Fabiola Santiago: Dissidents choosing to act like free people
NEW YORK — The first time I “met” Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo — aka @OLPL — on that infinite and unpredictable public square that is the Internet, he was tweeting from Havana.
It was a night in December 2011 and a flotilla from Miami’s Movimiento Democracia had sailed to international waters off Havana and staged a fireworks display to show solidarity with dissidents being beaten up and arrested.
When I signed on to Twitter, Cuban bloggers began to pop up in the feed.
“You can see the fireworks!” independent journalist Reinaldo Escobar tweeted in Spanish.
“Ball of light on the horizon! And it’s not the moon!” tweeted Escobar’s wife, blogger Yoani Sánchez, not as famous then as she is now.
I was incredulous. From what I thought I knew about Cuba, this breaking-news reporting, American-style via Twitter, wasn’t exactly possible for people whose access to the Internet was prohibited, or in the best circumstances, limited and under surveillance.
Then, as if he were reading my skeptical mind, entered @OLPL to the tweeting fray — posting an image of the ball of light over Havana rooftops that Sánchez had described. Equally interesting as the spot news photo was Pardo’s Twitter image, the portrait of a man with hippie-styled long curls, topless, the Cuban flag draped off a shoulder.
Who was this university graduate in biochemistry who left science for literature, tweets in English, penned heartfelt blog entries in poetic Spanish, asked/begged that followers recharge his cellphone account?
At first simply a free-spirited soul who threw out enigmatic phrases almost impossible to decipher, I came to know Pardo as a prolific communicator so adept at outwitting his censors that he could confuse friends, too.
I’ve been following Pardo — seeing the world through this provocateur’s eyes — and last week, I met him while he and Sánchez starred in the conference The Revolution Recodified: Digital Culture and the Public Sphere in Cuba at The New School and New York University.
And now I know what his American host, professor Ted Henken of Baruch College, meant when he posted on his blog, El Yuma: “ Preparense-here-comes-orlando-aka-olpl.”
Get ready … Pardo turns everything you might think you know upside down.
Continue reading HERE.