, para ella su esposo y familiaque tanto sacrificio tienen que hacer mis mas sincero respeto y admiracion,desde estas tierras deseandole mucho exito y que dios los bendiga a todos.

  • Filomena

    I will be giving a group of 20 middle schoolers, ages 12-14, in summer school a taste of Cuban art and life. It would be facinting if they could talk to Yoani directly.

  • Gisela

    Is Yoani available to speak to a group of Middle schoolers 12-14 years old today between 2-3?

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  • Eric Munoz

    I left Cuba at the age of 10. It had been 6 months after Fidel took power. My family and myself are not a political family. I just turned 60 on 11-15-09 and dying of cancer. I wish that I could see Cuba one more time before my demise. Love.
    Eric Munoz

  • Eric Munoz

    I am sorry I made such a small statement. When I left Cuba at the age of 10,all I can remember are good things. I remember going to Pinar Del Rio to stay at a place where the hotel had only suphur water to drink and bathe, sorrounded by majestic beauty. I believe It was called Los Ranchos De San Vicente. La Habana Vieja where most of my relatives lived. El Malecon where my dads builduing was. He worked for Esso.La copa In Miramar where we lived. El Monte the San Barreto where we played soldiers. The police station called la decima quinta ( where 3 shots were fired when Fidel took over and all the \cascitos\ streamed out. All I remember Is beauty. Now again due to polital BS Icant visit since I will wait till Americans as a whole can travel.You are such a strong force In Cuba and I admire you. Maybe just maybe I will be able to swim In the waters of Varedero.
    Your admirer
    Eric Munoz

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