The Collapse / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Raul Castro, in the presence of Barack Obama, chides a journalist who asks about political prisoners on the island. (EFE)
Raul Castro, in the presence of Barack Obama, chides a journalist who asks about political prisoners on the island. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 26 April 2016 – In films there are final epics. Systems whose final moments pass between the sound of the hammers tearing down a wall and the roar of thousands of people in a plaza. The Castro regime, however, is going through its death throes without glorious images or collective heroics. Its mediocre denouement has become clearer in recent months, in the signs of collapse that can no longer be hidden behind the trappings of the official discourse.

The epilogue of this process, once called Revolution, is strewn with ridiculous and banal events, but they are, indeed, clear symptoms of the end. Like a bad movie with a hurried script and the worst actors, the scenes illustrating the terminal state of this twentieth century fossil seem worthy of a tragicomedy: Continue reading “The Collapse / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

The Voice Of Your Rights / 14ymedio, Generation Y

Yoani Sánchez inaugurates a series of interviews on the channel Deutsche Welle Latin America: The Voice of Your Rights. (Video capture)
Yoani Sánchez inaugurates a series of interviews on the channel Deutsche Welle Latin America: The Voice of Your Rights. (Video capture)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 4 April 2016 — What to do when you have a loudspeaker in your hand? Since 2007 when I started my blog Generation Y, this question has haunted me. Often the visibility does not benefit those who need it most and the protective umbrellas provided by access to international organizations only reach a few. To occupy the microphone to broadcast only your own speech is a wastefulness that is a monologue more than an informative work. The Voice of Your Rights, the new interview program I will host on the Deutsche Welle Latin American TV program seeks to bring the megaphone to those who need it most.

With 40 episodes filmed in Panama City, the new space hosts a guest list essential for those who want to know our region and learn about the stories of its people. Environmental activists, women who fight against femicide, human rights organizations that denounce prison overcrowding and groups addressing child labor from all viewpoints are some of the themes that will be addressed by the people with whom I will share the studio in the coming weeks.

My role in this program, which has as its protagonists those who are trying to open a window where the door is closed, is not only for a professional challenge in my career as a journalist, but part of a personal commitment to the most silenced in every society. The cameras and the power of audiovisual media will serve to make their projects more effective and their lives less dangerous.

Obama Is Surrounded By Symbols To Win The Hearts Of Cubans / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Havana is preparing to welcome US president Barack Obama. (14ymedio)
Havana is preparing to welcome US president Barack Obama. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 March 2016 – He arrives on the Island on Palm Sunday, will attend a baseball game, and has already spoken by phone with the most popular humorist on the Island. Barack Obama’s plane has not yet landed and already he has stolen the hearts of a legion of admirers through a series of symbols. A meal in a paladar (a private restaurant), a phrase from José Martí in his major speech, and a mention of Cachita, the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, would complete his upcoming gestures of enchantment.

On Saturday night Cuban TV broadcast a video in which the humorist Pánfilo called the White House to talk to the president of the United States himself. A masterstroke of the Obama administration, it thus placed itself miles away from Cuba’s powers-that-be, who lack any talent for laughter. Through the character of this old man who is obsessed with his ration book, the president of the United States addressed the Cuban people and did so in their own language. Continue reading “Obama Is Surrounded By Symbols To Win The Hearts Of Cubans / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Women, Always Postponed/ 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

We are measured by the most demanding scales and they ask from us the greatest patience. (Photo: Silvia Corbelle)
We are measured by the most demanding scales and they ask from us the greatest patience. (Photo: Silvia Corbelle)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez,Generation Y, Washington, 3 March 2016 — A few days after the murder of two young Argentine women tourists in Ecuador, a man in the city of Santa Clara in Cuba set fire to his house with his two children inside, as revenge against his ex-wife. Violence against women runs freely in Latin America and on most of this planet. A day like this March 8th, a day of tributes, flowers and speeches full of praise, does not erase the horror, nor the belittling.

