I need your help here

In my usual insomnia style, I haven’t been able to sleep. Just woke up at 3 am and bum! Wandered around cyber space doing a little of everything. Reading all the LATISM posts I have missed with my crazy schedule last week. In case you also missed them, you must read @JuanofWords post on “El Día E“, where a group of blogueras and blogueros got together to celebrate their favorite Spanish word. Really fun and worth watching each one of them, who did a great job.  Spanish has been in our mind lately way more than you all think. LATISM’11 will be the first social media conference to be fully bilingual. But that’s not it for LATISM. Stay tuned for a huge surprise next Sunday. Wepa!

Today’s post however will be a serious call for help. I need help from the blogosphere to bring Yoani Sanchez to BlogHer’11. Let me give you the background: About 6 months ago, Elisa Camahort from BlogHer asked me to join the committee that selected the recipient of the International BlogHer Activist Award. I was honored by the invitation and accepted without a doubt. It was a great opportunity to explore the blogosphere in the world, the bloggers who passionately support a cause and move masses.
I was inspired to find so many women out there making a difference through their blogs. I was thrilled when I learned that my fellow committee members agreed to grant the award to Yoani Sanches from Generacion Y. For those of you who don’t know Yoani, she’s a Cuban Blogger who has literally shaped cyber-journalism. Yoani has received prestigious awards such as Premios Ortega y Gasette in 2008, New York Times Top 25 blogs in 2009, Premio Principe Claud in 2010. Even this year, Yoani received the International Women of Courage Award from the U.S. Department of State.

I called Yoanni with excitement to give her the news.  This joy ended after a few seconds, when I learned that Yoani had been denied the “permission to travel” 15 TIMES.  My initial reaction was: “¿Qué, qué? How can they deny you a visa when you’re invited by Hillary Clinton? If the Secretary of State didn’t make it happen, then BlogHer will be a mosquito for the U.S. Embassy.”

Yoani explained that the denial didn’t come from the U.S. Consulate.  It actually came from the Cuban Department of Interiors.  Again: “Qué qué? I don’t get it.  Why would a country hold the right to do something like this? In 2011, in the American Continent? Are we living in the same world?”

Mixed feelings have been tormenting me lately.  I was raised an idealist.  This is the reason (still) why I’m always in trouble.  I think I

know every single song of Pablo Milanes, Silvio Rodriguez, Mercedez Sosa and many other idealists out there.  I also had the privilege to work with Mother Teresa during my college years (I’ll write a whole series of posts about that experience).  They shaped who I am today.

Feelings of confusion, disappointment, anger, curiosity, skepticism and much more have been caressing my revolutionary heart these days.

Of course I’ve gone deeper into this issue.  I’ve had several conversations with Yoani.  I’ve also inquired about the process and how a “permission” can be granted.  ”Yoani has criminal records!”, was the first answer I received.  However, her criminal record consists in her courageous blog,  her daring tweets and her public meetings where she records the Razones Ciudadanasvideos.  There has never been a formal process against her, Yoani has never been sentenced.  So why is Yoani considered and treated as a criminal?  What is a “delito contra la revolución”? (crime against the revolution). Which revolution? Are we talking about the past or the near future?

I NEED HELP:

To understand – from my fellow revolucionarios who confronted our wounded parents and dared to admit that we agreed with the Cuban revolution. This was despite of the chancletasos (beatings) we often got for been so malcriados (rebellious).  I don’t want to stop believing that el pueblo really wanted this back then.  I also want to see the transition to the new needs of el pueblo.  Ideally, in a civil and peaceful manner.

To grant permission: from Raul Castro, who is starting to open up many doors in Cuba.  Leading the country through a peaceful transition.  I know it’s not going to be easy.  Please understand that you have a group here that will mediate between our angry parents and your angry activists.  We believe that the solution is in the middle. Allowing Yoani to come to receive a blogging award at BlogHer will be a gentle sign of collaboration and openness to us, el pueblo.  We’re not a government, we’re not necessarily involved in any political parties (I know I’m not), we’re simply – The People.

To support: from my fellow bloggers who know what it means to have the freedom to write whatever we want on our blogs.  Those who can imagine what it means to feel prosecuted and judged by our words (in our own ways, we have all been there). Those who know how much it hurts when our own words are misinterpreted, manipulated and used against us.

If  you have ever experienced the magic of a BlogHer, our own LATISM conferences or any other Social Media conference, and felt the power of the blogosphere, please help me bring Yoani to BlogHer.  She deserves to have that experience.  She has everything at this point (a visa, a plane ticket, hotel, a huge community that loves/welcomes her).  All she needs now is for Cuba to grant her permission to leave the country for one week.  You can help by asking the Cuban Department of Interiors to let Yoani come.  Let’s blog and tweet using the #YoaniBlogHer hashtag.

To wake up: from the International Community.  If this is happening in Cuba and any other country, it is time for the United Nations and all member countries to wake up and say something about it.  This is against basic human rights.  We must have the freedom of expression and movement.  A violation to those rights is clearly a set-back to the efforts of civil rights.

To speak up: from all Latinos in Social Media (#LATISM).  Regardless of your position with the Cuban revolution.  I know it’s a very touchy topic.  But if you agree that Yoani should be allowed to come to BlogHer’11, please speak up on Twitter and your blogs.  I also know that Yoani has a very defined point of view and you might or might not agree with her.  Would you like to be punished for expressing your opinion? Would you like to be rejected by those who disagree with you?

Supporting Yoani means supporting your voice. Empowering Yoani means empowering your voice. And bringing Yoani means welcoming a fellow bloguera to our LATISM casita. A family that embraces ALL regardless of creed, sex, affiliation or political position.

To Pray: It’s the last but my most powerful resource.  Let’s pray that this week, the hearts of the decision makers will soften; that they see the importance of joining the conversation.  Let’s pray that not only they send Yoani to BlogHer’11, but they also send other bloggers from Cuba to the different conferences to build their technical capacity and to represent every color of the Cuban blogosphere.

“Sólo le pido a Dios, que la tierra no me sea indiferente”.- Mechi Sosa

ps: My favorite Spanish word is: GRACIAS

Gracias today to my father who also made me the idealist I am today. Despite of the fact that I only enjoyed him for the first 6 years of my life before his tragic death. This revolucionario taught me to fear nothing in life.  Gracias Papi!


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