Again, Yoani / Reinaldo Escobar

At the end of 2008 I published a text here titled “The Year of Yoani,” where I detailed the distinctions and achievements of the famous blogger up to that time. I realized, then, that nine was her lucky number and 2009 was also overwhelming, particularly with the mention in the Maria Moors Cabot prizes from Columbia University, and the successful interview with Barack Obama, among other achievements. Now, towards the end of 2010, as she celebrates her 35th birthday, two more laurels have arrived: one from the International Press Institute declaring her a World Press Freedom Hero, and the Prince Claus Award from the Netherlands.

I had the exceptional opportunity to be with her each time she learned of a new prize. She takes it always with surprise and modesty. Now, as she responds to the dozens of telephone interviews from some radio or television station, the journalists say they are confused because it is not clear which award she won on this occasion. Almost embarrassed she answers, “there are two awards,” adding, “forgive me.”

The real joy shows in her eyes when friends from around the world call to congratulate her. The thousands of commentators who come almost daily to her blog, Generation Y; the volunteers who translate her texts into 22 different languages; those who are calling from a pay phone and who, out of fear, can’t say their names. And others, those whom she helped to have their own blogs, or to connect to Twitter on a cellphone without Internet, or alumni of the Blogger Academy; and those to whom she never said “follow me,” but whom she armed with knowledge and courage so that they could find their own ways to empower themselves.

September 8, 2010