Cuba: Blocked Blogger Yoani Sánchez Receives Prestigious Award

Yoani Sánchez is probably the most famous blogger in Cuba, a country where internet access is very limited and controlled. Her blog Generación Y [es] is extremely popular for anyone interested about Cuba, and has been often featured as an example of cyber-dissidence in Western media such as The International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, Público [es] or BBC Mundo. Since Fidel Castro’s retirement from the Cuban Presidency in Februray and with the world’s eyes turned on Cuba, Generación Y‘s popularity has increased even more, reaching 4 million visitors in March and 1,600 comments in her latest post. Probably for that popularity, Yoani’s blog was recently blocked by the Cuban authorities, outraging Cuban bloggers in the diaspora and blog readers in general.

Last Friday Yoani Sánchez received another type of recognition, when she was awarded the Ortega and Gasset Prize in Journalism by Spanish newspaper El País, the most prestigious in Spanish language (equivalent to the Pulitzer in English language) named after philosopher and journalist José Ortega y Gasset. As Penúltimos Días [es] reported, she received the award in the category of Digital Journalism for the following reason :

… por la perspicacia con la que su trabajo ha sorteado las limitaciones a la libertad de expresión que existen en Cuba, su estilo de información vivaz y el ímpetu con el que se ha incorporado al espacio global de periodismo ciudadano.

… for the perceptive way in which her work has dodged the limitations of freedom of expression that exist in Cuba, her sharp information style and the impulse with which she has joined the global space of citizen journalism.

Yoani wrote a post titled “I can’t believe it!” after hearing about the award:

Esa porción de filóloga que aún me queda –que conoce de literatos, filósofos y nombres académicos- está dando saltos de contenta por el Premio Ortega y Gasset de periodismo que me han otorgado. La blogger, por su parte, siente que tantos obstáculos para acceder a Internet, tanto memory flash llevado de aquí para allá, ha valido la pena. Sólo atino a recordar que era abril –ya Eliot había reparado en la crueldad de la primavera- y decidí exorcizar mis demonios en un Blog. Comencé por expulsar al más paralizante, ese que nos hace apelar a la máscara, el disfraz y el silencio. El segundo en la fila de los desalojados, fue la apatía del que sabe que no puede hacerse mucho. A mediados de agosto, la legión formada por la frustración, el desencanto y las dudas ya drenaban con cada post. Lo que parecía una terapia personal, para sacudirme todos esos achaques, se convirtió en un espacio para muchos que, curiosa coincidencia, también tenían sus propios demonios. Lectores, yo sólo soy el rostro en la barra lateral de este sitio. Ustedes, polemistas, incendiarios, censores y boicoteadores, son, en fin de cuentas, los que hacen el Blog.

That portion of a philologist that I have left – that knows about people of letters, philosophers and academic names- is jumping for joy over the Ortega y Gasset Prize in Journalism that I’ve been awarded. The blogger, on the other hand, feels that for so many obstacles to access the internet, so many flash drives that I have carried around, have all been worth it.
I can only manage to remember that it was in April – Eliot had already noticed the cruelty of spring- that I decided to exorcise my demons in a Blog. I started by expelling the most paralizing of them all, that one that makes us resort to a mask, the disguise and the silence. The second one in the line of the abandoned, was the apathy of that who knows that not much can be done. In mid August, the crowd made of the frustration, the disillusion and the doubts were already draining away with each post. What seemed like a personal therapy, to shake off those ailments, became a space for many who, funny coincidence, also had their own demons.
Readers, I’m only the face on this site’s sidebar. You, polemical, incendiary, censoring and boycotting readers, are, at the end of the day, the ones that make the blog.

Many blogs and readers have been celebrating Yoani Sánchez’s award, such as Enrisco [es] , Bitácora cubana [es], El blog de Tania Quintero [es], just to name a few. Cuban writer Zoe Valdés, who lives in Paris, expressed a wish:

Ojalá el Premio Ortega y Gasset siga premiando a periodistas cubanos, notablemente a aquellos que se encuentran en celdas de castigo hoy en día, y que aún así siguen informando de la realidad de las cárceles cubanas. O a otros periodistas cubanos, que llevan años, en condiciones peores que la propia Yoani, ella misma lo ha dicho, intentando pasar la comunicación de la realidad, fuera de la isla, a través de llamadas de teléfonos, o a través de correos inseguros.

I hope that the Ortega y Gasset Prize Award continues recognizing Cuban journalists, especially those that are today in solitary confinement cells, and who in spite of that continue to inform about the reality of Cuban prisons. Or to other Cuban journalists who for years have been trying to communicate the reality of the island through phone calls or insecure mails, in worse condicions than Yoani – she said it herself.