Let a Thousand Blogs Bloom: Young Cubans Voice Their Discontent

Ortega y Gasset meet Cachita


Since Friday we've been in Santiago de Cuba. My mother asked me to bring stones from the Sanctuary of Cobre, and my sister, as in the refrain of a traditional song, is hoping for a "little Virgin of Charity." However, we have come for something more: to spread the virus called "Blogger Journey" to this province, where there is less access to the internet than in Havana but the same need to express opinions.

The trip has left me with a mix of impressions which will require several posts to be told. I came with the idea of finding a dancing and outgoing people, but I will go without having seen a smile. The plaza where Raul Castro spoke of continuity, just a month ago today, is full of people on the hunt for tourists and beggars who ask me for some money for food. I walked not only through streets filled with shops that trade in convertible pesos, but also along steep streets with houses on the verge of collapse. "Save water, we can only fill the tank once every two weeks," was the welcoming phrase from a kind family where we slept for four nights.

Today, Sunday morning, we had the most interesting meeting. Young people filled with discontent, and with the desire to make things change, received us to hear about the Cuban blogosphere. Shy at first, but, after a few minutes, with many questions about the multifaceted and flexible tool that is a blog. Now we'll see if they join the Voces Cubanas [Cuban Voices] project.

I was in the sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, an island within the Island. Where, in the same glass case, offerings for the freedom of political prisoners and the insignias of the Rebel Army coexist. There, I left my Ortega y Gasset prize for journalism, the best place it could possibly be. Fortunately, the long arm of the censor does not enter her temple. Around Cachita stretches, still, one of the few strongholds of plurality that you can see in this green crocodile of a country.




Translator's notes

In 2008, Yoani won the Ortega y Gasset prize for digital journalism from Spain's El Pais newspaper, a prize similar to the American Pulitzer Prize. Yoani was denied permission to travel to Spain for the awards ceremony.

El Cobre, a copper mining town near Santiago de Cuba, is the site of the Sanctuary of Cobre dedicated to Cuba's patron saint, the Virgin of Charity, nicknamed "Cachita." The church houses a small statue of the Virgin Mary which was found floating in the sea off the Cuban coast in the early 1600s. Visitors to Cachita's shrine leave gifts, which range from Olympic medals to everyday objects. Ernest Hemingway left his Nobel Prize there, and Fidel and Raul Castro's mother left a small gold statue of a guerrilla fighter when her sons were rebels in the mountains. These gifts are not censored or removed by the State and include many protests against the regime. Cachita's shrine is probably the safest place in the country for Yoani's award.

Voces Cubanas (Cuban Voices) is a new home for bloggers on the Island.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.