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Armando Chaguaceda: At 33, I feel sometimes old and tired; other days I wake up with the desire to strive, to be surprised and to persevere—with decency, affection, ideas and values. I was born in the town of Regla, with its provincial charm and custom of ignoring the sidewalks. I grew up atheist, surrounded by believing friends, in a family of Martí followers and enemies of dogma. I have assimilated my growing marginality, in relation to so many friends who have emigrated, fellow “fighters” of daily Havana life who, regrettably, have been added to the growing bandwagon of the “apolitical.” For 12 years I have combined my dying passion for politics and social sciences with teaching. I’m currently in Xalapa, Mexico, but I feel within me the imperative to return and do something in a Cuba too present, too uncertain, too beautiful, frank, harrowing and different. I hope I will.

On Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez’ Silence

January 14, 2014 | Print Print |

Armando Chaguaceda

Yoani Sánchez. Foto: desdecuba.com

HAVANA TIMES — Some time ago, in 2011, when blogger Yoani Sanchez was being vilified and celebrated with equal hysteria – to the point that posters with her likeness and movies scripts about her life began to appear – I commented that what was truly valuable about her blog, Generation Y, went beyond its author, that it stemmed from the effectiveness of its message (as a chronicle or critique) regarding Cuba’s Kafkaesque and uncivil reality.

One may disagree or concur with its author, but I feel this blog became a media and a political phenomenon not only (or chiefly) because of Sanchez’ skillful penmanship.

It is so because of the context within which it comes into being and is divulged, in spite of everything false and adversarial that conspires against it – an upside-down, post-totalitarian world, constantly vibrating with contradictions, where the official truth (actually fiction) and the unflinching and naked authenticity exposed by those below, the reality which those in power seek to conceal and discredit, to veil or silence by way of accomplices.

I write this when some friends begin to comment on Sanchez’ cyber-silence and while a number of commentators on Facebook joke about her hypothetical and imminent revelation, that she is in fact a Cuban State Security agent. In the midst of this hemorrhage of oracular predictions, I want to ratify the ideas I expressed two years ago:

If, tomorrow, Sanchez grew tired of it all and decided to start cultivating bonsai trees, if she suddenly opened a private restaurant in Havana or even if she toed the line and assumed the country’s “call of duty” (something unlikely), this would in no way invalidate her contributions as a blogger.

For, going to the very end in the search for examples that attest to the obstinacy of reality, are not the literary or journalistic pieces of the security agents who were once dissidents not a shadow of what these individuals once did? Today, they lie while seeking to tell us their truth…before they expressed truth from their false existence, in the midst of triumphalist speeches and the boring articles of the official press.

There is also something laudable in the way this young woman from Havana has acted, in the fact that, with a relative degree of success, this philologist-turned-media-icon skirted one of the problems faced by Cuba’s cultural and political activism, a disease that is independent of the ideological sign of those who endure or propagate it: that of the personality cult.

Such an attitude flourishes whenever we set out in search of martyrs or redeemers devoid of humanity, denied the right to make mistakes or harbor doubts, denied any imperfection or capacity for weariness, capable of solving all of the country’s problems, from the mismanagement of macro-economic affairs to the sourness of rissoles, from the lack of civil liberties to the poor quality of deodorants.

This phenomenon, to be sure, is not unique to us Cubans, in our peripheral and cyber-less condition. Suffice it to note the complacent cult to that post-modern and egocentric elf, Julian Assange, which spreads across the social networks, to get a sense of what I mean.

Because of all this, because I never worshipped her posts or Tweets, because I never expected any kind of “revolutionary guidance” from her, I consider the abundance of demands being placed on the blog and her author rather senseless.

The best contribution Generation Y made is having unleashed a plural and unstoppable wellspring of opinions, messages, different forms of digital expression and new authors which were unthinkable before the Yoani Sanchez phenomenon had become a media spectacle.

