Somos Todas Blogueras

August 2, 2011

I need your help. Well, not me. This woman. She’s supposed to be in San Diego this week, receiving an award from BlogHer for her important work, and she might not be, because of her important work. It’s complicated, but also not: Yoani Sanchez is a blogger, in Cuba, and her work is important, and part of recognizing how important her work is involves fighting for her to receive that recognition.

Here’s the story, from my dear friend Ana, who has been working tirelessly to get Yoani to San Diego:

About 6 months ago, Elisa Camahort from BlogHer asked me to join the committee that selected the recipient of the International BlogHer Activist Award. I was honored by the invitation and accepted without a doubt. It was a great opportunity to explore the blogosphere in the world, the bloggers who passionately support a cause and move masses.
I was inspired to find so many women out there making a difference through their blogs. I was thrilled when I learned that my fellow committee members agreed to grant the award to Yoani Sanches from Generacion Y. For those of you who don’t know Yoani, she’s a Cuban Blogger who has literally shaped cyber-journalism. Yoani has received prestigious awards such as Premios Ortega y Gasette in 2008, New York Times Top 25 blogs in 2009, Premio Principe Claud in 2010. Even this year, Yoani received the International Women of Courage Award from the U.S. Department of State.

I called Yoanni with excitement to give her the news. This joy ended after a few seconds, when I learned that Yoani had been denied the “permission to travel” 15 TIMES.

My initial reaction was: “¿Qué, qué? How can they deny you a visa when you’re invited by Hillary Clinton? If the Secretary of State didn’t make it happen, then BlogHer will be a mosquito for the U.S. Embassy.”

Yoani explained that the denial didn’t come from the U.S. Consulate. It actually came from the Cuban Department of Interiors. Again: “Qué qué? I don’t get it. Why would a country hold the right to do something like this? In 2011, in the American Continent? Are we living in the same world?”

I’ve had several conversations with Yoani. I’ve also inquired about the process and how a “permission” can be granted. ”Yoani has criminal records!”, was the first answer I received. However, her criminal record consists in her courageous blog, her daring tweets and her public meetings where she records the Razones Ciudadanas videos. There has never been a formal process against her, Yoani has never been sentenced. So why is Yoani considered and treated as a criminal? What is a “delito contra la revolución”? (crime against the revolution). Which revolution? Are we talking about the past or the near future?


To understand – from my fellow revolucionarios who confronted our wounded parents and dared to admit that we agreed with the Cuban revolution. This was despite of the chancletasos (beatings) we often got for been so malcriados (rebellious). I don’t want to stop believing that el pueblo really wanted this back then. I also want to see the transition to the new needs of el pueblo. Ideally, in a civil and peaceful manner.

To grant permission: from Raul Castro, who is starting to open up many doors in Cuba. Leading the country through a peaceful transition. I know it’s not going to be easy. Please understand that you have a group here that will mediate between our angry parents and your angry activists. We believe that the solution is in the middle. Allowing Yoani to come to receive a blogging award at BlogHer will be a gentle sign of collaboration and openness to us, el pueblo. We’re not a government, we’re not necessarily involved in any political parties (I know I’m not), we’re simply – The People.

To support: from my fellow bloggers who know what it means to have the freedom to write whatever we want on our blogs. Those who can imagine what it means to feel prosecuted and judged by our words (in our own ways, we have all been there). Those who know how much it hurts when our own words are misinterpreted, manipulated and used against us.

If you have ever experienced the magic of a BlogHer, our own LATISM conferences or any other Social Media conference, and felt the power of the blogosphere, please help me bring Yoani to BlogHer. She deserves to have that experience. She has everything at this point (a visa, a plane ticket, hotel, a huge community that loves/welcomes her). All she needs now is for Cuba to grant her permission to leave the country for one week. You can help by asking the Cuban Department of Interiors to let Yoani come. Let’s blog and tweet using the #YoaniBlogHer hashtag.

