Thursday, May 5, 2011

Yoani Sanchez and Generacion Y

How fortunate we are. How blessed and fortunate to be citizens of the USA -- free, as we are, to come and go as we please, work, spend our money (what's left of it after putting gas in the car and food in the fridge), to buy and sell our used cars and houses, to travel -- any number of the myriad things we take for granted every day. Yes, even here where, as one of my favorite quotes has it, "Freedom has ceased to be a birthright; it has come to mean whatever we are still permitted to do."

Yoani Sanchez
But, baby, do we have it good! All it takes is a scroll through a remarkable blog I just discovered via the Human Rights Foundation: Generacion Y, authored by a woman named Yoani Sanchez. 

According to a bio in the Huffington Post, "Yoani Sanchez, a University of Havana graduate in philology, emigrated to Switzerland in 2002, to build a new life for herself and her family. Two years later, she decided to return Cuba, promising herself to live there as a free person. Her blog Generation Y is an expression of this promise. Yoani calls her blog ‘an exercise in cowardice’ that allows her to say what is forbidden in the public square. It reaches readers around the world in over twenty languages. Yoani's new book in English, Havana Real, is now available for pre-order here.

"In November 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama, wrote that her blog "provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba" and applauded her efforts to "empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology." Time magazine listed her as one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2008, stating that "under the nose of a regime that has never tolerated dissent, S├ínchez has practiced what paper-bound journalists in her country cannot: freedom of speech." (There's more here.) 

Yoani's brief essays, no more than a few paragraphs each, are probably best read in the original Spanish (the translation of which is available via the website), but there's something about the English translations that lends them an slightly off-kilter poetry. And the stories they tell -- slices of Cuban life that display for all to see the miserable, hope-free world she and her fellow citizens endure -- make me glad (and I do need reminding) that I have the life I have.

For example, take this, from a post entitled "Laughter and the Congress: "Laughter is still an effective cure for the daily trials. Thus, on this Island, we bend our lips into a smile more for self-therapy than for happiness. Then the tourists take our pictures and go home saying we are a happy people, that we haven’t lost our sense of humor before all the difficulties. Ahh! The tourists and their explanations! We tour the world with the instant of that laugh on our faces — a laugh that preceded a gesture of disgust — or with the image of satisfaction that overwhelms us on resolving, after a year’s effort, a pair of graduated lenses for a child."

Or this caption from a photo on the blog (on the page titled "How to Help"): "It is not possible to have an Internet connection at home. One hour of Wi-Fi in a hotel costs about one-third of the average monthly salary."

Visit the blog and see if you don't wind up feeling at least a little grateful yourself. 

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