When Blogging Is Dangerous.

I am, admittedly, rather new at this whole blogging thing. But so far I’ve found it to be a relatively stress-free experience, all things considered. I’m not violating any laws by posting entries. So far, I’ve experienced little (if any) harassment from the US government. I spend a lot of time in my pajamas.

It’s worth remembering, though, that there are places in the world where what I’m doing is considered subversive and dangerous, and the people who blog from those places are often putting themselves at great risk by doing so. One of these people is Yoani Sánchez, who runs a blog called Generacíon Y from inside Cuba.

There was quite a bit of noise made about Generación Y awhile back, but it appears to have died down somewhat, despite Sánchez’s recent selection as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People for 2008. In any case, she certainly hasn’t slowed down any, and her output is impressive - especially considering that since blogging services are banned in Cuba, she has to email her blog posts of friends in the United States, who then post them for her.

Over the past couple of months, Sánchez has been trying to organize a sort of Cuban blogger symposium - a meeting, as it were, of the dozen or so known bloggers from inside Cuba. Her efforts have not endeared her to the government - she was summoned to appear at the local police station, where she and her husband were roundly shouted at and abused for daring to think of such a meeting:

The meeting is brief and the tone energetic. There are three of us in the office and the one who raises his voice in song has been introduced as Agent Roque. To my side another, younger one, watches me and says his name is Camilo. Both tell me they are from the Interior Ministry. They are not interested in listening, there is a written script on the table, and nothing I do will distract them. They are intimidation professionals… Roque stopped talking–nearly shouting–and I asked if he would give me all this in writing. Being a blogger who displays her name and her face has made me believe that everyone is willing to attach their identity to what they say. The man lost the rhythm of the script–he didn’t expect my librarian’s mania to keep papers. He stopped reading what had been written and shouted at me even louder that, “They are not obliged to give me anything.”

In the end, though, she went ahead and had the symposium anyway, and the first thing the bloggers did was read Andrew Sullivan’s excellent essay, “Why I Blog”, which is well worth the time it will take you to read through it. (Look closely at the picture of Sánchez and you can see, faded out but distinct, Sullivan in the background on the projector screen.)

It’s pretty easy to dismiss blogging as being a superficial medium. It has a funny name and a lot more quantity than quality. But put in the hands of someone like Sánchez and suddenly blogging doesn’t seem silly at all. There is no other medium that would allow Sánchez to deliver her dispatches-from-the-front, not with such regularity and to so many people. Much of what we know about what’s happening inside Cuba - really inside Cuba, in the hearts and minds of its citizens - comes from people like her, who are willing to risk everything to get their writing out. It’s inspiring stuff.

(Incidentally, I’ve been linking to the English-language version of Generación Y, but if you’re fluent, the writing is really much more beautiful in the original.)