Cuban law prohibits independent journalism and the distribution of mass media not approved by the government, and restricts freedom of expression. Cuba is also known to have one of the worst internet access rates in the world.
When Sánchez started her blog — Generación Y — in 2007, she could only get online — in disguise — using computers in hotels catering to tourists. Today her entries are posted online by friends overseas and “go viral” on memory sticks within Cuba. She uses her cellphone to tweet to more than 600,000 people who follow her on Twitter at @YoaniSanchez.
Her new online news site, "14ymedio," provides ordinary daily news about life in Cuba, including politics, entertainment, guest columns and reviews. It also plans to include an unofficial consumer price index tracking the cost of basic foods. Stories will avoid charged terms, and as Sánchez stated in her blog, will serve as “a space to tell Cuba’s story from inside Cuba.”
“Technology has the ability to mobilize people, promote liberty, and transition a country to be more democratic,” said Sánchez. “I look forward to sharing my experiences with Chicagoans and to learning from the city’s community organizers, journalists and those working in technology startups and entrepreneurial incubators.”
Sánchez has received much international recognition for her work. Time magazine listed her as one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2008, stating that "under the nose of a regime that has never tolerated dissent, Sánchez has practiced what paper-bound journalists in her country cannot; freedom of speech." In November 2009, President Barack Obama responded to questions she had posted on her blog and later wrote that her blog "provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba" and applauded her efforts to "empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology."
Until 2013, Sánchez had been denied permission to travel outside of Cuba. The government has since lifted travel restrictions for citizens and last year she participated in a highly-publicized 80-day international tour to more than a dozen countries to accept her awards and give speeches about her work and Cuba today.
The Gus Hart Visiting Fellowship, named after Augustin S. Hart, former chairman of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, is endowed by the Hart family to honor Gus Hart’s lifelong interest in Latin America and the Caribbean. Each year the Council awards the fellowship to an emerging Latin American leader who is contributing to the advancement of society.
“Yoani’s use of social media and the internet to promote the freedom of speech represents a worldwide trend of the role technology can play in transforming societies,” said Ivo H. Daalder, president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “The Chicago Council and the Hart Family are honored to welcome her to Chicago as our 2014 Gus Hart Visiting Fellow.”
Yoani Sánchez’s blog, Generación Y. Click here for translation.
Cuban Blogger Launching Independent Newspaper, Michael Weissenstein, Associated Press, May 20, 2014
Cuban Dissident Blogger Yoani Sánchez Meets With Vice President Joe Biden, David Iaconangelo, Latin Times, 04/03/2014
Blogger: Cubans Use Creativity to Get Info Online, Colleen Slevin, Associated Press, 10/20/2013
Midnight in Havana, Yoani Sánchez, Foreign Policy, 01/02/2013
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