Hunger strike in Cuba
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    Be vigilant for those who remain in Cuba

    Posted on Saturday, 10.26.13

    Be vigilant for those who remain in Cuba
    MAO35@COLUMBIA.EDU
    Yoani was here again.

    I don’t say that lightly, and I don’t take it for granted. That the
    blogger can leave Cuba and return safely is a profound change. I marvel
    at and applaud the changes that allow her to come and go freely, normally.

    That I can get away without writing her last name in that first sentence
    — Sánchez, for the non-initiated — is also a breakthrough, surely one of
    the happiest outcomes of the technology that has come to define and
    dominate our lives: we follow her on Twitter; we read her blogs; we
    think we know her; we feel protective.

    And that’s all good. For without the watchful eye of thousands, Yoani
    could have easily disappeared already. Our vigilance keeps her afloat.
    Her talent and enormous courage keeps us vigilant.

    She came to New York, among other things, to personally receive the
    Maria Moors Cabot special citation for excellence in journalism in the
    coverage and understanding of the Americas that she won in 2009, at a
    time when she was not allowed to leave the island. The certificate was
    awarded by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

    This year she’s been in New York twice.

    She was as calm as ever, as articulate as the last time, as full of
    optimism and ideas. Her newest venture: She is hoping to launch a modern
    and digital newspaper from the island in December. “A newspaper of
    transition,” she called it.

    I told her I thought she had been unusually quiet lately. She said she
    had been busy getting the newspaper ready to launch. Among other things,
    she has been pouring cement, transforming a small space into a newsroom.
    She has eight reporters, and she wants to cover Cuba, from potholes to
    theater openings, from human rights to cooking recipes. A normal newspaper.

    In Cuba, to gather and transmit information outside the parameters of
    the government is a profoundly subversive act.

    When she took the podium, with her long hair swept to one side and her
    Mona Lisa smile, she was met with a thunderous applause. People in the
    audience, most of them journalists from the Americas, understood her
    courage and her quest.

    She said that when she learned she had won the citation four years ago,
    she felt elated at first. But, later, she felt the weight of a sense of
    responsibility.

    “The responsibility of knowing that I am exercising journalism within a
    very battered society,” she said. “In a country where a strict control
    over information has been erected as one of the most important
    mechanisms of political control.”

    And she went on: “I have never understood the role of a journalist to be
    that of the entomologist who looks down on the ant colony from above.
    Writing in her fine notebook filled with white pages while down below,
    the ants live, kill, and die. I am an ant and I want to write about life
    in the ant colony from within.”

    Her hope, she said, is not only to narrate the Cuba of today but also to
    rescue “those moments of history that were stolen from us.”

    She said that the idea for the digital newspaper came about precisely in
    November of 2009, shortly after she had learned of the Cabot citation
    and around the time when three men dragged her from the street to a car
    and proceeded to beat her up before letting her go, pained and bruised
    but untamed.

    Earlier, in a panel before the ceremony, she talked about the importance
    of the Internet and the impossibility of censorship at a time when very
    little, if anything, can be kept private.

    She told me how, more 20 years after his death, she learned who Pedro
    Luis Boitel was and how he died after a hunger strike in a Cuban prison
    in 1972. Yet, she learned that Orlando Zapata had died an hour after he
    succumbed to his own hunger strike in 2010.

    Censorship nowadays, she said, is “like placing a door in the open sea.”
    Futile.

    Attempting to stop Yoani is like that too. She’s placed her foot firmly
    against the crack in the door the government of Raúl Castro has created,
    and she’s pushing it open with all her might. There is no telling what
    she might do or how far she can get if she keeps pushing against that
    door, but not alone.

    It is said that ants can lift many times their body weight, but it is
    also known that ants of the same colony work together. Yoani and others
    like her, who have chosen to remain in Cuba to transform the island from
    within, need our help and our vigilance.

    Source: Be vigilant for those who remain in Cuba – Other Views –
    MiamiHerald.com –

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