The Risks of Journalism / Yoani Sanchez

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 May 2015 – If you has asked me a year ago what would be the three greatest challenges of the digital newspaper 14ymedio, I would have said repression, lack of connection to the Internet, and media professionals being afraid to work on our team. I did not imagine that the another obstacle would become the principal headache of this informative little paper: the lack of transparency in Cuban institutions, which has found us many times before a closed door and no matter how hard we knock, no one opens or provides answers.

In a country where State institutions refuse to provide the citizen with certain information that should be public, the situation becomes much more complicated for the reporter. Dealing with the secrecy turns out to be as difficult as evading the political police, tweeting “blind,” or becoming used to the opportunism and silence of so many colleagues. Information is militarized and guarded in Cuba as if there is a war of technology, which is why those who try to find out are taken, at the very least, as spies. Continue reading

Yoani Sanchez Wins 2015 Knight International Journalism Award / 14ymedio

Logo of the International Center for Journalists

Logo of the International Center for Journalists

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 19 May 2015 – The director of 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, has won the 2015 Knight International Journalism Award, the International Center for Journalists reported today. Priyanka Dubey, an independent Indian journalist has won the same award for exposing the atrocities of rapes, child trafficking and forced labor through her in-depth reporting, despite threats from human traffickers and gangs in her country.

The award, which will be delivered in Washington DC on November 10, has as its objective to honor journalists who, through pioneering work or technological innovation, have produced high-quality information and news that has had a significant impact on the lives of people in the developing world. Continue reading

How Do You Tame Computer Users? / Yoani Sanchez

User on Revolico, the Cuban "Craigslist" (Silvia Corbelle, 14ymedio)

User on Revolico, the Cuban “Craigslist” (Silvia Corbelle, 14ymedio)

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 18 May 2015 – Nimble fingers over the keyboard, a life divided between reality and the digital world, plus the gratification of amusing yourself, learning, teaching and being free through technology. These are some of the points shared by those of us in Cuba who have linked ourselves to information and communication technologies, whether for professional reasons or simply from personal passion. Now, a new association is trying to support these enthusiasts of circuits and screens, although the management of the organization proposes many limits on autonomy and ideological ties. Continue reading

Cuba and Venezuela, in the same mirror / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Line to buy food in Venezuela (Twitter)

Line to buy food in Venezuela (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 14 May 2015 – “I got soap and some toys for her son,” one Venezuelan mother was telling another in Tocumen Airport in Panama. At her feet a carry-on looked like it was about to explode it was so full, as the lady enumerated everything she was taking back to her country. The conversation reminded me of my own compatriots who return to the Island with luggage stuffed with products, including everything from toothpaste to sewing needles.

In a situation of scarcities, we human beings end up looking like those “leafcutter ants,” capable of carrying a part of the forest back to their anthills. But the task of seeking what we lack at any cost also locks us into a cycle of obsessions, where buying eggs, stocking up on milk or locating the market that has toilet paper will consume a major share of our time and energy. We end up trapped in a cycle of survival, in which we can hardly concern ourselves with our role as citizens. Continue reading

Welcome Hollande, Goodbye Hollande / Yoani Sanchez

François Hollande and Raul Castro, at their meeting at the Palace of the Revolution. (EFE)

François Hollande and Raul Castro, at their meeting at the Palace of the Revolution. (EFE)

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 12 May 2015 — The official reception at the airport, the photo shaking hands with the host, the wreath laid at the statue of José Martí and the expected lecture at the University of Havana. How many foreign politicians have followed this script in recent months? So many that we have lost count.

A true shower of presidents, foreign ministers and deputies has intensified over Cuba without daily life feeling any kind of relief from such illustrious presences. To this parade of world leaders has been added, this week, the French president François Hollande, who assured us that his country wants to “strengthen ties with Cuba” so that both nations, “assume greater international leadership.

During his stay, the politician met with Raul Castro, visited Fidel Castro in his home, and awarded the Legion of Honor to Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino. The agenda did not include, however, any meeting with dissidents and activists. His vision of the Cuban stage could not be completed with a critical eye on the Government’s relationship with its own people. As the presidential plane lifted off, the official version of events barely registered on the retinas and ears of the French. Continue reading

The Two Halves of Raul Castro / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The meeting between Raul Castro and Pope Francisco. (EFE)

The meeting between Raul Castro and Pope Francisco. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 11 May 2015 – Raul Castro arriving in Italo Calvino’s other homeland, like the Viscount of Calvino’s book, landed divided in two, split down the middle. He came from a flood of soldiers and armaments at the Red Square parade in Moscow, where he showed his Communist nostalgia recalling the “glory days” of the Soviet Union. In Rome, however, he arrived with his other side taking the lead. At the Vatican he became the man educated in a Jesuit college and even confessed to Pope Francis that he might be disposed to return to the Church and once again take up prayer.

