Thursday, August 11, 2011

The world is wide and wonderful... Felicidades a Wendy e Ignacio

Cuba frente al primer matrimonio de un gay y una transexual
Jueves, 11 de agosto de 2011
Por Fernando Ravsberg

Para ver otros 3 videos de "Wendignacio", estos de nuestro amigo OLPL haz clic aqui.

Wendy Iriepa e Ignacio Estrada tienen todo listo para casarse: el permiso de las autoridades, el vestido de la novia, la madrina... [y adivina quien es?]

Aunque parecen una pareja típica cubana, tienen una particularidad: ella es una transexual que se operó en 2007 y él es gay.

La boda, que se llevará a cabo este sábado -el día del cumpleaños de Fidel Castro-, es todo un acontecimiento en Cuba, porque allí están prohibidos los matrimonios entre homosexuales.

La pareja podrá casarse porque, tras someterse a una operación patrocinada por el Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual de Cuba (CENESEX), Wendy recibió un nuevo carnet de identidad que la reconoce como mujer.

Conozca a la pareja que dice estar enamorada en este video del corresponsal de BBC Mundo en Cuba, Fernando Ravsberg.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"If you read it, they will come": Havana Real comes to Books & Books

El Yuma with "Havana Real" in his right hand and a barely perceptible flash drive in his left.  I did not venture to bring a hard copy of the book to Yoani in Havana but I did bring her a PDF of it on the flash drive.  I also returned to the States with a 30-minute video of her thanking her readers and reading passages from her book saved on the nifty drive.  We showed a 10-minute subtitled portion of the video at the end of the presentation (which you can watch here or embedded below).

Last Saturday, August 6 @ 5 p.m., amid rainstorms and some minor technical difficulties, more than 200 people and I met up at Books and Books in Coral Gables, Miami to celebrate the publication of Yoani Sanchez's "Havana Real."  The book is an updated English edition of selections of Sanchez's blog posts from "Generation Y" from April 2007 through the end of 2010, as translated by the intrepid Mary Jo Porter.

M.J. or "Maria," as Cuba's alternative bloggers whom she translates like to call her, also wrote a powerful introduction to the book telling the story of how she inadvertently became involved in the amazing "trabajo voluntario" of co-opertive translation.  That project now includes more than 200 voluntary translators in more than 20 countries (check out the twin sites Hemos Oido and Translating Cuba to get into the translation act yourself).  It has also grown far beyond GY and now includes almost 40 Cuban blogs available at the portal Voces Cubanas.  (You can read more about how this all got started in this interview with M.J. at the blog "Pedazos de Isla" - aqui en espanol).

Simply put, the event was fantastic!  I arrived right at 5 p.m. speeding in through the rain from Miami Beach where I had been staying.  I ran into the book store and was surprised to find a video screen, about twenty chairs, and a grand total of just five people waiting for me.  I thought to myself, "I sure hope this is a case of 'hora cubana'."  However, I soon realized that I was in the wrong room and, making my way to the other wing of Books and Books, I walked smack into another, larger exposition room with perhaps 150 people hungrily awaiting me and my two co-conspirators (Ernesto Morales and Carlos Alberto Montaner).  (See Yoani's Facebook page for a few photos of the crowd taken by our special guest and her husband).

By 5:15, when we got started, there were now perhaps 200 people packed into the room with many standing in the aisles and listening from adjoining rooms due to the overflow crowd and despite the increasing heat.  I hazard to guess that there was a good mix of Cubans and non-Cubans spanning a wide age range with perhaps 70 percent of those present being female.  I kicked off the event by thanking everyone for coming despite the fact that the guest of honor, Yoani herself, would be present only in spirit and via a digital recording she made for us while I was last in Havana in April.  I then shared some personal reflections of when I first met and interviewed Yoani and Reinaldo three years previously in late July 2008.  I also shared a story that Yoani related to me on my most recent visit.

Here's that story: I arrived at Yoani and Reinaldo's apartment early in the morning on my final full day in Havana but was met with a note taped to the door of their apartment that read: "Ted: Imperativos Burocraticos Desde Temprano.  Regresamos Alrededor de las 11 am.  Saludos."

When I returned a couple of hours later I found Reinaldo awaiting me with one of his warm greetings but apologizing that Yoani was still doing the bureaucratic mambo with the Cuban immigration authorities.  By way of explanation, Reinaldo clued me in that Yoani was then engaged in another of her seemingly never ending cycles of having her request to travel abroad denied by the government "por el momento" - with no other explanation given.  However, at that point there was still a glimmer of hope as she had just gotten her visa to travel from the Spanish embassy and was delayed because she now had to acquire a medical certificate from some office in the ministry of health.

Expecting her to arrive in a foul mood given the circumstances, I was blown away when she burst through the door with what I can only describe as a hopeful, optimistic attitude and a truly contagious positive energy about her.  I immediately thought of Dagoberto Valdes and the unforgettable sign he had posted on his old office door at the now defunct Vitral magazine headquarters when I visited him in Pinar del Rio in January of 2007.  It read, "Don't ask for an easy load; ask instead for a strong back."  Yoani gulped down a glass of cold water and recounted the story of her visit to the ministry of health.

