This past Sunday at a little past noon the ticker at the bottom of our Pinar del Rio sidebar rolled past the 5,000,000th visitor mark. That is 5,000,000 individual visits to Babalú Blog by readers since its inception almost seven years ago. In addition, those 5-million visitors have viewed almost 8-million pages during the same time period. It was not by design that no celebrations or pomp and circumstance accompanied this milestone, but more of the fact that every time Babalú reaches one of these momentous milestones, it takes all of us here by surprise.
It is hard to believe that Val started this blog back in 2003 with a short post on the evening of June 28. With a simple post asking “Como Estas,” he began a legacy that he never could have imagined at that time would last this long or come this far. By creating this “island on the net without a bearded dictator,” Val gave us — the English speaking Cuban Diaspora all over the world — a place on the internet for us to congregate and share our Cuban experiences, all while Tía Amanda’s unforgettable eyes gazed upon us.
5,000,000 visits and almost eight years later, Babalú continues to be the meeting place for exiled Cubans as well as those who share our pain and desire to see a free Cuba. We have broken news on Cuba and documented the plight of Cubans on and off the island who risk their lives every day to end the tyranny that has plagued our island for more than a half-century. Babalú has caught the attention of many throughout the world, including newspapers, magazines, politicians, and even presidents. We have been lauded and maligned, praised and reviled, called significant and unimportant, but regardless of what they say, we have always tried to remain true to the notion of freedom and liberty that conceived Babalú.
It is important to note, however, that the success of Babalú has not come from its founder or its contributors but from the faithful readers who have stayed with us for so many years. They are the Babalú family, and it is they who make Babalú Blog what it is today. It is the many members of this family who deserve the accolades for this momentous milestone.
Much laughter and many tears have been shared here since that Thursday evening in June of 2003, and Babalú’s look has been updated several times since then. But thanks to our Babalú family its purpose has remained the same; to provide an island on the net without a bearded dictator.
On behalf of all of us here at Babalú, we thank you, our Babalú family, for our shared success.
Update (Val): I could not have put it any better. I do want to add, however, that were it not for the invaluable dedication and work put into Babalú by our contributors and editors – and by Alberto, especially – this blog would not enjoy the successes it has had, nor would we have the incredible family of readers and supporters that we do.
One day many years from now, when I’m an old man looking back at his life with winsome and nostalgia, everything that Babalú has become will be my most loved and treasured achievement. Thank you, friends, for being forever a part of my life.
Update (Pitbull): It is a fortunate circumstance in life to find oneself in the right place at the right time. One of those times was a fortuitous meeting at UM with Val’s niece Amanda. In our conversations I told her I had a blog and she mentioned that her uncle Val had a blog, too. BabaluBlog, she said, and I knew it from my occasional perusals. That single conversation led me to a lunch meeting with El Machete (at a long gone lamented little Cuban place on Eighth and 57th) and, as the saying goes, that was that. Val invited me to be a contributing writer on this blog, and I haven’t looked back. My contributions on the front-end are infrequent, but I’m active behind-the-scenes with lots of good stuff.
Babalu, the “island on the net without a bearded dictator,” is an oasis in the desert of lies we hear on a daily basis about the island of my birth. We speak the TRUTH — with a capital “T” — about Cuba, politics, conservatism, and all else that affects our world; and we are richer today, in so many ways, thanks to that one little decision Val made almost eight years ago to start broadcasting it. Five million is a milestone, no doubt; but the actual number of people we have touched is much greater and so much more gratifying to all of us. Thanks, brother, for making it all possible.