Cuban blogger visits Valencia


Christopher Stanley / Valencia Voice

Yoani Sanchez (left) spoke to a packed room last week, which included former Sen. Mel Martinez and Valencia College president Sandy Shugart.

WEST CAMPUS — Yoani Sanchez is a famed blogger out of the communist country of Cuba and on Thursday, Oct. 31 she spoke on the West Campus in front of a packed room which included former Florida Senator Mel Martinez.

In Cuba the internet works differently than in the U.S., as only a handful of wealthy people have access to it on a normal basis. For others on the island the internet is something that only requires a monitor and a modem.

“It’s amazing, very emotional frankly to hear her,” said Sen. Martinez about Sanchez. “She’s so courageous, so brave and so talented.”

“I hope she will be one day the publisher of a big newspaper in a free Cuba,” added Martinez following the discussion.

USB drives often are the internet for many in Sanchez’s home country. People use the USB drives to transfer information such as blogs from one household to the other, much like the internet does in the U.S., but this requires people to physically share the drive amongst themselves for everyone to be able to access the information.

According to the 37-year-old Sanchez, in Cuba the information one person received could end up in the hands of thousands, even millions thanks to new technology.

Sanchez first started heavily using the internet in 1994, when she created a computer from scrap which she called “Frankenstein.” With that computer she put together her very first newspaper, having to do it literally, letter by letter.

“At the beginning it was a personal exercise,” said Sanchez when asked about the mission of her blog. “I used to say it was like my exorcism to take out my frustrations and questions.

“Today I define it as an open window to the real Cuba,” added Sanchez.

She has come far since 1994, writing blogs that have been read around the world while at the same time gaining more Twitter followers than Cuba’s former communist leader, Fidel Castro.

Internet is scarce in Cuba, but that doesn’t stop the government from banning and censoring pages they do not see fit for their people to see. The Caribbean island only has 150 Twitter users and 118 sites where internet can be accessed according to Sanchez.

“If we were to look at the statistics of how many follow me on the internet from the island, it would be very few.” said Sanchez in an interview with the Valencia Voice. “But in Cuba the internet functions in a different way.”

Besides being a blogger, Sanchez is also a journalist of sorts as she plans on putting out her own newspaper in Cuba by the end of the calendar year. Sanchez wouldn’t disclose the name of her new newspaper, but did say that when you hear it you will say “this is what it needed to be called.”

The discussion lasted well over an hour, with tons of people eager to ask Sanchez questions. The crowd consisted of mainly Cuban-Americans who came to see Sanchez, but Valencia students were trickled into the mix, some even asking questions.

Sanchez visited Valencia last week in an effort to help young North American’s to see the “real Cuba,” and to debunk many stereotypes people may have.

One of the biggest stereotypes Sanchez hopes to debunk is that there is a difference between Cubans from the island and Cubans from Miami.

“That stereotype needs to be broken,” said Sanchez. “We are all Cubans.”