Yoani Sánchez: “Generación Y” | Talks at Google


MARY GROVE: Good afternoon. How Is everyone today? AUDIENCE: Great. MARY GROVE: Great. My name is Mary Grove,
and I’m the Director of Google for Entrepreneurs. And we thank you
for joining us today for our special
fireside conversation. It is my pleasure to
introduce and welcome to Google Yoani Sanchez. Yoani is a Cuban
blogger and activist who has become a symbol
of global free expression. She was born in Havana,
Cuba, and studied in Cuba during the years when the
Soviet Union was supporting the island and its communist
revolution with tangible aid. And this also coincided with
the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of subsidies
that then comprised 80% of Cuba’s
international trade. Yoani has received
international acclaim for her critical
portrayal of life in Cuba under its
current government. She is best known for her
blog, “Generation Y,” which is translated into 17 languages. And she boasts over half a
million followers on Twitter. “Time Magazine” named Yoani
one of the world’s 100 most influential people,
and President Barack Obama has applauded her
efforts to empower fellow Cubans to
express themselves through the use of technology. She has traveled throughout
South America and Europe and has lived in
Switzerland as well. Yoani has done
incredible work to break through the barriers of
access and get information out of Cuba and into the
global conversation. Last week, Yoani spoke at
the Google Ideas summit in New York City. And we are proud to welcome
her to the Google headquarters today. And just to set a little
bit of context for everybody today, thinking about technology
and access and free expression, Cuba’s population is 11
million people, and only 2% of the country has
internet access. Yoani’s ability to share
information from Cuba with the rest of the
world is remarkable, and it is all made possible
because of technology. She is what we call a blind
blogger or a blind tweeter, relying on SMS technology
to text information out and relying on her network
of citizens, what we call her citizen network
around the world, to post. And so she can’t see the
responses, the comments, the conversation that’s
happening in both directions. And it’s pretty
remarkable and incredible. And we’re delighted
to have her with us. Please join me in
welcoming Yoani Sanchez. [APPLAUSE] YOANI SANCHEZ: Thank you. Thank you, thank you. MARY GROVE: I also want to
welcome and thank Natalia from Roots of Hope for
being our translator today. So Yoani, welcome to Google. It’s an honor to
have you with us. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I feel that today,
I am realizing many dreams. I don’t want to pinch
myself in case I wake up. MARY GROVE: Tell us about your
experience growing up in Cuba. What were your high school
and university years like? TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING SPANISH] YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: In
reality, my profession has absolutely nothing
to do with technology. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: In some corner
of my house that I now cannot remember, there
is a certificate, a diploma that says
that I’m a philologist, studied Spanish
language and literature. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: But in reality,
from a very young age, I was interested in all that
that had circuits and cables, and I was very intrigued
by house appliances and housewares. MARY GROVE: So you have always
loved technology, as you said. And it’s my understanding that
you built your first computer in 1994 and called
it Frankenstein. Can you tell us about
how you created that and how you sourced the
parts for Frankenstein? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: In 1994, I put
together my first computer. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: At
that time in Cuba, almost no one had even
heard of what a computer was and definitely had not seen one. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: But since
we are a country with a very robust illegal
market, a black market– YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I began to purchase
and exchange parts and pieces to make my first Frankenstein. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I
remember that I had a machine for
depilating legs that used to be pretty painful that I
traded in for a microprocessor. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The model was a 286. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Again, I don’t
know if I know this one. MS2– YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] MARY GROVE: DOS,
like version 1.0. TRANSLATOR: Yeah,
DOS version 1.0. It’s just hearing it in Spanish. Sorry. MARY GROVE: You have always
been such an entrepreneur, and it’s an honor to have
you here at Google today. Our mission as a company is
to organize all the world’s information and to
make it universally accessible and useful. And we think a lot about
this piece called access. Talk to us about the current
state of access in Cuba. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: We Cubans live
in an island of disconnect. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And it’s
not really a metaphor. It is that because we are
the country with the lowest internet penetration in
the Western hemisphere. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Official
figures say that around 15% of the population has access
to internet, but that’s false. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The reality
is that within that 15%, there are many people who only
have access to an intranet or to email. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: One
hour of connectivity in kind of a public
hotspot place costs $5 an hour
in a country where the average monthly salary
does not exceed $20. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: It is not possible
for an ordinary citizen to go somewhere and take out
a home internet connection or land line. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: You must
meet certain ideological prerequisites and be a
highly trustworthy person to even qualify for
internet access. Seen TRANSLATOR: Despite
all these restrictions, Cubans are very capable at
circumventing and finding ways around all that is
censured or prohibited. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: So the same
as there is a black market to purchase eggs,
beef, or milk, there is a black market for the
acquisition of information, audiovisual files, and so on. MARY GROVE: So let’s
talk about getting information, stories
from Cuba, out. How did you begin
blogging, and what was the real impetus for you? TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING SPANISH] YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I started
in April of 2007. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Several
years before that, I had started kind of a
collective communal project for the first ever
digital magazine in Cuba that was critical. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I had to learn in
a very autodidactic fashion to write in HTML. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And
at a certain time, I felt good about the
magazine, but I also wanted a space for
personal expression. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: As such, I created
a very bare bones HTML page, and I uploaded it