The constant aggression we women suffer takes the form a blow from an abusive husband, but also is present in every minute of our lives, both in the professional order and in the social order. To walk alone at night, to sit alone in a park, or to take the sun on a beach “unescorted” by a partner, are moments that many Cuban women experience with more discomfort than enjoyment. Continue reading “Women, Always Postponed/ 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

In The Mirror / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The exhibition is full of intimate moments, indoors, in the heat of the home where the Cuban identity is expressed in a gesture, an attitude or simply the nostalgic feel in a gaze.
The exhibition is full of intimate moments, indoors, in the heat of the home where the Cuban identity is expressed in a gesture, an attitude or simply the nostalgic feel in a gaze.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 6 March 2106 — There is an aunt with her hair in rollers and a maternal gaze, a neighbor in a housecoat and that friend blowing out the birthday candles. They are known faces, family members, but they live hundreds of miles from the island, and come to us, as in a mirror that returns our image without distortions or cracks, through Gandy Pavón (b. Las Tunas, Cuba, 1974) and his exposition, The Cuban-Americans.

In that far off geography, the emigrants weave their dreams, taking on new customs, maintaining their taste for rice with beans, and sighing for a country that only exists in their memories. In that “internal space” where Cuban-Americans pass their lives, what the writer Gustavo Pérez Firmante called the hyphen or dash, “that unites, while separating, nominally and culturally, the Cuban and the American.” Continue reading “In The Mirror / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Apple vs the FBI, a Dispute as Seen From the Cuban Prism / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

An Apple iPhone. (EFE)
An Apple iPhone. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Washington, 5 March 2016 — When they returned his mobile phone all his contacts had been erased and the card with the photos was gone. Stories like this are repeated among activists who have been detained, over whom an iron vigilance is maintained with the complicity of the Telecommunications Company (ETECSA), the technology arm of repression in Cuba. An entity that should take note of the rebuff Apple has dealt the FBI in the United States, by refusing to access its clients’ data.

For decades, Cuban society has become accustomed to the government’s failing to respect individuals’ private spaces. The state has the power to delve into personal correspondence, to display medical records in front of the cameras, to air private messages on television, and to broadcast phone conversations between critics of the system. In such a framework, intimacy doesn’t exist, one’s personal space has been invaded by power. Continue reading “Apple vs the FBI, a Dispute as Seen From the Cuban Prism / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

To Cusio And Libna, Wherever You Are / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 22 February 2016 — He was an acknowledged homosexual and she a convinced Jehovah’s Witness. One lived in the same tenement where I was born and the other in the dreaded “218,” where violence and sewage competed for a starring role. Cusio and Libna should have grown up with the conviction that every sexual orientation or religious belief is respected and necessary, provided it does not imply violence against the other.

They achieved something unthinkable in the Cuba of the eighties: reaffirming that beds and beliefs belong to all of us, and no ideology should interfere in them. They were the true survivors of uniformity, the shipwrecks of the storm of “parameterization” and police raids. Now in my forties, I continue to owe a debt to the lesson in plurality they taught me.

Cusio experienced abuse and neglect, but he was always smiling. From Libna, I learned patience, to swallow hard when everything is against me, and keep going. I lost count of all the humiliations I faced for not wearing the neckerchief, that piece of cloth that was making my neck itch and that now reminds me more of the yoke used on oxen than any ideological commitment. Continue reading “To Cusio And Libna, Wherever You Are / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

We Don’t Need a Thousand Years / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill during a meeting in Havana. (EFE)
Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill during a meeting in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 14 February 2016 — A Catholic pope and a patriarch of the Orthodox Church just shared a hug in Cuba. A thousand years of enmity have concluded with three kisses at the Havana airport and the signing of an agreement to protect the Christian flock. The scene for this historic event could not be more contradictory: a country where the government refuses to recognize its critics and has dynamited all the bridges for dialogue with the opposition.

From a cleverly publicized stage setting, Raul Castro has taken on the task of showing the island as a natural terrain for dialogue. However, to make use of this zone of ​​conciliation, the General demands two strict requirements be complied with. Participants in the negotiations can only be foreigners and should not express even the slightest questioning of the hosts. Continue reading “We Don’t Need a Thousand Years / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

The Cuban Railroad Died / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Railroad in Cuba. (EFE)
Railroad in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 29 January 2016 – My father is a train engineer. It has been decades since he drove a train, long years in which he hasn’t sounded the whistle of a locomotive while passing through a village with children running alongside the line. However, this still agile retiree originally from Matanzas still marks the 29th of January on the calendar and says “it is my day.” The day still smells of iron braking on iron, and has the rush of the platform, where some leave and others say goodbye. Continue reading “The Cuban Railroad Died / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

The Internet Balloon Deflates in Cuba / Yoani Sanchez

Photo: El Nuevo Herald
Photo: El Nuevo Herald

Yoani Sanchez, El Nuevo Herald, 10 January 2016 – She raises the phone and holds it in front of her eyes. A tear rolls down her cheek while her son tells her, in a video call, that early mornings on the border “aren’t that cold” and he has “a mattress to sleep on.” Thousands of immigrant Cubans, stranded in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, are in contact with their families thanks to technology. Screens and keyboards bring close what geography separates.

