Yoani Sánchez may be Cuba’s best known blogger, and she's got the recognition to prove it. She's received the Ortega y Gasset Prize for Journalism, the World Press Freedom Hero Award, the Maria Moors Cabot Prize and a host of “most influential” nods from international magazines.
Sánchez, who did not train as a journalist, took to the Internet in 2007 launching “Generación Y,” a blog where she attempts, in her words, “to help build a plural and inclusive Cuba with room for all Cubans.”
Sánchez’s opinions, which are both many and strong, are shared and discussed around the world, with her posts often cited as reflecting the Cuban people’s opinion on everything from food availability to Internet access. On top of her frequent blog posts, she's also director of Cuban news site 14ymedio.
While her influence is undeniable, Sánchez isn’t Cuba’s only blogger. Despite slow dial-up connections and, in many cases, outdated computers, Cuban bloggers from every corner of the island are filing dispatches for both local and international readers.
Many--especially those with a political bent-- attempt to maintain some degree of anonymity, lacking “About” pages that identify their authors. Others, though, are authored by writers and journalists who believe that it's important to identify themselves and to add to the plurality of ideas, opinions and voices that reflect the diversity of Cuban thought, authors who are as active on social media as they can be under dial-up conditions.
Here are four bloggers who fall into that category, giving readers perspectives on Cuban life that aren’t easily accessible elsewhere:
1. Lis García: La Cachaza del Otoño
García, who is from the city of Matanzas, describes herself as “a young journalist and an editor in diapers.” Her day job is as a journalist at TV Yumurí, a Matanzas-based TV channel specializing in local news. On her blog she directs herself at “the young people of my generation, without regard to the place or country where they might be, and, above all, to everyone interested in the culture and news of Matanzas."
What makes García’s blog especially interesting is that she shares slices of life and underreported stories that are likely to be completely unfamiliar to international readers, such as this one about “black metal” music in Cuba. Her posts offer a dimensionality that is all too often absent in foreign media coverage of Cuba. Images of daily life rarely seen in international media also enrich her posts, especially since her focus is on life beyond the Cuban capital. Her blog is particularly strong on coverage of the arts, though she doesn’t shy away from more intense subjects, such as the challenges of digital journalism.
2. Elaine Díaz: La Polémica Digital
Billed as a “space to debate about Cuba,” Elaine Díaz’s “La Polémica Digital” is a regularly updated site where she blogs about current events, particularly those related to politics. From dispatches about the recent Summit of the Americas to an analysis about what AirBnB’s launch in Cuba means for Cubans and an opinion piece about the future of journalism schools in Cuba, Díaz’s command of wide-ranging subject matter is impressive, as are both the quantity and quality of comments on many of her posts.
Díaz began blogging in 2008, when she was writing a dissertation about journalism and blogging and decided she couldn’t be an expert on the subject if she herself didn’t have a blog. She tested out a few platforms, including Blogger, and in the process discovered her own voice and perspective. She now uses her WordPress site to practice “this vice of informing, contextualizing, explaining…, talking about everything that captivates my interest."
3. Carlos Alberto Pérez: La Chiringa de Cuba
One of the few bloggers who posts near-daily, thanks to a rare, government-authorized Internet connection he has available at home, Carlos Alberto Pérez is affiliated with the Cuban government, but is hardly a mouthpiece for the party line. “There’s no functionary from the Department of State Security behind me, much less an instruction manual telling me what to publish,” he has written in response to critics who have questioned his relationship with the government.
Writing from Havana, Pérez files opinions on subjects such as Internet access on the island (“an expensive and slow privilege”) and, as with other bloggers included here, about the state of Cuban journalism. The blog is enriched by recurring photo-based posts provided by guest photographers and videos, which offer a rich view of Cuban lives and culture through multiple media.
4. Harold Cárdenas Lema: El Toque
Cárdenas is one of the founding members of a blog collective, La Joven Cuba, which has been a target of government censorship. El Toque is another project entirely, a true news blog with reports from Cuba and around Latin America. The site has a massive following--more than 100,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook to date--and is aimed at a younger audience who is interested in current and world events, most of them political in nature.
Occasionally, Cárdenas posts more intimate musings, including a piece in which he admits that he has thought about leaving Cuba to pursue opportunities abroad. He continues to publish on La Joven Cuba as well, which is described as “a blog by university students who offer opinions about the Cuban reality.”
Image CC-licensed on Flickr via agenciasenado