Friday, October 30, 2009
I did not come of age in Cuba during the 1970s and 80s. Nor was I (un)lucky enough to spend part of my youth in a boarding school. I never contemplated (illegally) leaving my country by raft, nor was I christened at birth with a name like Yaniseidi, Yoandri, Yusimi, Yuniesky, or Yoani. In short, I do not carry within me any of the personal or generational frustration that marks many in what la bloguera cautiva calls Cuba's "Generacion Y."
However, I can offer up at least three "Y's" of my own. My middle name is AloYsius (really, it is!). My blog, as you can see is entitled El Yuma. And, after watching the most recent YouTube video post on Yoani's blog, I have to join her and her husband Reinaldo Escobar in asking of the ICAIC and the magazine Temas, WHY?
It seems that the leading Cuban magazine of intellectual debate, Temas, held an "open" debate yesterday (Thursday) on the issue of the Internet in Cuba. As the video shows, the debate was held in ICAIC's "Fresa y Chocolate" cafe and artistic complex located on 23rd between 10th and 12th in El Vedado. As seen in the guerrilla video made by the DesdeCuba team, a large group of leading independent bloggers and journalists (including Reinaldo Escobar, Claudia Cadelo, and Ciro Diaz) were not allowed inside to participate in the debate. You can see them arguing with the security personnel at the gate as other "invited guests" are allowed inside. It reminds one of the other "open debate" that took place at La Casa de las Americas in February, 2007, putting an artificial, bureaucratic end to the Polemica Intelectual (war of e-mails) that had spontaneously arisen among Cuban intellectuals during the previous month.
The posted video, with the ingenious title, "With Wig and Without Internet," also shows Yoani, la bloguera guerrillera, standing up inside the symposium to ask one of her usual impertinent questions about internet censorship in Cuba and the refusal to allow everyone inside to participate in the debate. It seems that she fooled the guards by doning a wig in order to gain access to the discussion. There is thunderous applause in the room after she speaks and you can make out a number of people, including the writer Yoss, smiling broadly at her show of cojones.
Over the past year, Sanchez and her team have repeatedly embarrassed the Cuban cultural commissars with the innovative strategy of posting videos of their public challenges to the typical "rules of the game," highlighting for an international audience the Cuban government's censorship and control. First, there was the March/April video of Yoani's one-minute declaration as part of Cuba's Bennial. Then, there was the May video of she and her husband Reinaldo trying to gain internet access in the Melia Cohiba. Most famously, last week saw the video and audio clip of Yoani's tearing into an immigration official after being denied permission to travel abroad for the fourth consecutive time.
Up to now the Cuban government seems to have decided to indefinitely ignore these "provocations" from such an "insignificant element." They may soon try to put a stop to her guerrilla tactics by throwing her in jail. However, she has so far wisely used her growing international reputation as a protective shield allowing her to continue to publicize government control and push the limits of debate on the island.
One thing she and her team are also succeeding at is at driving up the price of repression for the Cuba government. With each denial of permission to travel and every new guerrilla YouTube video posted on a blog, the government comes across as more ridiculously and needlessly repressive, losing another battle in its international PR war.