April 3, 2013

Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez accepts an award at Miami’s Freedom Tower


Cuban blogger and independent journalist Yoani Sanchez holds up a Presidential Medal of Miami Dade College presented to her at the Freedom Tower in Miami.

Yoani Sánchez, an independent journalist, dissident blogger, and author of Havana Real, visited Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community in America on Monday. The visit was part of her recent world tour to speak about life in Cuba; thus far she has made stops in Brazil, Italy, and Switzerland. Sanchez had been denied permission to travel outside of Cuba for years, but she was cleared by President Raúl Castro to receive a travel visa in October. She organized an 80-day tour to three continents, and is scheduled to return to Cuba within the next week.

In Miami, she was welcomed by hundreds of people who waited in line to hear her speak, and she received a standing ovation when she received a Presidential Medal from Miami Dade College. The event was held at the Freedom Tower in Miami, which is significant because it is the place where thousands of Cuban exiles were processed after fleeing the 1959 communist revolution. The event meant a lot to the school who invited her:

“This is transcendent,” said Eduardo J. Padrón, the president of Miami Dade College, which is sponsoring the event, recalling his own arrival at the Freedom Tower as a 15-year-old. “There is incredible agreement here that she symbolizes the voice of a free Cuba. Her visit has proved that all of us can agree, regardless of the means, on the ultimate goal.”

There were a small number of protesters at the event who took issue with her stance that the U.S. embargo of Cuba should be lifted. In response to questions about her position on the embargo, Sánchez emphasized unity.

I am today standing before you trying to make sure that no one, ever again, can divide us between one type of Cuban or another. We are going to need each other for a future Cuba and we need each other in the present Cuba. Without you our country would be incomplete, as if someone had amputated its limbs. We cannot allow them to continue to divide us… In this Cuba so many of us dream of there will be no need to clarify what kind of Cuban we are. We will be just plain Cubans. Cubans, period. Cubans.

Yoani Sánchez’s blog, Generación Y, has been translated into 20 languages.  In 2008, she was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time magazine. She continues to blog and tweet about daily life in Cuba, and her book, Havana Real, was published by Melville House in 2011.

Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.