by Hilda S. Mitrani for EyesOnNews.com (April 4,2013) – Each month, fifteen million people read her blog, GeneraciónY, in any of twenty languages. Most readers consider her the collective conscience of the Cuban people everywhere. Yet in her native Cuba, Yoani Sánchez is considered a cyber-terrorist and mercenary by the Castro regime.
In a presentation titled, “Can Technology and Social Media Accelerate Cuba’s Democratization”, Yoani Sánchez told the crowd of 500 at Florida International University’s Wertheim Performing Arts Center that “only within the walls of my home” did she live with freedom in Cuba.
In a nod to the unflinching courage she’s shown in voicing the discontent of the Cuban population and the multiple failures of the revolution, Sánchez was given the first Florida International University Award of Valor by FIU President Mark Rosenberg, who introduced her and gave a moving recount of her professional life.
“The event was one of the most meaningful and important gatherings that has ever been held at FIU,” said President Rosenberg. “The audience was extremely attentive and mostly appreciative of our guest. I personally was very gratified that we could award our first-ever courage medallion to Ms. Sánchez.”
Sánchez’ major tools in the fight against the island’s government are related to technology. Her now-famous 140-character Twitter messages are blasting the regime. As @yoanisanchez , she writes about the hardships endured by the average Cuban, including the never-ending search for food, the lies perpetrated by the regime, and the planned programs of abuse to which she, other dissidents and their families are subjected.
And yet, the petite, scholarly writer told the audience that she fights to keep the virtual, digital Cuba integrated with the despondent Cuban people she encounters on the street.
“The virtual Cuba is influencing, directly and definitively, the real Cuba,” she said. After the hurricane destroyed Oriente province, Cubans using text messages on the government-controlled cell phone network mobilized relief efforts, sent word out about the damages and described to the the truth about what was happening on the island.”
Sánchez also discussed the extensive restrictions the Cuban government places on free expression, including Internet access, and mentioned that she has “encountered strong vestiges of Cuba in exile, although lamentably, former residents of the island have been planting seeds of success in other countries.”
Since 2008, Sánchez has been denied permission to travel abroad, even to receive international awards and yet this February, she was suddenly granted permission to leave the island for an extended visit. Her itinerary includes Prague, Brazil, Europe and numerous cities in the USA. At FIU, she expressed her delight at seeing that so many Cuban-Americans in Miami still reflect their heritage, and that so much of their Cuban traditions are still seen in the way they dress and speak.
In one of her most applauded comments, the 37 year-old mother and wife emphasized to the audience that “Cubans must never again hand over their nation to one man or one ideology. I hope we have learned that lesson.”
Sánchez said that her vision for Cuba’s future is one of “prosperity, happiness and inclusivity” although she fears that the nation will live through some contentious times in the coming transition. And yet, this highly-respected and intellectual writer is certain that there is reason for hope and that part of her mission is to engage other Cubans who have lost hope. Sánchez branded that loss a “grave concern.”
The end of the question and answer session brought the crowd to its feet for an extended ovation. It was clear from the audience questions that she is considered a beacon of hope within the exile community, even though she is not in favor of the Cuban embargo and some other United States policies.
Sánchez said in her closing comments that one of the most important tasks is to share hope with those living in Cuba who see no future. It was clear at FIU that Sánchez’ is the standard bearer for Cubans both on and off the island who hope for a brighter future with more freedom and opportunity.