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Cuba: Blocked Blogger Yoani Sánchez Receives Prestigious Award

Yoani Sánchez is probably the most famous blogger in Cuba, a country where internet access is very limited and controlled. Her blog Generación Y [es] is extremely popular for anyone interested about Cuba, and has been often featured as an example of cyber-dissidence in Western media such as The International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, Público [es] or BBC Mundo. Since Fidel Castro's retirement from the Cuban Presidency in Februray and with the world's eyes turned on Cuba, Generación Y‘s popularity has increased even more, reaching 4 million visitors in March and 1,600 comments in her latest post. Probably for that popularity, Yoani's blog was recently blocked by the Cuban authorities, outraging Cuban bloggers in the diaspora and blog readers in general.

Yoani Sanchez

Last Friday Yoani Sánchez received another type of recognition, when she was awarded the Ortega y Gasset Prize in Journalism by Spanish newspaper El País, the most prestigious in Spanish language (equivalent to the Pulitzer in English language) named after philosopher and journalist José Ortega y Gasset. As Penúltimos Días [es] reported, she received the award in the category of Digital Journalism for the following reason :

… por la perspicacia con la que su trabajo ha sorteado las limitaciones a la libertad de expresión que existen en Cuba, su estilo de información vivaz y el ímpetu con el que se ha incorporado al espacio global de periodismo ciudadano.

… for the perceptive way in which her work has dodged the limitations of freedom of expression that exist in Cuba, her sharp information style and the impulse with which she has joined the global space of citizen journalism.

Yoani wrote a post titled “I can't believe it!” after hearing about the award:

Esa porción de filóloga que aún me queda –que conoce de literatos, filósofos y nombres académicos- está dando saltos de contenta por el Premio Ortega y Gasset de periodismo que me han otorgado. La blogger, por su parte, siente que tantos obstáculos para acceder a Internet, tanto memory flash llevado de aquí para allá, ha valido la pena. Sólo atino a recordar que era abril –ya Eliot había reparado en la crueldad de la primavera- y decidí exorcizar mis demonios en un Blog. Comencé por expulsar al más paralizante, ese que nos hace apelar a la máscara, el disfraz y el silencio. El segundo en la fila de los desalojados, fue la apatía del que sabe que no puede hacerse mucho. A mediados de agosto, la legión formada por la frustración, el desencanto y las dudas ya drenaban con cada post. Lo que parecía una terapia personal, para sacudirme todos esos achaques, se convirtió en un espacio para muchos que, curiosa coincidencia, también tenían sus propios demonios. Lectores, yo sólo soy el rostro en la barra lateral de este sitio. Ustedes, polemistas, incendiarios, censores y boicoteadores, son, en fin de cuentas, los que hacen el Blog.

That portion of a philologist that I have left – that knows about people of letters, philosophers and academic names- is jumping for joy over the Ortega y Gasset Prize in Journalism that I've been awarded. The blogger, on the other hand, feels that for so many obstacles to access the internet, so many flash drives that I have carried around, have all been worth it.
I can only manage to remember that it was in April – Eliot had already noticed the cruelty of spring- that I decided to exorcise my demons in a Blog. I started by expelling the most paralizing of them all, that one that makes us resort to a mask, the disguise and the silence. The second one in the line of the abandoned, was the apathy of that who knows that not much can be done. In mid August, the crowd made of the frustration, the disillusion and the doubts were already draining away with each post. What seemed like a personal therapy, to shake off those ailments, became a space for many who, funny coincidence, also had their own demons.
Readers, I'm only the face on this site's sidebar. You, polemical, incendiary, censoring and boycotting readers, are, at the end of the day, the ones that make the blog.

Many blogs and readers have been celebrating Yoani Sánchez's award, such as Enrisco [es] , Bitácora cubana [es], El blog de Tania Quintero [es], just to name a few. Cuban writer Zoe Valdés, who lives in Paris, expressed a wish:

Ojalá el Premio Ortega y Gasset siga premiando a periodistas cubanos, notablemente a aquellos que se encuentran en celdas de castigo hoy en día, y que aún así siguen informando de la realidad de las cárceles cubanas. O a otros periodistas cubanos, que llevan años, en condiciones peores que la propia Yoani, ella misma lo ha dicho, intentando pasar la comunicación de la realidad, fuera de la isla, a través de llamadas de teléfonos, o a través de correos inseguros.

I hope that the Ortega y Gasset Prize Award continues recognizing Cuban journalists, especially those that are today in solitary confinement cells, and who in spite of that continue to inform about the reality of Cuban prisons. Or to other Cuban journalists who for years have been trying to communicate the reality of the island through phone calls or insecure mails, in worse condicions than Yoani – she said it herself.

16 comments

  • First off, there was absolutely NO banning of Yoani’s blog. The trouble was the result of a switch by those who maintain that website from .sthml to .php. As Phil Peters says, “This is why some people both in and outside of Cuba had problems while others didn’t.” But this does not stop media outlets from putting “banned blogger” in their headlines. The headlines should in fact be “unbanned bloggers thrive in Cuba.”

    Yoani has indeed achieved the appearance of something remarkable. While recent posts fetch 1600 comments, most are actually spam and nonsense. The average American probably knows more about her than the Cuban – thanks to the fawning US press. Her audience is mostly in the US. She is just one of many Cuban bloggers that criticizes the regime in cryptic tomes.

    The “digital journalism” award is curious, as I’m sure Yoani will admit she is not a journalist, as the word is commonly understood. Yoani writes about things close to her, as experienced personally – not from the required distance.

    I think it is fair to say, if anything, this second award in a row for a critic of the Revolution symbolizes a political choice. Cuban bashing is a way for good (Spanish) liberals to show their bonafides to the establishment.