I am not saying Sanchez is the mother of Cuba’s blogosphere (at least, not chronologically speaking), but that she is the person who, thanks to her appeal and craft, has done the most to insert this community into the global context and make it resonate there.

Today, storing countless clicks, contemptuous and reverential comments every second, a growing tangle of voices and platforms from the Left and Right, supportive or critical of the Cuban government, intimate or journalistic in nature, strengthen and broaden the pillars of Cuba’s still-precarious public sphere.

The essential point to walk away with is that Generation Y is infinitely more important and powerful than the fragile figure of its architect and, more importantly, than her longings, pauses or weariness.


What's your opinion?

  • ronbobel777

    why has she become silent?

    • Moses Patterson

      Yoani Sanchez has not become silent. I receive her blog postings regularly in my email inbox. Her most recent blog (http://lageneraciony.com/) was published yesterday, January 13. There is a movie in pre-production about her life and she is busying herself laying the groundwork for an independent national newspaper. She has traveled outside of Cuba at least two more times since her first well-publicized trip early in the year. The difference probably is that the Castros have stepped up their repressive arrests and detentions of many other dissidents. As a result, unless you have been beaten or killed, the international media will not likely cover your story. Yoani is so high profile a Cuban dissident that she merits a full-time State Security detail. Castros security thugs are tasked to monitor her every move. Despite 24 hr. surveillance, she continues to write her blog and support other bloggers in getting their messages posted.

      • John Goodrich

        You want to have your cake and eat it too.
        The admittedly totalitarian state seems to be allowing great latitude in the criticisms of it by Cubans .
        Of course those whom you term dissidents may well be paid agents of the U.S as was Alan Gross who was permitted into the country and to do what he wanted right up to the point of attempted subversion of the country’s government.
        Were the Cuban government to be as monstrous as your pathetic rhetoric would make it out to be, Sanchez would be as dead in Cuba as she would be as such a prominent dissident in Colombia.
        It makes eminent sense for any state to keep tabs on someone working towards the aims of a sworn enemy of that state.
        A question for you would be how do the many Cuban bloggers at HT who regularly flog the state apparatus, manage to escape “arrest , torture and imprisonment “?

        • Moses Patterson

          Rather than parrot what you have read on the internet, you should stop and think about what you write. Are you suggesting that the cell phones and laptops that Alan Gross brought with him to donate to the Jewish Cuban community are subversive? Really? My comments regarding the full-time surveillance of Sra. Sanchez simply reflect the level of paranoia of the regime. She is not building bombs in pressure cookers, she is writing a blog about daily life in Cuba. A blog which is largely unknown in Cuba! I suppose you see imminent threat in blogging as well. Finally, there have been sacrifices made by many of the Cuban-based writers to HT. You should not trivialize the risk they take to share their stories.

          • John Goodrich

            Any assertion , especially any made by you, that is unaccompanied by solid evidence is to be dismissed .
            I invite any of the Cuban residents who write for HT to relate any repression exerted against them by the Cuban authorities in order to corroborate or deny what Moses claims..
            Secondly, USAID for whom Alan Gross worked , is a division of the U.S State Department which runs the U.S foreign policy which has a 54 year record of attempting to overthrow the Cuban revolution.
            It amazes me that Gross was stupid enough to undertake what he did and it is even more amazing that the murderous, totalitarian regime run by Fidel Castro allowed him into the country in the first place.
            I can’t understand why he just wasn’t put up against the wall and shot by Raul or Fidel personally without even bothering with a trial.
            Lastly Moses, unlike you, I am a democrat . I believe in democratic economies and societies and believe that freedom of speech and the press are necessary in and for any democratic society.
            Save your thinly veiled and hypocritical criticisms of me and look in the mirror sometime.

          • Griffin

            The Cuban state security had been watching Gross since the first time he came to Cuba. They knew what he was doing and collected all the evidence they wanted. When they were ready, they arrested him. The intention has always been to ransom Gross for the Cuban Five. That’s why they handled his case the way he did.

