Blogomania Hits Fidelandia
With the advent of this site, it seems that this year will be best remembered as the “Year of the Blog” in Cuba. Along with this site, which will likely cover different aspects of life inside and outside of Cuba for Cuba aficionados throughout, a growing number of Cuba-related blogs are coming to the surface. Although many of those sites are set up by Cubans living in South Florida and elsewhere, there are also some sites that are actually maintained by Cubans still living on the island, a consequence of Raul Castro letting ordinary Cubans own their own personal computers (PCs).
Despite the sky-high prices for PCs in Cuba, rendering Raul’s liberalization of personal ownership of PCs there to be more cosmetic than realistic, some Cubans who still manage to get a PC are using this new freedom to tell the world what’s happening inside their country – from their own perspective, which one supposes is refreshing unto itself.
Even before Raul’s liberalization of PC ownership, some Cubans got around the restrictions to launch their own blogs. The most well-known one so far has been that set up and maintained by 33-year-old Havana resident Yoani Sánchez, who since April 2007, has been passing herself as a tourist and in a mouse-like fashion has been slipping into hotels that offer unfettered Internet access to foreigners. Despite the pricey rate of US$6 an hour that’s typically charged for Internet access at such hotels (a nominal cost for tourists, but out-of-reach for peso-earning Cubans), Sánchez has been plugging away, posting criticism of the Cuban political and economic system, and even adding photos to make a point, under the web page she calls “Generación Y”
(www.desdecuba.com/generaciony/), maintained by a server in Berlin, Germany.
International media outlets like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Univisión (in the form of a televised interview with anchorman Jorge Ramos) have taken notice of her blog, and its significance in security-conscious Havana. Last April, she was also awarded the prestigious Ortega y Gasset prize by the Madrid newspaper El País for digital journalism. This, even though the Cuban government kept her from trekking to Spain to collect the prize in person.
One of Sánchez’s provocative and politically-sensitive postings have been her comments on the arrest of 39-year-old Gorki Águila Carrasco, the leader of a Havana punk rock band known as Porno Para Ricardo, for “pre-criminal social dangerousness”, something she compared to the script of the (Tom Cruise) film “Minority Report” – where the police in that futuristic film would arrest individuals for crimes they thought about doing, but were never given the chance to carry them out. Gorki’s run-ins with the Cuban authorities has been covered by the Spanish language media here in America, and closely following by various Cuban-American bloggers
(see http://reviewofcuban-americanblogs.blogspot.com/2008/08/from-black-sheep-of-exile-gorki-is.html). See photo of Yoani Sanchez below.
Along Sánchez, another Havana-based blogger, 49-year-old Miriam Celaya, launched her own bilingual page in January 2008 (“Sin EVAsión/Without EVAsion”) to note the difficulties that Cubans deal with on a day-to-day basis (http://desdecuba.com/sin_evasion_en/). Her site was most valuable to those wanting the latest info on the post hurricane disaster than many Cubans are still grappling with, such as the growing shortage of basic foods, and the poorly-run government shelters that island residents were compelled to go to during those hurricanes.
Perhaps the most eye-catching blog so far has been “Cuba Sin Cadenas” (Cuba Without Chains) (www.cubasincadenas.com), administered by a Miami blogger who goes by the name “LoriG”. Along with sections covering various news items on Cuba, that blog’s best feature is the posting of detailed photos that show the destructive impact of Hurricanes “Ike” and “Gustav” on the island (see below and above this paragraph).