and my students
Today, Thursday, September 22, from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Radio Marti, together with Martinoticias.com will host an interactive exchange between my students here in New York and the Cuban bloggers Yoani Sanchez, Miriam Celaya, Dagoberto Valdes, and Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.
The conversation will focus on the state of the internet in Cuba today and possible future scenarios given the (eminent?) arrival of broadband. The event will also be an exchange of information of what technology is available in the island and how it can be supported, enhanced, and assisted.
In preparation for the event, each of my students has done some background reading on blogs and internet in Cuba and submitted one discussion question that they will pose directly to the bloggers.
Among the background readings are: Yoani Sanchez’s book Havana Real as well as the following interview I conducted with her back in 2008 about the Cuban blogosphere: “Desde Cuba with Yoani Sánchez: From Verbal Violence to Citizen Cyber-Journalism." A 13-part video of the same interview can be viewed here.
Here is a list of the TOP TEN best questions:
1- From Wazima:
"In your 2008 interview with Ted Henken you mentioned that 'a blog is a little push against the wall.' So has your blog helped push Cuba forward in any aspect or brought any change in Cuba. And who would call your inspiration and why?"
2- From Darin:
"Who do you want your message to reach? The United States, Europe, Asia, or other Cubans? And why spread your message through the internet when it's very hard to get internet access in Cuba?"
3- From Zhanna:
"In your interview to Ted Henken you called your blog a 'little push against the wall.' A Russian proverb says 'knock and the door will open.' Let us hypothesize that the 'door' finally opens. The scenario used by Gorbachev 1991 proved to be way too abrupt and caused lots of socio-economic problems for all post-Soviet countries. Moreover such a change in the political regime was rather harsh for regular citizens to adjust to. Do you believe it is possible to fix a few things here and there (through reforms) to make slight and gentle transition from existing regime to another 'more satisfactory' one for all Cubans? If so what kind of reforms are the first to take place?"
4- From Mike:
"Yoani, en su ultima entrevista con elnuevodia.com usted declaro que creía que Cuba esta en 'vertigo final' en lo que se refiere a la caída del régimen comunista de los hermanos Castro. Cual considera usted que sera el rol de la comunidad cubana en el exilio, no solo en EE.UU, sino en Europa y otros países cuando esta tiranía se desmorone? Cual sera el papel de los cubanos en la isla? Habra algún tipo de antagonismo entre estos dos grupos? Y finalmente, cual cree usted que sera su rol como 'hormiga demoledora de muros' en la nueva Cuba?"
5- From Ladyane:
"In your book, Havana Real, you mentioned that instead of not revealing your identity as most bloggers did and still do, afraid of the consequences, you have chosen to do so. You literally put your family and yourself at risk for your deep commitment to the truth. Given the consequences that future generations will undertake, such as of your son, due to this activism of bloggers in Cuba, I am very much interested in understanding your thought process and what you told your son when you made the decision of revealing your identity."
6- From John:
"A survey of notable 20th century Authoritarian and Totalitarian regimes indicates that through the misappropriation and perversion of language these actors sought to claim the moral basis for governance from their dissenters. So we can look at an East German police state billing itself as the Die Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic) while taking its mandate not from the democratic will of the German people but from frustrating German democracy in the service of Marxist-Leninism. Similarly, we can look to Portugal’s Second Republic which promised the masses an Estado Novo (New State) in 1933 but then spent the next forty years defending the corporate, colonial and Catholic interests of the old order from the political currents of free trade, anti-colonialism and the separation of church and state which gave rise to the modern states of western Europe. Counter-intuitively these regimes, one right wing and one left wing, were the antithesis of what they purported to be.
Mindful of this history I was intrigued by the answer you gave Professor Henken in 2008 wherein you discussed the evolution of the title of your digital magazine from Consenso (Consensus) to Contodos (With All). At that time, you explained that you had come to the realization that you were not looking for consensus but searching for diversity and pluralism. Three years forward, where has that search led you? Having exchanged ideas and viewpoints with others has it not led you, as a citizen, to observe within the blogosphere an emerging consensus of what Cubans want of a post-Castro Cuba and is it fair to say that while you were not claiming consensus in 2007 that you were, in fact, seeking to arrive at it?"
7- From Jonathan:
"After careful review of your interview with Ted Henken, I have a question about the future of the Cuban blogosphere. You stated in one of your replies that the majority of Cubans using the internet are 'largely computer illiterates.' You also mention how you hope to develop individuals 'who are both computer literate and have the desire to express their opinions.'
Even though it's obvious that all the inhabitants of Cuba should be taught how to use the internet and how to voice their opinions, it seems to me that priority lies in the adolescents and youth of your country, being that they are the future.
My specific question to you is how do you plan on teaching people how to let the outside world know what is going on inside? You talk about how Cubans find 'holes in the wall,' so what hole will this be?
8- From Humberto:
"As I was looking over your blog Generation Y, I noticed that you post at least twice a week, posting a different topic each time, do you find it difficult to maintain that sort of standard of frequency? O do you just post when you get the chance? As I understand it, it is hard in Cuba to even access the internet, yet you manage to do it weekly. In the case that you are unable to blog, do you keep notes of what you would have like to blog or just remember it till next time?"
9- From Adriana:
"Yo puedo imaginar que en Cuba no todo mundo puede estar de acuerdo con tus pensamientos en tu blog. Solamente hablando con mi propia familia, que vive en Cuba, puedo deducir que la gente está bien separados en sus opiniones. Y ahora, con todo el cambio que esta pasando, esa diferencia es mas aparente todavía. Como tu has mantenido tus amistades con tu blog? Has perdido amigos? Y que otras dificultades has encontrado en este viaje, en termino de tu vida social?"
10- From Erik:
"Not too long after you began your blog, Fidel became ill. Shortly thereafter he handed over power to his brother Raul. Can you describe the differences, if any, in the difficulties you've dealt with while producing your blog under Fidel and under Raul? Has it become easier for you to continue your work? Also, has there been any change in freedom of speech and the press in general since the handover of power? If not, do you believe that in the near future, under Raul, things will change with regard to speech and information? And can you describe the current state of freedom of speech and the press."