The beginning of the thaw between Cuba and the United States aroused expectations of economic improvements and political changes on the island. Along with these illusions, there was growing hope of better access to the internet. While some marked the date of 17 December 2014 as the end of a diplomatic confrontation, the youngest identified it with a flood of kilobytes just off the horizon. Continue reading “The Internet Balloon Deflates in Cuba / Yoani Sanchez”

Venezuela Wins, Intolerance Loses / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Opposition lawmaker Henry Ramos Allup is the new president of the Venezuelan National Assembly. (MUD)
Opposition lawmaker Henry Ramos Allup is the new president of the Venezuelan National Assembly. (MUD)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 6 January 2016 – If Hugo Chavez were alive and Fidel Castro active, the Venezuelan opposition would not have taken over the National Assembly. The comandantes knew that if they accepted an opposition majority in this body of power it would spell their political end. The Cuban leader eradicated the multi-party system in order to prevent something like this, while Chavez, leader of a military coup, shielded the electoral system and bought loyalty with oil.

However, the worst nightmare of both just took shape in Caracas. This Tuesday the deputies from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) became aware of their overwhelming minority given their small number of legislative seats. In a place where they can no longer even see the image of the “eternal president,” Chavez’s followers received a democratic slap in the face. Continue reading “Venezuela Wins, Intolerance Loses / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

The One-sided Paralysis of the Cuban Press / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Television remains under a strict monopoly of the Communist Party to sustain a biased editorial line does not represent the national complexity.
Television remains under a strict monopoly of the Communist Party to sustain a biased editorial line does not represent the national complexity.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 6 January 2015 – Sometimes I wish I lived in the country they show on television. This hopeful nation of rose-colored dreams presented by the official press. A place of props and slogans, where factory production exceeds goals and employees are declared “workplace heroes.” In this Cuba, bouncing off the antennas to reach our small screens, there is no room for sickness, pain, frustration or impatience.

The official Cuban press has tried to approach the country’s reality in recent years. Several young faces appear on TV programs to report on administrative negligence, poor services, or consumer complaints about bureaucratic paperwork. But even still, state journalism continues to be a long way from objectivity and respect for the truth. Continue reading “The One-sided Paralysis of the Cuban Press / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

The Deadly Kiss of Price Controls / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The official press blames private producers for the high prices of many foods. (14ymedio)
The official press blames private producers for the high prices of many foods. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 4 January 2016 — I was ten years old when Fidel Castro launched the economic battle he called the “Rectification of errors and negative tendencies.” The Maximum Leader’s rage fell, at that time, on private farmers and on the intermediaries who marketed their products. Cuatro Caminos Plaza in Havana, then known as the Single Market, was assaulted by officials and after that raid several foods disappeared from our lives: onions, garbanzo beans, chili peppers and even taro.

Almost a decade later, when the country had reached bottom with food shortages and scarcities, the government again authorized non-state food markets. The first time I approached a stand and bought a string of garlic, without having to practice stealth, I recovered a part of my life that had been snatched from me. For years we had to appeal to the illegal market, to a precarious clandestinity, to get things ranging from a pound of beans to the cumin seeds needed to season them. Continue reading “The Deadly Kiss of Price Controls / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Beans, ah, the beans! / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Beans are an effective indicator to calculate the cost of living in Cuba. (DC)
Beans are an effective indicator to calculate the cost of living in Cuba. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 31 December 2015 – Tiny and tasty, they seem to look at us from the plate and mock the work it takes to get them. Beans are not only a part of our traditional cuisine, they constitute an effective indicator to calculate the cost of living in Cuba. The price increases these delicious little bits have experienced in the past year is proof of the disastrous economic policy promoted by Raul Castro.

When, in February of 2008, the former Minister of the Armed Forces assumed the presidency of the country, many were betting on the pragmatic character of his mandate. His sympathizers never stopped reminding us of the phrase in which he asserted, “Beans are more important than canons.” They predicted that our national agriculture would work like certain farms managed by the Ministry of the Armed Forces and the Youth Labor Army. Continue reading “Beans, ah, the beans! / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”