Friday, May 09, 2008

Dual Citizenship

If you follow matters Cuban you may have read about a remarkable Cuban blogger named Yoni Sanchez. Ms. Sanchez writes a blog, Generación Y, which is pretty much like any ordinary blog you might read by a young, bright, well-educated person who reports with keen insight on the world around her. (Click on the British or German flags to read some of the posts which her readers have translated into English and German.) That, of course, is what makes her blog so extremely extraordinary; she is doing it from inside a country where criticism of the government is considered "counter-revolutionary", and where counter-revolutionary activity can get you thrown directly in jail, do not pass "Go", do not collect $200 pesos.

The government has tampered with her blog (it's been down a few times) and recently managed to slow access to it. That's a very strategic move; as Yoni herself points out, what it means is that Cubans themselves, who have extremely limited access to very poor and slow internet service, will now be unable to read her blog even if outsiders with broadband and multiple browsing windows can still check in.

Well, somebody's reading her. Her latest post prompted 2343 comments!

Yoni was recently awarded the Ortega y Gasset Prize in Digital Journalism for her blogging. She applied for an exit visa to attend the awards ceremony in Spain - contrary to popular belief, Cubans are allowed to leave the island to work, study or travel - but the state must issue an exit visa for them to do so - and of course she was turned down. This may turn out to be a mistake by the government in retrospect; the brave journalist addressed the assembly by tape-recording, noting that her absence from the event spoke more loudly than her presence ever could have.

In reflecting on the experience, Yoni wrote something thought-provoking and wondrous:

"Olvidan ellos que en el ciberespacio mi voz puede viajar sin límites, salir y entrar sin pedir permiso… No importa si mantienen retenido mi pasaporte. Desde hace un año tengo otro que en el acápite de nacionalidad exhibe una breve palabra: 'blogger'."

"They forget that in cyberspace my voice can travel without limits, leave and return without asking permission… It does not matter if they retain my passport. Since a year ago, I have another nationality, displayed in one short word: 'blogger'."

I continue to hope that the changes in Cuba portend more freedoms for the people, including the rights of people like Yoni Sanchez to speak her very sharp mind. In the meantime, I (along with thousands around the world) cross my fingers and hope for the safety and security of a very brave woman.


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