Aversion at First Sight

Rosa Martinez

El Morro. Santiago de Cuba

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.”

Yoani Sanchez, from her blog Generation Y.
Yoani Sanchez, from her blog Generation Y.

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.
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*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.


14 thoughts on “Aversion at First Sight

  • April 11, 2013 at 7:41 pm
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    Well, goddammit, Griffin, I can’t disagree with most of your characterization. It would be impossible to foist the state-monopoly stupidity onto society without a totalitarian regime that “cannot abide criticism.”

    But this does not mean that the Marxist dupes/zealots cannot grope their way out of cult blindness, and come to see what authentic socialism really would be.

    In spite of what you say, authentic socialism is humanity’s only hope.

  • April 10, 2013 at 9:36 am
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    If Yoani used her time in the US to find out what’s going on here, it would serve her well. If I were in her shoes (I wouldn’t be because I never would have accepted an award from right-wingers), I would ask the right-wingers me what their opinions are about the wars that the US is engaged in. I would ask them what they are doing to further civil rights for African Americans and the poor in general and new immigrants who are called illegal. When she gets back to Cuba, I encourage Cubans to meet with her and ask her why she didn’t ask these questions of those who gave her an award.

  • April 10, 2013 at 8:17 am
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    You got it right to the point. Thats exactly why no one who might have a critical approach to many things in Cuba but still feels very solidarian with the country can stick to her nor to her selfsufficient ego-trip and grin. But especiacially by being shown with Lehtinen and Diaz, talking about the Batista era, that there was more freedom, showed whats really in and behind her. Even if one could given her credit for good will, ther she disqualified herself forever. She showed definitely ( and thanks heaven) what she is: a well payed Trjan Horse, and nothing more. Many young Cubans do not agree with many things in Cuba ( like all over the world people hardly agree with their governments), but to me she is simply a shame to all these cubans, working under most difficult circumstances, that this priveleged lady on top of it treats everybody as an idiot, bootlickers of Castro etc. and above all makes people all throughout the world believe, that the Cuban governement were just a bunch of crooks and idiots, although they should be supported with there struggle for reforms and more opening.. Never one word about why Cuba is in such a difficult economical position now ( and people who leave Cuba don`t do it so much because of the lack of political freedom, but for economical reasons). Privelegedly furnished with visas, an ordinary Cuban can just dream of, she spits on everybody. Intelligent, good looking like an innocent Joan of Arc herself, image of the poor helpless woman , but brave and couragious. Thats her marketing image, which, perhaps was developped by american designers anyways. Truth mixted with halftruth and obvious lies thats her recipee, narrating stories as if she just had escaped hell. A very clever mixture. Gathering all the ferrioce anti-socialists around her. That`s her ojective roll: being ultrareaccionary. An not being a usefull idiot of the ultr-right-wingers, no, doing it consciously for quite a good salary. Just one valuation of mine on her: La Virgen de los Dolarios. Y nada mas.

  • April 9, 2013 at 7:57 am
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    Goodness gracious, you really are a resentful fellow, Grady!

    Generation Y refers to the generation of Cubans who were born in the first two decades of the Revolution. In optimism, many of their parents modified traditional Cuban names, such as Joani and adopted the more Russian looking spelling with a Y. It was considered modern and progressive thing to do, a fashion of the times. Subsequent events, such as the economic collapse of the Special Period, left this generation disillusioned of the promises of the revolution.

    It is curious how in one comment you boast you have never read her blog, and in another sentence you denounce her opinions based upon..what? Her appearance? The diatribes against her by the Castro regime agents? Your own projections?

  • April 9, 2013 at 7:50 am
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    The explanation is very simple. Cuba is a totalitarian Marxist military dictatorship. They cannot abide criticism. They hate anybody expressing their own opinions. They fear intellectual freedom.

  • April 8, 2013 at 10:53 pm
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    Well said, Michael. Well said.

  • April 8, 2013 at 10:52 pm
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    I cannot explain why the state monopoly geniuses of the PCC would make this woman prominent by their absolutist actions.

  • April 8, 2013 at 10:40 pm
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    “Hence, Generation Y,” my back-side. It’s a stupid, airhead idea, and says volumes about her character and personality.

    Regarding her “appearance,” I was not reacting to her exterior, but to what comes through from her inside.

    As for my own appearance, for what comes through from my insides, I make no apology.

  • April 8, 2013 at 3:10 pm
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    Your problem, once again, is that for all of your professed good intentions, you don’t have the facts so you sound ignorant. You should save your nickels and spend a month or two in Cuba. You will meet all kinds of people within 35-45 years of age whose names begin with the letter “y”. Hence, Generation Y. BTW, how is it ever appropriate to judge someone by their looks? Remember, we know what you look like too. Nobody mistakes you for Brad Pitt, I’m sure.

  • April 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm
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    How about simply supporting Yoani because she speaks her mind? Simply doing that in a country which punishes independent thinking is worthy of praise. You don’t have to agree with her but you should acknowledge her bravery.

  • April 8, 2013 at 10:01 am
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    Yoani explains the choice of the name for her blog:

    “Generation Y is a Blog inspired by people like me, with names that start with or contain a “Y”. Born in Cuba in the ’70s and ’80s, marked by schools in the countryside, Russian cartoons, illegal emigration and frustration. So I invite, especially, Yanisleidi, Yoandri, Yusimí, Yuniesky and others who carry their “Y’s” to read me and to write to me.”

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised you don’t want to read her blog. You might learn something you don’t want to know. If you did read her blog, you would know for example, that she is not “a fan of the brutal imperialist US gov’t”. You would know that is only a slogan trotted out by the Castro dictatorship to try to discredit any opposition. In the essays on her blog, she does not always write about problems with the system. The complaints about the Cuban government, when she does write bout them, are quite mild and always indirect. Cuba has many more outspoken critics than Yoani Sanchez.

