Yoani Sanchez at Stanford University

[The following is from Stanford University, originally in English]
November 1, 2013 – Program on Liberation Technology In the News
Cuban blogger uses technology to break information blockade

By Sarina A. Beges

On October 28, Cuban blogger and dissident Yoani Sánchez addressed a crowd of over 100 during a special event hosted by the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. Sánchez described to the audience – through the use of a translator – how technology allows her to narrate the harsh realities of the closed island nation of Cuba to the world.

From the computer she constructed with spare parts in 1994 named “my little Frankenstein” to her Twitter account with over half a million followers today, Sánchez illustrated how technology is an ally for information and freedom in Cuba.

Sánchez described the launch of her blog – Generation Y – as a turning point for her life. Generation Y became an outlet for her to unleash her own personal “demons” through the written word while providing a more realistic portrait of Cuba to the international community.

“The greatest gratification has been to see how that small crack that started in 2007 has turned into a window through which many more Cuban activists and ordinary Cuban citizens can now express opinions,” said Sánchez when describing the impact of Generation Y.

Since that time, Sánchez has gained international acclaim for Generation Y – which is translated into 17 languages – and has received many accolades, including a 2012 nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and recognition by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Sánchez, who received permission to leave Cuba for this trip, was in the San Francisco Bay Area meeting with technology giants – Google, Facebook and Twitter – to discuss the challenges of using technology in a country that restricts Internet usage and social media access for the majority of the population.

In a climate of control, the demand for information is high and Sánchez described the incredible clandestine network of information exchange in Cuba where terabytes of data are shared through flash drives. The black market for information has helped bloggers and civil society activists reach an international audience with their messages.

“The day in Cuba when there is political change , I expect there to be monuments raised not to men who fought with weapons and machetes, but in the shape of a USB drive … or in the shape of a little blue Twitter bird in Havana,” said Sánchez, emphasizing the important role that technology tools have played in the struggle for freedom.

Audience members engaged Sánchez in a series of questions about the political situation in Cuba, curious about her position on the U.S. economic embargo, Raul Castro’s new policies and the Cuban exile community. Her responses provided a new narrative and perspective on long-standing issues that have defined U.S. – Cuban relations.

Sánchez closed her talk on a somber note, discussing how the life of the nation is linked to the fate of a single man.

“My mother was born under the Castro’s, I was born under the Castro’s, my son who is 18 years old was born under the Castro’s – that is three generations,” said Sánchez. “If the system is prolonged several more years my grandchildren may be born under this regime.”

While it is unclear what the future holds for Cuba, Sánchez’s talk reminded the audience that technology is helping to slowly chip away at the information blockade in Cuba, giving people the tools to be more free.

This talk was co-sponsored by the Association for Liberation Technology, the Center for Latin American Studies and the Stanford Human Rights Center.

To view the picture slideshow from the talk, please click here.