Yoani Sanchez, the 38-year-old blogger from Cuba, received her long-delayed Maria Moors Cabot Award from Columbia University last night. She had originally earned the honor in 2009 for her fearless reports on conditions in Cuba but the Cuban government barred her from traveling to New York City to get it. Over the years, Ms. Sanchez has won worldwide acclaim for hosting the "Generation Y" blog which tells about the realities of life in the island nation.
A spirited, forthright individual, she has pushed a crusade forward to pry open the limits of freedom in her home country. Because the Castro regime regularly censors her blog, she usually emails her entries to friends abroad who then post them on-line where Havana cannot erase them. In her remarks last night, she said that the award meant heightened responsibility on her part for her future role in Cuba: "The responsibility of knowing that I am exercising journalism within a very battered society.
In a country where a strict control over information has been erected as one of the most important mechanisms of political control. A society of barricades, where sharing one's opinion, reporting, doing an interview can immediately tar one as untrustworthy, as someone to be spied on and silenced. But, as in any society rife with censorship, I perform journalism in a nation where a simple chronicle, an op-ed column, or even a brief article of reportage also has the power to reveal reality, to liberate....The responsibility to assure that the press contribute to finding solutions, to generate all those debates that we haven't been able to have in Cuba for decades. The responsibility to rescue those moments of history that were stolen from us." Her defiance has inched open space for civil discourse beyond what anybody might have expected. The Cuban government has tacitly recognized that things have changed in the post-Fidel Castro era by allowing her to travel around the globe and speaking freely about her dissent in Cuba.