            Rather than showcasing wicked American imperialism, the Gross case typifies the naevity, amatureship, and ham-fisted clumsiness of the US State
            Department. Really! What clueless careerist came up with the scheme?

            Don’t forget, in 1958 the State Dept had come to the firm conclusion that Fidel Castro was a pro-democracy agrarian reformist and that he had nothing to do with the Communists. I guess they screwed up then too.

          • John Goodrich

            Communism is centered upon bottom-up democracy so there is no contradiction in Fidel SAYING he was a communist and being democratic despite what you believe communism to be. .
            His redistribution of estates, latifundia etc amounts to agrarian reforms.
            The U.S has never been pro-democracy in its foreign policy objectives and quite the reverse. Any attempts at developing a democratic society have always been met with overt and covert U.S government hostilities so your assertion that the State Department was somehow in favor of such steps toward democracy are based in historical ignorance .
            Google up ” Killing Hope ” and review the 54 cases listed of U.S. interventions and you will not find one instance in that list of the U.S supporting democracy.
            About the State Department doing stupid things: have you ever read of the many CIA attempts on the life of Fidel Castro ? EXPLODING CIGARS ? Chemicals to make his beard fall off ?
            Wiley Coyote could well have been the architect of those schemes.

            That Cuba has evolved into a non-democratic state is the present reality . n

          • Griffin

            That many people in the US State Department supported Fidel before 1959 is a well known and established fact. You can google up the relevant quotes yourself.

            When Fidel came to power and revealed his true plan, which included kicking the US out of Cuba, there was a lot of egg on the faces around Foggy Bottom. Perhaps that had something to do with their eagerness to get back at Fidel. I’m quite aware of the US plots to assassinate Fidel. Even a few guys in the CIA believed Fidel when he pretended to be a democrat committed to free multi-party elections. Hell, even a lot of Cubans fell for that whopper!

            I have never claimed the US was nice to Cuba prior to or after the revolution. To criticize Castro & the Revolution is not the same thing as praising US policy toward Cuba.

          • John Goodrich

            You cannot separate what is going on in Cuba and the ongoing 54-year old U.S hostilities against that country.
            Let there be an end to the U.S. hostilities which were explicitly set in place to create bad living conditions for the country and then you can legitimately and unhypocritically criticize the undemocratic Cubans forms .
            Multi-party elections BTW, are no insurance for free and democratic elections .
            You do not need political parties at all and, in fact, political parties come between a society and democracy in how they support their own ends and those of the wealthy who support their campaigns.

          • ac

            Alan Gross was part of a program whose goals explicitly states regime change in a sovereign country and of course, is deemed as hostile in Cuba. That is enough to get a conviction in most countries (or do you think is ok to carry laptops for Al-Qaeda operatives in the US?)

            Add to that that he was actually carrying illegal equipment and that the Jews didn’t know anything about him (they already had access to internet before the Alan Gross affair) and certainly would not risk circumventing Cuban laws and he certainly is guilty of several offenses.

            Whether the jail time he got was fair or not is a different story; he knowingly broke Cuban laws so he is in no position to complain about the consequences.

          • Moses Patterson

            AC, if a known al-Qaeda operative was legally allowed to enter the US and included in his luggage was a laptop and a cell phone and they were inspected by US Customs and cleared, I do not believe he would later be arrested and sent to jail for 15 years for giving that equipment away to Mosque members. There are radical Muslims here in the US who preach the destruction of the US. Heck, here at HT we have wackos who hate the US. If our resident wackos gave laptops and cellphones away, I don’t think they would be imprisoned for it. I read that argument all the time but I don’t agree that the same behavior would trigger the same result.

          • ac

            Thats not a valid example, is more likely like a person from **istan working in a government program aimed to topple US government bringing illegal equipment to the US to give to al-Quaeda operatives.

            It doesn’t matter than the goods he brings are legal and cleared customs (we can’t even grant that in the case of Gross), supporting an illegal organization is still a crime and will get them in prison for a very long time, but even this analogy is flawed, since in practice there are not governments actively pushing for regime change in the US.

