Again, Maria / Yoani Sánchez

mjAll the women in my family tree are named María. Me too, but in second place, in a dissonant mix of modernity and tradition. I carry this extravagant “Y” in contradiction with the most common woman’s name. So the Marías have been everywhere throughout my life: one brought me into the world, another – gray-haired and with a smoker’s cough – took me to school the first day, and I even played dolls with a sister who also has that name. Years later, in Zurich, one of them opened the doors of her bookstore to me so that I could work surrounded by literature and love. And now a new María has come to my aid, whom I have never been able to meet personally.

She began to translate my texts into English more than four years ago. At first with very little knowledge of Spanish, María José tried to bring my daily brushstrokes into her mother tongue. Her first questions after reading my posts were very nice… “What is a malanga’?” “How much is a convertible peso worth?” “What is a ‘cola’?”… because this transportation engineer has no fear of asking questions, nor does she think it ridiculous to ask about anything she doesn’t know. And that was what I loved about her from the start, her humility. When one interacts with the academic world where everyone shows off their knowledge while hiding their shortcomings, to find sincere people – not the least smug – comes to seem like a balm.

With so much browsing, and even more working, this woman who has now passed her fifties, created a supportive network of translators around the alternative Cuban blogosphere. She started helping me with my blog, and then extended her energies over many other virtual spaces that address the problems of this Island. Godmother from afar to these restless godchildren, MJ tells how her life has changed since embarking on such an adventure. And she doesn’t tire. She looks for translators for versions in French, Hungarian, Polish or Japanese; subtitles interviews; helps promote books; goes to American universities to narrate her experience, and still has time to work at her profession, and look after her parents and daughter. How lucky I am. A patient and generous María has come, once again, into my life, a María who although not part of my family tree, is part of my family.

7 August 2012