to the internet under the title “Generation Y.” YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I was
unaware that there were services such as Blogger,
WordPress, or Typepad. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And so
every time that I wanted to update my
blog, I would completely take down the page and
then upload a new page. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And really, it’s
a space for narrating reality. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The local
quotidian stories that the official
press does not mention. MARY GROVE: How were you
sourcing these stories? Who were they– how
were you getting them? TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING SPANISH] YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I only recount
that which I have lived. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I attempt to
have every story on my blog be very linked to something
that has personally happened or that is related to me. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I am neither
an analyst or an academic or a specialist in
anything, really. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And I don’t
like to view journalism as a researcher in a lab
coat, looking down at ants and recording their movements. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: My
kind of journalism is the journalism of the
ant inside the ant hill. MARY GROVE: Wonderful analogy. So you, it’s taken a tremendous
amount of courage and bravery to put these stories out there. I know you’ve received
numerous threats and been in danger
several times. Talk to us. What’s the scariest thing
that’s happened to you? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I have had very
difficult times and moments in the six years of
writing the blog. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I have also
had very beautiful ones. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: One of the
most complicated ones was my first arrest. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And it
is a story of pain, but it is also a story
about technology. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And the
importance that technology has in the protection
of Cuban activists. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: It was on
November 6 of 2009. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: With
several friends, we were going to participate in
an alternative peaceful protest against violence. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: So, as a tangent,
Cubans send Twitter, or tweet, using SMS messages
from their phones. So we were getting ready
to leave, one of my friends noticed some tension
in the surrounding area due to the protest. And so she said
that she was going to write a tweet in her drafts. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And so she
wrote, just in case, a message that she saved
in her drafts that said, we’ve been detained. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And I remember
thinking and saying that that augurs bad luck. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And sure
enough, on our way there, a police car pulled us
over and forced two of us into the backseat. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: They
turned me upside down, and there was a
very strong man that placed his knee on my chest. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And the car
started to move through Havana. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And at a certain
point, the driver of the car picked up a phone call, spoke
briefly, and turned to the man in the backseat. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And said,
don’t press her too much, because they already know. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: At
that moment, I felt that the little
blue bird of Twitter had come to save me because the
tweet that my friend had been able to send out had
gone and returned in the form of protection
via the virtual response that had come to her tweet. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: For
this reason as well, I am very passionate
about technology. MARY GROVE: Incredible. Really incredible. You are such a vital
voice representing so many generations of Cubans. What messages would
you like to share with our community
about the Cuban people? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The message that I
would like to transmit today, now that I’m here at the
Mecca of technology– YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: –is that we Cubans
would like to feel ourselves as citizens of the 21st century. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And not
only in the sense of freedom or self-expression,
but also in terms of access to technology. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Cubans have a
robust appetite for technology. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Sometimes, people
will be crammed into a car from the ’50s,
while falling apart and [? racketing ?] along
in Havana, and a cellphone will ring. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And when the
person takes out their phone from their pocket, it’s
a Samsung Galaxy S3. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Because Cubans
have such a desire to associate themselves as men and
women of the 21st century, they really thirst
for technology. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And as
such, please help us be citizens of
the 21st century. MARY GROVE: You could trade that
Samsung for the Frankenstein parts. So here within the room,
we have many, many Googlers who are passionate
about learning how they can help and be a
part of the journey forward. So what would you like
to see from Google, or how can people in this room
who are interested in getting involved? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I would say
there are many ways to help. One important
thing to realize is that the official
narrative in Cuba has many avenues
for dissemination and for propaganda,
but the voices of dissent and opposition
and free thinkers in Cuba have very few and limited
avenues for dissemination. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And so
it would be very helpful to assist
that small group that dares to opine differently
in amplifying their voices. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: We
need tools that are very specific to the
Cuban circumstances, which is difficult for other people
to understand because it is like time traveling back. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Any tool that
allows for the downloading and processing of
information offline or that allows– that interacts
with USB drives or flash drives, on or off information,
are transcendental in Cuba. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I would love to see
a mobile or portable version of Chrome. Not mobile, portable. MARY GROVE: So what are some
of your favorite products, technology and some products? TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING SPANISH] YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I am
very technological. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I love Apple. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I won’t show you the
collection of apps that I have because it’s too much. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: But I try to