This Sunday, the two contradictory and irreconcilable pieces of Raul Castro have returned to Cuba, a country also fragmented between the celerity with which it feeds hopes and the slow pace of reality. The official media only reported the tour of one of the General’s parts, that of commitments and continuity and the embrace of the Kremlin comrades. However, with regards to the meeting with the pope, they only reported the words of thanks for the mediation between Cuba and the United States, accompanied by a reference to the pope’s upcoming visit to the Island. Continue reading

Our Children Make Us Less Cowardly / Yoani Sanchez

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 10 May 2015 – There is a memory I often escape into. At times of greatest tension, I travel back to that August morning when I held my son for the first time. If I feel overcome by fear, I visualize the tiny fingernails that had grown inside my womb, soft and bent around the tips of his fingers. I also calm myself evoking the backs of his hands, with the marks of amniotic fluid in which they were submerged for so long. I take refuge in the memory, feeling that no repression nor hatred can reach me, because I am protected by his birth.

Our children give us the gift of will. When our eyelids are heavy and the most powerful alarm clock cannot get us out of bed, it’s enough for them to whimper in their crib for us to wake up. If they come into the world while we ourselves are still students, they give us the confidence to believe that standing up to the test of motherhood means that no diploma can resist us. They, with their gaze and their questions, also force us to be less cowardly. How can we explain to a child the opportunistic silence, the masks, the faking it… without destroying, in these declarations, a part of the paradigm we represent for them?

Our children are always better than we are. So today, while in Cuban homes mothers celebrate their day, some surrounded by their loved ones and others with the sadness of distance, I am going to give my “little boy” a gift. It will be a small present, simply making lunch together, which will allow us to talk while he chops the spices and I start to heat the pan. Perhaps he will tell me about last week, or about some book or a girl that he knows. While we chat, I will sneak a peek at his hands, now larger and stronger than mine. I will compare the sounds of a baby with his current deep voice, and conclude that this man of today also gives me strength to continue, a great strength.

Twenty years have passed and I still don’t need any other present for Mother’s Day… I already have it, standing in front of me.

From Ferry Line to Internet Line / Yoani Sanchez

Key West-Havana Ferry, takein in 1951 (Miami History Archives and Research Center)

Key West-Havana Ferry, taken in 1951 (Miami History Archives and Research Center)

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 7 May 2015 – Toward the other side of the sea, that point on the horizon that so many Cubans dream of, several of the curious were gazing yesterday as they sat along Havana’s Malecon. Hours earlier word begun to spread that the United States has authorized “certain specific licenses for passenger ferry service” to Cuba. The rumor was enough for many to play with the idea of how this country would change if it were connected by boat to the other shore. A thousand and one illusions have been unleashed in recent hours, although the four ferry companies authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury have yet to receive approval from the Cuban authorities. Continue reading

‘Cachita’ and ‘Paquito’ / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Francis I greeting the faithful. (CC)

Francis I greeting the faithful. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 4 May 2015 – He is Argentine and she Cuban. Separating them are the thousands of miles between the Vatican and the Sanctuary of Cobre. This coming September they will be very close, when Pope Francis I visits this island where the Virgin of Charity is adored as the patron saint of all Cubans. Cachita – as we call our Virgin – has spent decades listening to the prayers springing up on all sides; some pleas that will soon be known, first hand, are those of the one we already affectionately call Paquito.

The visit to Cuba of the head of the Vatican City State, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, could usher in a new era for the country. If last December’s announcement about the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States opened the door to hopes of substantial change, perhaps the arrival of the Pope will grant to the current negotiations a character that transcends the agreement between the two governments. Continue reading

A Flooded May Day in Havana / Yoani Sanchez

The sewers can barely deal with the mud from the storm (14ymedio)

The sewers can barely deal with the mud from the storm (14ymedio)

Yoani Sanchez, 1 May 2015 – The El Cerro neighborhood is mud and tears right now. One of Havana’s most populous municipalities is trying to recover from the surprise rains that left three dead in the city, more than 1,400 houses affected and 27 partial or total building collapses. Many families lost their most precious belonging and the whole city has that smell that is left after floods, a mixture of sewage, garbage and pain.

The main scene of the tragedy experienced in the Havana capital is indoors, in the homes where they couldn’t save even a chair, but the official press tries to minimize it because it happened a few hours before the “triumphant” First of May, which is meant to show the world “the Cuban people’s attachment to the socialist system.” Continue reading

Yoani Sanchez: “I am not expecting that Obama is going to demand our rights” / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger(EFE) Santiago de Chile, 22 April 2015 – Yoani Sanchez said on Wednesday that the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States gives new hope to the inhabitants of the Island, but stressed that Cubans themselves must exert pressure to demand their rights.

“I am not expecting [US president, Barack] Obama, from the White House, is going to demand our rights, it is up to us,” said the regime opponent and journalist at a press conference in Santiago de Cuba, where she had arrived for a three-day visit.

On the normalization of relations between the two countries, the blogger felt that the United States has made several concessions so far, but the Government of president Raul Castro has been hiding his cards. Continue reading

We are 1.7 million / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

A woman checks the list of candidates for the municipal elections. (14ymedio)

A woman checks the list of candidates for the municipal elections. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 April 2015 — Years of masks, whispers and fears have made Cubans find delving into political issues as difficult as delving into enigmatic, dark abyss. The few surveys and inquiries conducted independently in recent decades have encountered a suspicion that leads us to question: Why are you asking me that? What will you do with the information?

However, there are times when our actions are the most conclusive and direct of responses. As in the elections held last Sunday for the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power, where more than 1.7 million people didn’t vote, annulled their ballot, or left it blank, or even voted for one of the only two opposition candidates. Continue reading