  • Fifi

    To the reponse above, of course (and sadly so) she is better know to Americans than to Cubans, given the amounts of government control and repression practiced by the “revolution” (if we can use that word to describe a government run by the same clique of old men for half a century.

  • Aurora

    Es impresionante la manera en que se vive la libre expresion en Cuba. Desde mi pais México Cube se siente distinto. Estoy realmente muy feliz por escuchar en las noticias que una persona ademas mujer, sea galardonada con un premio tan especial y ademas esta reconocida por un super prestigioso periodico como una de las personas mas influyentes de el ciber mundo. Necesario es hacer mencion que personas de ese valor son necesarios en este mundo para hacer las cosas de mejor manera por si mismo y por los demas. Sra. Joani Sanchez mis mas sentidos respetos para Usted y su trabajo. Dios este con Usted en todo momento para seguir adelante. Tengo fé en que pronto pueda estar desblockeado su blogg para poder leer sus expresiones.

    Hasta la vista,

    Aurora.

  • […] this very interesting blog.  It’s written by a woman in Cuba, about life in Cuba. Here is an article discussing what her blog is about, and about a recent journalism award she won.   It sounds very […]

  • Cesar R. Deluzuriaga

    Su voz clara y firme ha llegado muy lejos y ha sido –
    escuchada por millones de personas en el mundo,para hacerles ver que la libertad por mas que quieran re-
    primirla nunca se logrará mientras halla personas –
    como Ud segura de su verdad y de sus convicciones, –
    dispuesta a defender la verdad que ocultan los —-
    regímenes totalitarios, los que mas tarde fracasan
    en su intento por perdurar.Quiero por este medio fe-
    ciitarla por los premios Ortega y Gasset que ha obtenido
    y solidarisarme totalmente por el valioso y riesgoso
    trabajo que Ud. realiza, Que Dios la proteja.
    Cesar, R Deluzuriaga

  • Men’s Things
    Current mood: confident
    Category: Romance and Relationships

    MEN’S THINGS (English translation)
    written by: Yoani Sanchez in Generación Y

    In this Central Havana of guapos* and brawls where I was born, I learned that there are some limits that a woman should never transgress. I have gone through life disobeying those laughable laws of machismo, but now ?and in an exclusive manner? I’m going to accept one of them. Precisely the one that that most displeases me. The one that advises: “a woman needs a man who represents her and defends her when another man assaults or maligns her”. On feeling attacked by someone with power infinitely greater than mine and more than twice my age and what’s more ?as my childhood girlfriends would say? by a “macho-masculine-male”, I have decided that it will be my husband, the journalist Reinaldo Escobar, who responds.

    I am referring to the denigrating judgement of me that Fidel Castro has expressed in the prologue to the book “Fidel, Bolivia and Something More”. Not even such a “magnificent” assault will make me abandon the premise of not entering into a cycle of retort and self-defense. I’m sorry to tell him that I remain with a subject called “Cuba”.
    Let’s leave the squabbling to Reinaldo and Fidel. Despite the gossip of the neighbors, I’ll continue with my “womanly” work of weaving the unraveled fabric of our civil society.

    The guapos of my barrio will know that I learned “something” from them!

    *Don’t confuse a Cuban guapo with a gallant, debonair man. That could cost you a beating or, in the worst case, an explanatory stabbing.

  • ABOUT THE GLASS ROOF
    Written by:Reinaldo Escobar in Desde Aquí

    The ex-president Fidel Castro has just published a prologue of the book “Fidel, Bolivia and Something More” in which he denigrates the blog Generación Y, which my wife writes on the internet. From the first day she has put her full name (which he omits) with her photo in view of the readers in order to sign the texts that she writes for the sole purpose, confessed repeated times, of vomiting everything in our reality that nauseates her.

    The ex-president disapproves of the fact that Yoani has accepted this year’s Ortega and Gasset prize for digital journalism. arguing that this is something fostered by imperialism in order to drive the waters of it’s mill. I recognize the right of this man to make this comment, but I permit myself to make the observation that the responsibility implied in receiving a prize will never be comparable to that of awarding it, and Yoani, at least, has never placed a medal on the chest of any corrupt official, traitor, dictator or murderer.

    I make this clarification because I remember perfectly well that it was the author of these reproaches who put (or ordered put) the Order of José Martí on the most terrible and undeserving of all possible lapels: Leonid Ilich Brezhnev, Nicolae Ceausescu, Todor Yivkov, Gustav Husak, Janos Kadar, Mengistu Haile Mariam, Robert Mugabe, Heng Samrin, Erich Honecker and others that I have forgotten. I would like to read, in the light of these times, a reflection that justifies those inappropriate honors that, to drive the water of other mills, sullied the name of our apostle.

    It’s true that the name of the philosopher Ortega y Gasset can be equated with elitist and even reactionary ideas, but at least, in difference from those decorated by the author of the prologue, he never launched tanks against his nonconformist neighbors, or built palaces, or imprisoned anybody that thought differently than him, or left his followers in the stockade, or amassed fortunes with the misery of his people, or constructed camps of extermination, or gave the order to shoot those who, in order to escape, jumped over the wall of their patio.

  • […] difficulty is that Desde Cuba is blocked in the internet cafes (which are specifically reserved for tourists) where Yoani and her fellow Cuban bloggers used to […]

  • Isela

    Like cuban I feel bad of seeing persons like that lady ,Yoani that do not work ,just is looking for people to scan with her stories,typical of someone that do not find the way to be productive even in that Islan.

    Is looking for foreign people to sell her way of life……very suspicios life.

  • Isela

    Por que tiene que haber censura con lo que escrito de Yoani Sanche,no es que la censura solo existe en Cuba??????

    Cubana que piensa con su cerebro.

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