            A better analogy would have to take place in the 50′s replacing Gross for someone working for a KGB program bringing resources to the US communist party.

          • HumbertoCapiro

            ac!! So giving the Cuban people in uncensored internet access is “regime change”?? Please Splain that dear!!

          • ac

            Woha, nice contortion there. It doesn’t matter what you DO but the reasons WHY you do it.

            As a counter-example, consider something innocuous: like giving candies to kids that is perfectly harmless and of course legal… except that some deranged sex predators use that to approach the kids and lure them secluded places. Can you understand the difference, dear?

          • HumbertoCapiro

            That’s a response dear? Try again!

        • rodrigvm

          Look, the only function of the Cuban dissident hysteria about the state is so they can get funding (USAID) Google it even names were shown in a mistakenly distributed report. The only good thing I can say about Yoani, she writes well (yes I used to read her) but in one of my trips (got the pic) saw her buying some phone card (for her twits etc) with a bundle of Euros that I am sure came from outside the island. I just finished reading “Herejes” by Leonardo Padura, definitively not a “integrado” and was surprised by the strong critiques of the system he made despite all the US promoted propaganda of surveillance, censorship etc. He travels all over the world. The only real censorship, oppression occurring Cuba is in Guantanamo. U.S. citizens are restricted in their travel to Cuba!!!!

          • emagicmtman

            Agree with you on Padura, one of those writers who, once you begin reading him, realize he’s in a league all his own; through his fictional characters he manages to get to the heart of what it means to be Cuban–hell, what it means to be human–in the late 20th/early 21st Century. Since discovering him last year–better late than never–I’ve read everything I’ve been able to lay hands on that has, thus far, been tranlated into English, plus one volume not yet translated, and sent copies to several friends this past Christmas. “So many books, so little time.” Make the time for Padura. His characters make you weep, tears both of sadness and of joy.

          • rodrigvm

            I thought I would be bored with his “The Man Who Loved Dogs” and it turned out to be a fascinating, erudite story about an obscure incident (unless you are a leftie like myself) the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico.

          • Moses Patterson

            I have used those 2 for 1 offers to put credit on the cell phones of some of my favorite Cuban bloggers. I have gifted laptops. If I had been given the chance and had the extra euros to do so, I would have also given money to these same dissidents. Please tell me why you have a problem with Yoani spending euros that probably came form supporters who live abroad. Isn’t the real issue personal integrity. If it is proven that Yoani is simply a mouthpiece-for-hire and the opinions she expresses are not her own, then I could accept your criticism. But I have no reason to believe that her blog does not reflect her real thoughts. Do you? That there are hundreds of thousands of people who read her blog and if some of them send her money it need not be cause to indict or impugn her reputation. Please help me understand why you believe the money she receives corrupts her message? By the way, there are lots of examples of censorship in Cuba. Are you joking? Please check out this post last year written by Yoani Sanchez. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yoani-sanchez/meme-solis-an-artist-bann_b_2426207.html

          • rodrigvm

            That bundle of Euros did not come from supporters comes from USAID and other agencies that funnel money into Cuba. She also meets regularly (google it VIDEO) with folks at the US interest section (nice tall building for a non-embassy embassy). Imagine if Cuba did the same for the left wing organization in the US, Obama would have a cow! I did not say there was no censorship (there is increasing censorship in the US, the monopolization of the media in less owners like Ben Bagdikian projected long time ago, although it is worse) but it is not what it used to be. Netflix had a movie “Una Noche” about a gay couple wanting to leave Cuba, “Viva Cuba” is about kids dealing with one of their parents wanting to leave etc. I brought some great films during my last trip, about increasing inequality as the new aspiring petit bourgeoisie get wealthier. When was the last time you saw a film (not a documentary) that talked about the inequality that exists in the US? (no Wolf in WS doesn’t count).

