HAVANA TIMES — Some people just rub you the wrong way the first time you see them. It’s like falling out of love at first sight. It doesn’t matter if what they do or say is good or bad, of if they’re for or against you…the thing is that you simply can’t stand them.
That’s how I felt about one Cuban blogger the very first time I learned about her. It didn’t matter if she was saying half-truths, or if her blog discussed things that few people dared to talk about, or if she said things with which I completely disagreed.
The crux of the matter was that I just didn’t like her ever since a Spanish friend sent me some of her blog posts via email (since her blog was blocked at the time here in Cuba).
One of this blogger’s first writings that I had a chance to read related to freedom of expression on the island. I agreed with what this Havana resident was saying, but I still felt that something about her was off.
Like many people, I thought Yoanni Sanchez was a government operative, but I wasn’t sure for which government – the Cuban or the American? Magically, she has managed to walk the razor’s edge, never getting cut.
On a number of occasions she’s written about being beaten and abused, but she’s never been able to provide evidence of that. It wouldn’t surprise me that after her trip around the world — in just over 80 days — another series will come out on the government website Razones de Cuba* describing her as another agent 007.
Talking with supporters and detractors of the world’s most recognized Cuban blogger, I tried to find an explanation for my aversion to her.
“That shows a lack of political courage,” said one computer specialist friend of mine. “We are not used to hearing Cubans say the things she says or to write without fear about the topics she writes about, much less speak so poorly of our government, even if what she says is true.”
Another of her sympathizers within my social circle responded, “It’s that you’re an advocate of socialism, and like the majority of people you follow the current blindly. So, since you don’t see the millions of difficulties we have, you don’t want to accept that she’s only speaking her mind, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Alina (another person who doesn’t care for Yoani) added: “It’s real simple: No one who loves their country can like someone who criticizes the way she does. Some people criticize because they want people’s situation here to improve, they want problems to be corrected. But she’s not like that. Her critiques are like daggers in the heart of Cuba. What she does isn’t out of love, but hatred. And she relishes each ugly jab she makes.”
Another friend interjected: “What I hate isn’t that she says a lot of things that are true, but that she mixes these with so many lies, like making up beatings that never happened. In her eagerness to speak so poorly of the Cuban government, she invents stories, attacking her own country while not uttering a single word about the world power that has been trying to destroy us for the past 50 years.”
I also heard that what I felt was envy for the worldwide recognition she’s attained, the impact of her personal blog and the hundreds of thousands of dollars she’s received in awards from abroad.
I didn’t find the answer I was looking for from my friends. I really don’t really care if Yoani is just another liar on social networks, or if she’s against the government, or if she’s an ordinary Cuban telling her real-life stories – the kind that hurt a lot but serve to cure.
I defend the right of everyone to tell their experiences, to speak out, to champion the type of society they want, or to criticize what they consider wrong. I have that right, you have it and so does she.
It didn’t take long to assess her actions and to find the source of my aversion toward her. The writer herself was responsible for showing me what I was looking for in vain from the beginning.
What bothers me is Yoanni’s eternal relationship with the United States, that country that has done so much harm to us and continues to do just that.
She can write all she wants, whether some of us Cubans like it or not. She can say there’s no freedom of expression in Cuba – hell, it’s true. But the same situation exists all around the planet.
You can say there was no freedom of travel in Cuba, and that was true. Now we have it but we still can’t travel due to our lack of money and visas, which are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.
You can also say there’s corruption among the country’s high command. We know that this isn’t a lie; in fact the Cuban president himself has called for heavy-handed combat against it. She can write and talk about these things and many other truths that hurt us to recognize but from which we can’t hide. I can even applaud her for that.
That said, what I’ll never understand is that — along with those truths — she alleges that the economic blockade imposed by the United States against our country is only a justification for the poor practices of our leaders, though there’s no one in Cuba who hasn’t suffered its effects. Likewise, I’ll never agree with her that the “Cuban Five” are terrorist spies who deserve the sentences they were given.
Nor do I understand her meeting with the most radical right-wing groups in Miami, the same ones that have financed and carried out terrorist attacks and invasions against our country. For that and other reasons — no matter how much I concur with some of Yoanni’s demands — I’ll never agree with her …never.
*Las Razones de Cuba (Cuba’s Reasons), a Cuban government TV program and website that chronicles threats to the country and identifies “ independent journalists” who are deemed enemies of the state.