Yes, let’s. Let’s not take for granted our own freedom to write and blog and speak and travel. As we wring our hands over our small anxieties and our minor worries about leaving our kids for a few days and braving the social media crowds in San Diego, let’s also remember that for some, just doing exactly that is a radical act.

Let’s do what we can to support Yoani in her radical act. Because we’re all bloggers. These are our freedoms. This matters to all of us.

(If you write a post, please add it to this blog hop, at Latism. You can also help by tweeting and retweeting all the messages with the #YoaniBlogHer hashtag. Ana tells me that Yoani goes tomorrow for a final answer on whether she’ll be allowed out of the country. Please blog/tweet/holler tonight and tomorrow. Let’s be heard.)

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    Elisa Camahort Page August 2, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Thank you for this post, Catherine. I understand this si the closest yet that Yoani has come to being granted permission to leave. I hope they are not just dragging it out to reduce the amount of time for complaint should they deny her. We are all just anxiously waiting and worrying now.

    Alli August 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Oh C, Thank you for writing this. I knew you would find the perfect words to tell Yoani’s story.

    Arianne August 3, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Such a powerful story. SO glad you shared this with us, hoping for magical things to happen. <3

    EPB August 16, 2011 at 2:08 am

    I can help you with the first thing maybe. When was the last time you went to Cuba and NOT to a resort? Well, the so-called revolution is tired and stale and just not working and hasn’t for a long time. And no, I am not right-wing and I am married to a Cuban and have been for a while (so it’s not a fleeting, Green Card marriage). The good things that came of the Revolution are still good: education (Cuba boasts a very high literacy rate – higher than the US even), free medical care (many foreign students go to Cuba to study medicine), subsidised food so no hunger, guaranteed housing, high employment rate etc. Now for the details. Housing however may come in the form of an apartment in the centre of Havana with no running water, no bannister on the staircase and broken windows which can never be replaced which is less than ideal. Salaries average about 20 dollars a month which is OK but most Cubans do a little something on the side to supplement that which often takes the form of light (or not-so-light) prostitution. These folk are called Jineteros/as. The may just want to be a friendly escort for the duration of the tourist’s visit and benefit from the hotel, the pool, a few gifts and nights out or they may want to get married a.s.a.p. and get the hell out of Cuba. These marriages often do not last but some do. Many families have someone who has married and left and then send money home so there is already a rich and poor divide in Cuban society – a Cuban family that receives even $100 a month is rich compared to the one living on that $20 income. But the worst and saddest, heart-breaking thing I see in Cubans (who are more or less our age and who have therefore lived through the “Special Period”) is a combination lack of real hope combined with an inherent tendency to hustle in one form or another (be in outright hustling for money in a business agreement or more subtle “company” for a new pair of shoes). It is crippling. Yoani is rare. Your average Cuban is not political at all, they are indifferent and just waiting for the water truck (seeing as they have no running water…). The idea of finally getting out of there and going to a country where you are able to do, say, study, or be whatever you want while rotting in your crumbling flat for years just doesn’t manifest itself in any realistic action apart from shopping and having fun. The Cubans I know just buy lots of pretty things and hook up with someone who provides for them but remain frustrated. Sorry to paint a grim picture but that is how I see it. Oh and in my opinion, Raul hasn’t got a clue and the reforms he is introducing are irrelevant. Who gives a crap if you can now buy a microwave? And now that Cubans can stay in hotels has only intensified the jineteros’ activity… What they need are lessons in managing money, like a family budget (and more than 20 bucks), planning for the future and other lessons that will prepare them for the future. Hope this helps.

    EPB August 16, 2011 at 2:23 am

    Sorry, just to add – Yoani is not being granted the equivalent of an exit visa. This happens for people the authorities fear may defect. These are usually people who may go around and propogate information about life in Cuba that the authorities do not want people to know about or they may be people who are a benefit to Cuban society. Doctors, as I mentioned, are very good, and in Cuba they earn a little more that the average salary but last I heard it was still under $50 a month. Doctors are never allowed tourist exit visas because they are high risk for defection seeing as they could easily find a job and would earn gadzillions more outside Cuba.

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