Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Nace un periódico en La Habana y arranca un congreso en Chicago

Lots going on in "CubaWorld" today.  Here's a quick round up of two juicy items (14ymedio and LASA) as I've got to pack and catch a plane to Chicago...

  • Yesterday, the Diario de Cuba reported that a record 125 Cuban academics have received visas to travel to Chicago for the annual conference of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA, May 21-24, 2014).  They also report that UNEAC head and award-winning poet Nancy Morejón publicly criticized as "unacceptable" the long delays and 11th hour granting of visas as it has jeopardized the participation of many attendees.  I myself can attest to a mixture of gratitude and relief at this record number of visas and a bit of frustration as I was frantically firing off messages to my contacts in DC and the USIS trying to advocate for the visas.  
  • Given Morejón's complaint that "It is inadmissible that this occur for what it means in terms of arrangements that were already made," I hope to hear an equally vocal complaint from her at LASA about the fact that Cuban intellectual and activist Manuel Cuesta Morúa has been prevented from leaving Cuba by Cuban authorities so he can attend the conference to present his paper entitled: "Cuba: La memoria de la democracia," based on the theme for LASA 2014, which is precisely: "Democracia y memoria."   
  • The very good news that so many Cubans have been awarded visas is also marred by the report (as yet unconfirmed) that top Cuban economist and new co-chair of LASA's Cuba Section, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, was denied a visa. He was prevented from attending last year's LASA conference by forces within the island (a fact that I openly questioned at last year's gathering), and now it seems that he's catching hell from the other side.  He must be doing something right! 
  • As has been widely reported, Cuba is home to a new, independent digital newspaper as of 8 a.m. this morning. As expected, 14ymedio went live this Wednesday morning and looks to be a true animal of "web 2.0" - an enterprise with loads of interactive links to social media and a smart arrangement where it can be easily converted into a PDF or TXT file for quick downloading and sharing in the Cuban off-line world.  It also thankfully avoids gratuitous insults and "anti-Castro" language, preferring to illustrate by example what it is for: a civil, objective, and critical journalistic tone necessary, in the words of Yoani Sánchez, "to accompany Cuba during its inevitable transition to democracy."  It also features at least two sections for debate (one called "Debates de Calidad" and another called "Fuegos Cruzados" - Crossfire).   
  • For me, the two key questions that remain are to what extent will @14ymedio's content be accessible to Cubans IN CUBA, either on the site itself or via the island's various informal digital media distribution networks, and how Yoani & Co. can make the site financially self-sustaining, keeping it simultaneously critical and objective, while maintaining their journalistic independence.
  • So, the takeaway for me is: Yoani & Co. are clearly throwing down the gauntlet with 14ymedio, but doing so in a civil, professional way - trying to further expand and enhance coverage of the Cuban reality (from Cuba, by Cubans) and building on the success of Generación Y and Cuba's many other pioneering digital journalism projects (Voces CubanasOn Cuba, Havana Times, Primavera Digital, etc.).  They are "occupying" a space (cyberspace) without asking permission but also without the aim of provoking the government gratuitously - with the hope that the occupation of this new cyberspace can lead to more truly "public" space on the island.  
  • We will soon see how and to what degree the government responds (i.e., there was already an AP report out this morning that the site was almost immediately hacked sending readers trying to connect to it from within the island to an "anti-Yoani all the time" site run by Iroel Sánchez.  This tactic may pay short-term dividends for whoever is behind it (hmmm??).  However, I expect that it will only serve to publicize 14ymedio's launch and make the long forbidden fruit of an independent media even more attractive to Cuban readers still suffering from the infamous "auto-bloqueo."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Speech of OLPL in Kennedy Auditorium, Johns Hopkins University, SAIS

Speech of OLPL in Kennedy Auditorium, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Washington DC, 16 Mayo 2014.

Dear friends:

As a Cuban from the Island —and all Cubans are, no matter how far and how much time has passed since we left or were expelled from the Island—, as a critical intellectual —that is, a writer and photographer who believes in the beauty of truth, even when nobody listened— and also as a Cuban from the exile, of course —because all Cubans are as well, no matter if we still live inside the Island, where we are "inxiles"—, it's a privilege and a great honor to be invited here to share my experiences and my vision with you today.