Cuban blogger and independent journalist Yoani Sánchez said despite restrictions on cyberspace in Cuba the Internet is changing the communist country, during a lecture at Florida International University in Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community.
“The virtual Cuba is influencing, directly and definitively, the real Cuba,” she said, after recounting a story about how Cubans, using text messages on the government-controlled cell phone network, were able to mobilize hurricane relief for the Oriente area of Cuba. “The Internet is helping us explain to the world what is happening inside our country.”
Sánchez addressed an audience of 500 on the restrictions the Cuban government places on free expression, including Internet access, and the impact of technology on the possible democratization of Cuba. The lecture took place at the FIU Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center. Recordings of the lecture are available in English and Spanish.
Sánchez also said that technology and being able to reach the outside world has protected her and other government opponents.
“We feel protected precisely because of the shield that technology has provided to us,” she said.
FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg presented Sánchez with the Medallion of Courage, which recognizes individuals who pursue or defend a noble cause at a personal cost.
“We honor and salute you for the eloquent act of resistance that has given hope to the people of your homeland as it garners the praise of a watching world,” Rosenberg said during the medallion presentation.
Sánchez, 37, has become known around the world as a vocal critic of the Cuban government. For the last six years she has documented her life on the island through her blog, GeneraciónY, and her Twitter updates via @yoanisanchez.
“This was a unique opportunity for the South Florida community to hear Sánchez’s thoughts on how expanding access to the Internet and enabling the use of blogs, Twitter, and other social media can help to break Cuba’s isolation from the rest of the world,” said Jorge Duany, director of FIU’s Cuban Research Institute. “Her visit will foster the open exchange of information, ideas, and proposals about Cuba’s possible futures.”