    You would also know that Yoani is a writer, not a politician. The government fears her (and they do, as witnessed by their propaganda campaign against her) because she thinks for herself, a condition that is unacceptable in the Cuba of the Castro brothers, and an unsettling presence for many.

  • April 8, 2013 at 8:05 am
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    Thank you Rosa for your article. It is kind of brave to openly admit gut feelings of distrust and dislike. Gut feelings are very underrated in the world of argumentation, as imagination is in academia; yet, we cannot just remove them or pretend we don’t experience them. They actually are cognition tools. Yet, they are not the ultimate cognition tools, one has to learn to go beyond them in an exercise of critical reasoning. You have tried to do so, but only so superficially. Maybe my own superficiality judging Yoanis will help you understand yours.
    I have to admit that I too felt first-sight aversion towards Yoanis, but I have hardly managed to find out why. Here are some of the reasons I have managed to make out, though I am far from being satisfied with them:
    1- I have the feeling she knew exactly what her political discourse was going to be like; yet he sold us a generational blogg associated to that crap of the Y names, as if saying “this is not political, who am I to get mixed in politics, I am just a young woman responding to a generational drive and the content in this blog will be as intuitive, diverse and personal as the drive itself”. (Really?!)
    2- Every single one of her posts is clearly aimed at one thing: criticizing the CUban government and painting the saddest image possible of Cuban reality. And while I think that thousands of pages could be penned just doing that, and quite righteously, I mistrust any unilateral discourse, that is, a discourse failing to acknowledge nuances and contradictions. For me, most of what is published by Cuban dissidents is like the Granma newspaper and the official tv newsreel: you know exactly what the tone and the bias will be and what is going to be absent from it: nuances and contradictions.There are only Indians and cowboys, good and bad, black and white. And Yoanis has hardly deviated from this norm.
    3- The corny melodramatist tone and bias of some of her posts. There is one where the watery blood dripping from the nylon bag where a man carried the melting bit of pseudo-beef mince he is given through the ration card seems to summarize what life in CUba is like, and there is another where she sympathises with the poor old people that could no longer live on selling ration card-provided cigarettes because a government disposition removed them from the list of basic products and they were not longer subsidised by the government,thus the old people no longer had cheap access to them for resale. she never admitted that campaigning against smoking and subsidising cigarettes was nonsensical and the disposition fixed it. The food is a huge problem in Cuba, yes; senior citizens are amongst the most vulnerable people in Cuba (and everywhere else in the world!), yes. We need to expose these problems…absolutely, but not in a blog, in three short, metaphor-ridden paragraphs. I don’t buy the justification that this is a blog and it has to be to the point and short ,you can be all that and strive to be objective and try to reduce the half-truth element.
    4- Finally, I agree that there is double standard in a self-proclaimed pacifist, justice lover and human right advocate who claims to care about her country and people who shakes hands so enthusiastically with United States agencies and with the Cuban-American extreme right.

    However, I don’t feel I have gone well beyond the gut feeling yet and all the above points can be contested rather easily: what is so wrong with changing the blog’s profile, with becoming more radical and political?; what is so wrong, after 5 decades of State monopoly of the truth about whining and complaining if there is actually so much to whine about?, and what do we recommend dissidents living in Cuba should do: pursue martyrdom remain jobless, computerless, penniless, repressed, unknown, invisible to the world and therefore unprotected? And how are they going to foster their cause, who is going to help them, the non-conformist left in Europe and the States, the libertarian socialists who don’t have a penny themselves and would never move a finger against their, no matter what, beloved Cuba?…COME ON!
    It is too easy to judge Yoanis for those of us who avoid LA CANDELA while in the country, we would be morally able to do so only when we dare to get closer to the fire ourselves and feel how our safe bubbles go to hell and we are faced with the need to literally reinvent ourselves. Would we be so infallible then, would we be political saints?, Are we going to become that person others feel aversion for and don’t even bother to ask themselves why?

  • April 7, 2013 at 11:31 pm
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    Good article, Rosa. Thanks.

    I’m a non-Marxist socialist living in the US, and I’ve had the same sort of subjective disinterest in trying to find her blog, much less to read it.

    First, who the hell would make a blog for “generation y,”–people with names beginning in “y”–and call these people a “generation,” based on an initial? Smells of shallowness and personal ego, maybe even lack of intelligence.

    We shouldn’t judge a person by looks, but somehow her picture makes me think of soap, or lard. Somehow, she is just someone I would not like to know.

    But the things which really turn me off about her is that she, apparently, is a fan of the brutal imperialist US gov’t, and calls the Cuban 5 patriots “terrorist spies who deserve the sentences they were given.” Ugg!

  • April 7, 2013 at 9:24 pm
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    Exactly how I feel, Rosa. At least the Cuban Government is now shrewd enough to quit harassing Yoani. With enough rope, she will hang herself. For the govenment to block her blog, and other blogs like hers, is foolish; via flash drives these blogs invariably get through, anyway. In the end, like FOX NEWS up here in Yumaland, they cater to their own angry, embittered, and minority, constituency. Let them rage away. If you suffer from low blood pressure, these blogs can often raise it; on the other hand, if you suffer from high blood pressure, best to avoid reading them, otherwise you might have a stroke (although from time to time I visit reactionary blogs and sites for a good laugh). In the meantime, I would hope that most folks would find their way to those blogs which, while critical, address the problems of the Revolution in more positive ways, offering solutions, rather than venom.

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