concentrate all my effort usually in one gadget. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: It’s also
a matter of survival because if the
police come to raid, and I have a phone, a camera,
a laptop, a USB drive, there are more items for them
to take and more items for me to protect. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: As such, I
use smartphones a lot because they allow me to record,
write, take photos, and do a lot of other things. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I’m fascinated
with the Samsung Galaxy S3 with Android. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: But at the moment,
I have in my pocket an iPhone. So I’m very curious. You talk about this concept
of the citizen network and all of the global
community around you who was helping disseminate
this information. How have you built
that network over time? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Human
solidarity is infinite. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: My government
says that my blog has so much traction and following
because the CIA has built my blog and my persona. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: But in
reality, behind that is a much more powerful
force, friendship. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And
civic solidarity. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: It’s
really incredible what people are
willing to do or help with when your narrative
and your story touches them. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And
here’s an example is Mary Jo Porter, who is my
translator, the translator of my blog into
English, and also the person who organizes
a network of translators for other Cuban blogs. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And so
there are many examples. These earrings, which
have the logo of my blog, “Generation Y,” were made
for me by a reader from Peru. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And one day,
in Twitter via message, I explained that I had
a respiratory problem. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And
several weeks later, I heard a knock on my
door, and it was a girl from Barcelona who said,
Yoani, I brought you a machine for inhalating,
like an inhalation machine. MARY GROVE: Friends
all over the world. So I’d love to shift gears a
bit and think about the future. So you’re currently
working on a new project. Tell us about it. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I have
a motto in life that I was sharing earlier
today with Roberta Jacobson that is, I prefer to be
stressed rather than bored. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: As such, I always
like to have many projects. I believe that life is
about having projects. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: At
the moment, I have a project that is journalistic
and deals with information. And it is a collective project. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: It is a project
to create a digital newspaper from Cuba, which is
quite a challenge due to the lack of access. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] I TRANSLATOR: It is a place
for opinions and information, but also a sphere for
practicing democracy 2.0. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Where people
can exchange opinions about the dual currency
in Cuba or the death penalty, gay marriage. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: But also a newspaper
to read about technology. MARY GROVE: How is the digital
journalism landscape in Cuba shifting at all right now? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: After
the arrival of blogs and Twitter to the
national stage, independent journalism
has certainly changed, but even official journalism
has had to change. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: For
example, the government has realized that it can
no longer occult and hide certain events that
happen in reality. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: As such,
the official narrative has to broach subjects that
years ago it never would have. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: In addition,
independent journalism has also achieved
greater immediacy. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Before, if there had
been an arrest or other event, independent journalists had
to wait for calls from abroad to [INAUDIBLE] confirm that
something had happened. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Now, with a cell
phone in hand and no internet, any ordinary citizen
from anywhere in Cuba can send a piece of news out. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I will give
you a technological trick. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Whenever you are
in a place that lacks internet, whether because you’re in
a highly censored place, or a natural disaster
has occurred, or you simply
don’t have signal– YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: It’s good to
know that social networks such as Twitter allow for
publication on their medium through text message. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: It’s very easy. All you have to do is
take the service number, a particular service
number for Twitter, and send four commands. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Start, yes,
username, and password. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And
your phone number will then be linked
to Twitter, and you can tweet without internet. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I hope that
someday Google will also make such a tool for us. [LAUGHTER] MARY GROVE: There is,
actually, we do a lot of work in emerging markets,
focusing on how do we bring the next 4 billion online. And it’s all about mobile, using
SMS gateways, and absolutely. We launched a tool called Google
Trader across Africa, which is allowing transaction
of prices and currencies, or that sharing of
information via mobile. So absolutely, I think
that’s very, very much a huge part of the future. And so I want to
shift gears to talk a little bit about
entrepreneurship. And in my work with
Google for entrepreneurs, our mission is to empower the
next generation of startups. We work with entrepreneurs
in over 125 countries. What advice do you have for
aspiring entrepreneurs looking to break through? We have this notion that
constrained resources breeds a lot of creativity. What’s your advice
for entrepreneurs looking to get started? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Just a few days ago,
when I spoke at Google Ideas, I said that creativity is having
the possibility of opening a window when the
door is closed. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And creativity
is also necessity’s daughter. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The hardest thing
is to keep up and maintain your creativity when you
have all resources available and all possibilities open. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: But that
shouldn’t be contradictory. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And so a good
piece of advice is to, for one second, place yourself
in the skin of someone who has very little. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: So place
yourself in the skin of a citizen in a country that
lacks internet, that does not have access to Paypal, that
has never been able to purchase a flight ticket
via the internet. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Place
