In New York, as in Cuba, Yoani Sánchez speaks her mind
NEW YORK — I only knew Yoani Sánchez through her written words.
For six years, I followed her daring reports from inside Cuba, marveled at her groundbreaking exploits on the Internet from the safe distance of my home in Miami, wrote about her — once holding my breath while she sat in a jail cell, hoping my own words would echo and help free her — and now, here she was, sitting across from me at a late-night soiree at a friend’s apartment in Manhattan.
At the dining room table between us, a buffet spread of sandwiches, antipasti and dips had been served. The conversation about family and country in the company of a small group of Cuban Americans and Columbia University faculty flowed like the wine with which we toasted her, mine a Spanish albariño, hers a Chilean reserve red.
The moment was surreal, precious, as unique as this blogger/activist/independent journalist/dissident who has managed to focus — or force, one might say — the world’s attention on the lack of basic freedoms in Cuba. If her popular Generation Y blog, her frequent and fertile tweets and her translated columns are powerful, she’s just as impressive in person, tackling questions from journalists, students and the steady stream of pro-Cuban government characters that appear out of nowhere and disrupt her talks.
“The true thing is that I am here — and I will return” to Cuba,” she said Friday at New York University. “Am I afraid? Yes, I am very afraid.”
She said she’s aware that she is risking her life and expects “a flogging” when she returns to Cuba, but added she hopes the international community will protect her.
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