          • Moses Patterson

            You write “The only real censorship, oppression occurring Cuba is in Guantanamo”. This implies that outside of Gitmo, there is no real censorship. I would argue that there is real censorship all over Cuba and increasingly so. You have no proof of where Yoani’s money comes from and nor do I. She admits that she earns 6,000 euros a month from her press position alone. But even if USINT gave her money, as long as her message is her own, what is the problem? Please help me to understand why expressing HER opinion is an issue. I do believe that the US embassies of less friendly countries pay their agents in America to do all sorts of things. The President of Russia just published an anti-American editorial in the New York Times! So what? Words do not blow up finish lines at marathons. Bombs blow people up. Obama has no say over whom the Cuban Interests Section Office pays as long as the paid agent engages in lawful activities. Do you understand that? By the way, you must not watch too many American movies. The rich vs.poor theme is one of the most overused subtexts in Hollywood. I can name twenty in the last five years off the top of my head.

          • rodrigvm

            But Obama has much power over Cuban exile terrorists like the ones that bombed hotels in Cuba (killing European tourists—only reason why it was covered in US news), the never forgotten (by Cubans and others) bombing of the Cubana de Aviacion flight over Barbados, Puerto Rico Jan 11, 1975 (I was there)….many more Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch and other accused are freely walking down the streets of Calle 8 and eating tasajo at Versailles. In the meantime 4 Cuban languish in “no political prisoners” USA.

          • Moses Patterson

            I genuinely had hoped you would answer my question why people like you make unfounded complaints about where Yoani gets money and why it bothers you but apparently you decided to change the subject. If delivering Posada Carriles up to the Venezuelan government would solve anything, I would support it. Meanwhile, the soon-to-be Cuban 3 actually committed crimes for which they were tried and convicted. The eyewitness testimony alone from the 9 other Cuban co-conspirators was sufficient for their convictions. These spies hardly qualify to be called political prisoners.

          • HumbertoCapiro

            rodrigvm!! Can you provide proof with link dear! Otherwise is chisme you know!

          • rodrigvm

            You can begin here, if Cuba gave money to solidarity organizations in the US federal authorities would be screaming. So how many year of incarceration has Yoani served? Check La Verdad de Cuba and see the string of anti Cubans entering the US Interest section (not to get VISAS!

            http://progresoweekly.us/20131118-6m-raffle-oppositionists-exposed/

          • Moses Patterson

            Do you know or listen to Edmundo Garcia who hosts the Pro-Castro Miami radio program “the Evening Moves”? He frequently travels to Cuba and meets and dines with PCC high officials and other pro-regime activists all the time. He is free to return to the US unmolested by the US government and even does a radio show which is highly critical of US policy towards Cuba. Be honest, can you imagine an anti-Castro radio DJ with a daily program on Radio Rebelde?

          • Griffin

            I have read most of Padura’s work and enjoyed it very much, especially recurring detective character, Mario Conde. As a mystery writer, Padura’s plots are simple and straight forward. It’s his characters and atmosphere that really make his stories live. I will watch for “Herejes” (or Heretics) when it comes out in English. Padura has been careful never to blame certain political people in Cuba and instead couches his critiques as complaints about corruption, criminality or a lack of revolutionary integrity. This dance keeps him on the safe side of the authorities.

            However, a better Cuban mystery writer is Jose Latour. In 1994 Latour submitted his new book “The Fool” to his Cuban publisher. Based on a real-life case of corruption in the ministries of the Interior and the Armed Forces, the book was considered counterrevolutionary and its author labeled an “enemy of the people.” He was fired from his job as an economist and noticed various people had begun to follow him. Then he started to receive threatening phone calls. He realized his future in Cuba was bleak.

            In 2002, Latour escaped Cuba for Spain, and in 2004 he settled in Toronto, Canada. His novels are set in Cuba and Miami.

            http://www.joselatourauthor.com/

        • Griffin

          Have you actually read any of Yoani Sanchez’s posts? Her work is hardly outrageous or incendiary. She makes ironic commentary on the difficulties Cuban’s face. That’s enough to earn her the hatred of the regime, but as she hasn’t actually broken any Cuban laws, she is not (yet) in jail. She has been arrested and beaten up by state security agents.

