Yoani Sanchez, 2008 Ortega y Gasset Prize for Digital Journalism
Acceptance Speech, May 2008
I would like to reconstruct the “scene of the crime” that gave rise to Generation Y. Looking back at my life in those days of April, a year ago, I’d grown tired of not seeing my reality reflected in the press or on television or radio, so I decided to start reporting it in a blog. I didn’t know that this act of “taking the information in hand” was something that already had a name: citizen journalism.
To start, I designed a simple page where I posted the exotic letter with which my parents had registered me, in the group that included Yohandry, Yanisleydis, Yuniesky and Yordanka. The onomastic similarity between us was reinforced above all by the common experiences of schools in the countryside, Russian cartoons, illegal emigration and frustration. My blog posts were going to deliver a blast of everyday life, marked by the emotional outbursts that the official newspapers never published. Then came the commentators. In their own texts they believed that I was the Joan of Arc of cyberspace, an agent of the CIA or part of State Security. I savored, then, the unknown taste of freedom of expression, the vertigo of everyone able to say what they were thinking.
Generation Y is an individual exorcism, a type of therapy, that I prescribed to myself early last year. I arrived at this medicine that would “cure a horse” after verifying that the Internet was the only opening through which an alternative, critical and inconvenient opinion could “jump the fence” of censorship in Cuba. The examples around me of those thrown out, isolated, and incarcerated warned me that differences of opinion continue to be penalized. But the inquisitors grow older and their methods do not develop at the same speed as technology. So, there was the Internet, still without laws to prevent the posting of opinions, like an unregulated zone, a crack that opened up in the wall.
There was no lack of people who called me to the peace of silence, the quiet meekness of apathy. They warned me about the legal and political framework that drives concepts such as “enemy propaganda,” “fifth columnist,” “servant of the Empire and imperialist mercenary,” or – in less serious cases – mere “ideological deviation.” They recommended that I should escape, pointing out to me that emigration is the shortest road to catharsis; however, instead of buying a Chevrolet motor to cross the straits of Florida, I became a virtual rafter. I escaped, but not from my country, rather from fear, paranoia and conformity.
I have finally arrived, on this raft-blog, at a territory that is both gratifying and painful, where civic responsibility will no longer let me go back. Now I have two lives, one real, compartmentalized and controlled, where I listen to orders, slogans, and calls to battle; the other virtual, immense and free,, where I begin to feel myself a citizen.
“Jump the fence” is an expression commonly used in Cuba to refer to escaping from the island.
Note: Yoani was not able to deliver this speech in person at the ceremony in Madrid, but read it to her friends and family assembled in Havana.