Cuban blogger spreads message of courage

Mariella Roque//Staff Writer

The closed doors of Cuba and its people have been cracked open by Yoani Sanchez.

Sanchez stepped on U.S. territory on Thursday, March 28 and has an itinerary that includes a visit to the FIU on April 1, where she will also be awarded the University’s Medallion of Courage.

Sanchez rose to national fame with her blog “Generation Y” that receives 14 million hits a month and is translated into 17 languages.

Cuban Research Institute Director Jorge Duany said Sanchez is an accomplished writer who uses all kinds of literary and rhetoric strategies to convey her messages — messages on topics such as freedom of speech, politics and everyday life of Cubans.

Sanchez will speak on the topics of social media and Cuba.

“Her visit is going to promote exchanges of ideas between Cubans, particularly in South Florida,” Duany said. “It will be an opportunity to be open and frank about difficult topics.”

Sanchez, 32, reunited with her family when she arrived at Miami International Airport, and she expressed via Twitter  that her and her sister had been separated for two years with 90 miles in between them, which is the “drama” a lot of Cuban families go through.

Sanchez also writes of the issue of family separation in “Generation Y.”

“Most Cubans sympathize with Yoani’s very honest and very personal criticism of the lack of freedom in Cuba,” Duany said. “That’s what she stands for.”

Sanchez has been awarded the Ortega y Gazett Prize for Journalism, the Maria Moors Cabot Prize, the World Press Freedom Hero and the Prince Claus Award. In 2012, she was among the top 10 most influential Ibero American Intellectuals by Foreign Policy magazine.

Sanchez was unable to claim these awards because the Cuban government refused to let her leave the island until recently receiving permission to leave in February, following the relaxing of strict travel regulations in Cuba.

“No one really knows if she’ll be allowed to go back to Cuba or what kind of consequences this trip will have on her and her family,” Duany said. “She’s a brave woman.”

Sanchez has also published two books: “Cuba Libre/Havana Real,” a collection of her blog posts, and “Word Press: A Blog for Speaking to the World,” a manual explaining how to set up a WordPress blog. Duany noted that Sanchez is considering starting her own digital magazine in Cuba.

“I’m extremely excited, even though I won’t be able to see her in person,” said Christina Rivera, sophomore computer science major. “I’ll definitely be watching on TV.”

The event will be broadcast live on Univision, Univision Radio and via live webcast available on the University website.

“For students, it’s going to be great opportunity to see a very important public figure,” Duany said. “She represents a whole generation and a large portion of Cuban society that doesn’t have a say.”