          Colombia has multiple political parties who routinely make public criticism of the government, far more critical than anything Cuban dissidents say in their careful circumlocutions. Nothing happens to them.

          • John Goodrich

            Ummmmm Griffin ,
            That story about her being beaten up by security agents turned out to be a fiction .
            After the incident she changed her story several times and in the end claimed she was badly beaten in areas that would be readily apparent .
            Pictures taken of her following the incident showed no signs of a beating .
            Secondly, if you’d take the time to do your homework , you’d see that U.S. ally Colombia has one of the worst human rights records as regards teachers, union leaders, journalists and human rights workers being disappeared, killed, and tortured.
            If you’d like I’ll Google up human rights offenses in Colombia for you and get you a couple dozen links but you’ll learn more doing it yourself.

          • Griffin

            You are mistaken. Yoani has never retracted her calim to have been beaten:

            According to Sánchez, on Friday, November 6, 2009, she and three others were taken in her own neighborhood by men working for the Cuban government. She said that she was heading to an anti-violence demonstration and was forcefully put into a car along with another Cuban blogger,Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (she stated that the other two were placed into another car). She characterizes the event on her blog, Generation Y, as a “kidnapping” and describes the event in detail. Sánchez said that when she was accosted on the street, “The curious crowded around and I shouted, ‘Help, these men want to kidnap us,’ but they stopped those who wanted to intervene with a shout that revealed the whole ideological background of the operation, ‘Don’t mess with it, these are counterrevolutionaries.’”[63] Sánchez said that she was put into the backseat of the car and received blows to her head, legs and buttocks as she was pinned down.[63][64] The incident was condemned by the U.S. administration and by Human Rights Watch.[64]

            According to BBC reporter Fernando Ravsberg, who interviewed Sánchez on Monday, November 9, 2009, he did not see bruises, marks or scars on her body. When asked, she explained, “Throughout the weekend I had a swollen cheekbone and eyebrow. Above all I have a lot of pain in the lower back.” She still had marks on her buttocks however, which she couldn’t show to the reporter. She attributed that to the “skill of her captors”.[65][66] WhenCNN’s David Ariosto reported on the incident, after Sánchez was injured but before she met with the BBC reporter, Sánchez is shown in video footage with bruising and swelling around her left eye and bruising on her arm. The video report appeared on CNN Espanol on Monday, November 9, 2009.[67][68]

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoani_Sánchez#Abduction

          • Griffin

            If you would care to do your homework, you would know that in Colombia, the Leftist guerilla groups ELN, M-19 and FARC have waged decades long wars of terrorism, kidnapping and assassination against the Colombian state and people. For some reason, you never seem to notice when Leftist commit murder, throw bombs or assassinate elected political leaders. You are only upset when people try to defend themselves from these attacks or fight back against the Marxist revolutionaries.

            These terrorists have long been allies of Cuba and received funding, training and weapons from the Castro regime. Fidel Castro even participated in one particular orgy of violence in Colombia in 1948, an event known as “El Bogotazo”.

          • HumbertoCapiro

            YOUTUBE AUDIO: Yoani recorded her arrest by the political police
            dressed as civilian! Audio
            recording of illegal arrest February 24, 2010,
            in Havana, Cuba, the blogger Yoani
            Sanchez and her sister the day after the death
            Orlando Zapata Tamayo who died from a hunger strike. Grabación audio
            del arresto ilegal el 24 de febrero 2010, en La Habana, Cuba, de la bloguera
            Yoani Sánchez y su hermana el día siguiente de la muerte del huelguista de
            hambre Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV9zZ2gOWBg

          • rodrigvm

            Are you kidding? The former mayor of Bogota was forced out of office, and many leftists have been killed. I hope you read Spanish and not just AP summaries.

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