Seated in the waiting room of the anonymous grey office, Yoani noticed a uniformed man slyly approaching her.  When he was within earshot, he casually whispered the words, "Te leo" (I read you) before quickly disappearing from view.  Quite bemused with this unexpected treat, Yoani made her way into an inner office when her turn came.  Sitting across from a female office worker who was shuffling through her papers, she heard the question: "It says here that you are Yoani Sanchez?"  "Yes, I am," Yoani responded.  After a moment of silence, the worker quickly approved her paperwork and before handing the papers back to her, she murmured under her breath, "Te admiro" (I admire you).

Happily reeling now from these back-to-back signs of unexpected (but much appreciated) solidarity, Yoani made her way to the final check out counter noting that the attendant was headed toward the bathroom.  Noticing Yoani approach the woman began to return, but Yoani stopped her short saying that she could wait.  Disregarding Yoani's protestations, the woman quickened her step and began jogging back to the counter.  With a wink and a nod, she explained: "The bathroom can wait, especially if it's for una buena causa" (a good cause).  

After recounting this story to the audience, I tried briefly to share with them my own assessment of the following question: What is it that has made Yoani such a pioneer blogger, though perhaps not the kind of "pionera" envisioned by Che Guevara.  In my answer I listed five key elements:

1) She has decided to "live - in Cuba - as a free person, and accept the consequences" - in other words, she has decided to come out from behind the mask of "la doble moral" (duplicity) and share her stories and ideas publicly in her own name, believing that "life is not to be found in another place, but in another Cuba."

2) She has staunchly refused to engage in "violencia verbal" and, together with her colleagues at Voces Cubanas has exhibited a consistent commitment to a "serious, respectful, and pluralistic debate" about Cuba's problems and its future.

3) She has eschewed long-winded political harangues and "el teque cubano," instead crafting her own digital version of the classic Spanish cronica, where she tells simple yet rather pointed stories about the real life consequences of Cuba's political and economic system with personality, brevity, and tenacity.

4) She has repeatedly insisted on her ideological and financial independence from fealty to both the Cuban government and its institutions and any foreign party, government, or political group.

5) She has developed a volunteer citizen network (led by Un Tal Maria) around the world to support her blogging project and worked tirelessly to expand that project within Cuba by spreading the blogging and Tweeting "virus" to dozens of other incipient bloggers and Twitterers.

The last of these five points led me directly into my finale where I read a brief excerpt from M.J. Porter's introduction.  The section I shared included these words:

"With the password to her website, Yoani also gave me the gift of her language, her island, her friends, and a network of people around the globe who believe that humans possess certain inalienable rights, one of which is to speak our minds freely and without fear.  To this day I have never met Yoani nor any of the other bloggers, and I have only met two of the translators. But I know about their lives, celebrate their graduations, congratulate them on their weddings, welcome their babies (and grandbabies) into the world, and am grateful for their friendships."

I then introduced Ernesto Morales, author of the blog "The Little Brother," who spoke at length in Spanish about his own personal and professional history in Cuba, his meeting and interviewing Yoani and Reinaldo (version en espanol), his dismissal from his job at a state radio station in his hometown of Bayamo for publishing that interview on Claudia Cadelo's blog Octavo Cerco, and his experience of becoming a blogger with Yoani's encouragement and assistance.  Later during the Q and A, Ernesto made the fascinating point about how he posted to his blog while back in Cuba: he bought Internet time on the black market from an artist who was himself given Internet access only if he also started a blog and attacked the independent bloggers!

Finally, Montaner spoke (also in Spanish).  His comments were very powerful in lauding the bravery of this group of young, previously unknown cyber-activists who have stood their ground against the seemingly all-powerful state declaring: "The emperor has no clothes."  When Montaner finished his remarks, I introduced our surprise guest, Yunia Sanchez, Yoani's older sister who immigrated with her family to the U.S. only two months earlier.  I called her to the front and presented her with a photo I took of her mom and sister (and la perra Chispita!) back in Cuba.  Later as we waited for the video to get started, Yunia's husband Tony came to the microphone to share the news that Yunia had been keeping Yoani in the loop via SMS all during the presentation.  He also read to the audience the following Tweet from Yoani (which I translated):

"#Cuba #GY A policeman stopped me on the street, I assumed he was going to detain me but instead whispered, 'Keep writing the truth and don't cut your hair'."

We closed the event by showing the Melville House video and the crowd, after much patience and anticipation, thoroughly enjoyed it.  Afterward, Yoani's relative and the subject of one of her more powerful blog posts, "Una silla vacia," Adolfo Fernandez Sainz approached me to share his reaction.  Having been one of the "75" dissidents jailed for more than seven years only to be released into exile, he told me that since he was then in prison he had actually never read that particular post.  "I had heard about it but I wasn't expecting to hear her read it out loud to all of us.  It left me with goosebumps!"

Yoani Sanchez addresses Books and Books from Melville House on Vimeo.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Iroel Sánchez reflecting the one year anniversary of his blog "La Pupila Insomne" - July 29, 2011

I don't think Sánchez ever says the word "blog" in this entire clip.

I do think his use of the words "nuestra," "nosotros," and "companeros" are of note.

As is this quote:

"Construir juntos una vision multiple de Cuba... y hacerlo lo mas autenticamente posible, decir lo que pensamos con toda la transparencia que se pueda, no?"

As is his comparison of writing a blog with the proper "sistematicidad" and "ganas" to the art of making love!

Felicidades! I'm all for pluralism, "visiones multiples," "autenticidad," and "transparencia."

Que siga el debate!

Go here to You can visit his blog, "La Pupila Insomne."