Attention all you folks who think of yourselves as counterculture types who demonstrate your rebelliousness by wearing Che Guevara T-shirts. The author of the most popular blog from Cuba, Yoani Sanchez who not only talks the talk but walks the walk, thinks you are absurd. The Generation Y blogger was the subject of a Miami Herald story on Saturday. We will get to her marvelous quote on the subject of Che T-shirts below the fold but first some fascinating information on the person who provides an inside look at what is really happening in Cuba which is often missed by news agencies on that island:
Yoani Sánchez, the blogger who has gained an international following detailing the absurdities of daily life in Cuba, is on the phone from her 14th-floor apartment in Havana, where the elevators rarely work. She speaks plainly, boldly, with none of the hemming and hawing common among folks on the island who fear their phones are tapped.
Sánchez is certain hers is. She is constantly followed, too. None of this stops her from finding ways, despite government attempts to block her, of continuing to post to Generación Y, the blog she launched in April 2007 and for which she has won several awards. Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2008.
...With her skinny frame and dark hair, she looks a tad like Olive Oyl. But that's where the comparison to Popeye's weak-kneed girlfriend ends. Sánchez is a much tougher figure, a tech-savvy representative of a growing youth-oriented Cuban counterculture who tells it like it is -- about having to feed her family rice with bouillon cubes when there is nothing else, about the surging number of women on the island who deny their realities by popping black-market Valium, about the cops who are assigned to tail her.
...Sánchez may be the best-known blogger in Cuba, but she is part of a multiplying roster of critics who have joined what she calls ``the virtual raft.' In fact, she has inspired several to turn to Web-based journalism and activism and offers training on how to keep a blog and circumvent the Cuban laws that keep most of the populace unplugged.
Although Raúl Castro decriminalized ownership of computers, cellphones and other technological gadgets in 2008, only professionals, academics and officials are allowed to surf the Web, and they are monitored. Some islanders are hooked up through black-market accounts, but the general population is allowed only to send and receive e-mails from public spots.
Sánchez and other bloggers go to cyber cafes and hotel access points meant mostly for tourists, where an hour of connectivity costs about $8, out of reach for the average Cuban with a monthly salary of $15 to $20. (Sanchez and her husband, independent journalist Reinaldo Escobar, make ends meet by working as private tour guides and translators).
Okay, now for the Yoani Sanchez money quote for you counterculture "rebels" and hip types such as the "Che Spotting" girls who think it is so cool and non-conformist to wear Che Guevara T-shirts:
"I am part of the counterculture, and the counterculture is growing, but it is very diverse. Maybe one thing we all have in common is that we don't wear Che T-shirts, like foreign kids who consider themselves counterculture do,'' she says. ``In Cuba, Che represents the government. In Cuba, only tourists and members of the Young Communist League wear Che shirts.''
Got that? The true counterculture rebels in Cuba shun the Che Guevara T-shirts that the wannabees in the West seem so fond of wearing.