yourself in the shoes of a person who has never been
able to see online a YouTube video. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Or
such as is my case, often, I can’t even see how many
followers I have on Twitter. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I
would say that that would be a good exercise
to engender creativity. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And also, to
remember that anything that is created here or
elsewhere, often in roundabout and small
ways, reaches us in Cuba. MARY GROVE: I’d like
to do a brief thing we think of as free
word association. So I’m going to say
one word and ask you to say the first word
that comes to your mind. TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING SPANISH] MARY GROVE: OK? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: She likes that. MARY GROVE: Internet. TRANSLATOR: Internet. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] AUDIENCE: Friendship. TRANSLATOR: Friendship. MARY GROVE: Technology. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Freedom. MARY GROVE: Courage. TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING SPANISH] YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Trembling. MARY GROVE: Family. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Column, pillar. MARY GROVE: Hope. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH]. TRANSLATOR: Future. MARY GROVE: Mobile phones. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Addiction. [LAUGHTER] YOANI SANCHEZ: My
husband, he’s here. He knows. TRANSLATOR: My husband is here. He knows. MARY GROVE: My last word
for you is meat stew. TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING SPANISH] YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Meat stew
without meat and internet without internet. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Creativity. MARY GROVE: Before we
open up for questions, please join me in a
warm round of applause. YOANI SANCHEZ: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much, thank you. [APPLAUSE] MARY GROVE: Nowhere is there a
better example of this notion that constraint breeds
tremendous creativity, and you are just a living
testament to all that is possible, and
we really thank you for taking the time to
share your insights with us. And I know a lot
of my colleagues likely have questions. If you could just
speak loudly, and I’ll repeat it for the benefit of
those on video conference. Do you have hopes for Cuba? TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING SPANISH] YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I have many. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Cuba is
precisely a country with a lot of future potential. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Although at
this particular time, we have a scenario
of economic collapse and a lack of freedoms. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Cuba has an
incredible human capital. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: In fact, here in
Google, there work many Cubans. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: In fact,
professional academic levels are very high. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And people
are more and more thirsting for political
and economic change. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: So it
would not surprise me if halfway through
the 21st century, we were an economic or a
technological powerhouse in the region. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And if we had our
own version of Silicon Valley. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I’ll first tell
you the government’s position. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The Cuban
government explains the lack of internet
and access based firmly on the American embargo. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The same
restrictions that mean that certain Google services
cannot be used in Cuba. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: However,
this argument has lost its truthfulness
after several years ago, a fiber optic cable was
installed from Venezuela to Cuba. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: At this point,
at this moment in time, the cable is functional,
but the government has decided to use it to open
118 public internet access spots across the country. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The
authorities do not seem interested in granting
personal home internet access or access through mobile phones. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And
the prices are also high as a means of kind of
being cost prohibitive for most ordinary Cubans. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The reason
is fear of the internet. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: A system that has
based itself on the limitation of information and on the
controlling of a narrative cannot possibly survive the
avalanche of information that comes from the internet. AUDIENCE: I’ve always wondered
how the Castro brothers have been able to get the Cuban
people to tolerate that much. And I understand that they
have lots of controls. But there’s also not
a violent reaction, so they’ve got to manage
a certain level– achieve a certain level of
tolerance among the people. And I see that in my country
as well, in Venezuela, where after 14
years of revolution, we are having very
extreme scarcity now, and people fighting for a little
milk in the grocery stores. And the government still
has 50% popularity. So how is that process of
getting people accustomed? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: There
are many reasons for this social inertia. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Firstly,
my generation does not know of any
other [INAUDIBLE]. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: My mother was
born under the Castros. I was born under the Castros. And my son, who is 18
years old, was also born under the Castros. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: If the Castros
last several more years, my grandchildren will
be born under them. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: This creates the
sensation that you cannot change anything, that it is a
curse with which you have been born and cannot change. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Another
issue or comment is that rebelliousness in Cuba,
for decades, has been expressed in leaving and escaping
and not in confronting. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: It’s very sad,
but a majority of Cubans, or a significant
proportion of Cubans, prefer to face a shark
in the Florida straits than a policeman in
the streets of Havana. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Yet
another reason is that the government cut all
of the infrastructure that would have allowed economic
independence to civil society. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And severed all
informational infrastructure parallel to the government. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: In the nations of
the Arab Spring, for example, technology was a primary
tool for the population to communicate and congregate. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: But in Cuba, how
can I communicate to my neighbor that I agree with him? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Despite
this, I do believe that Cubans are
slowly waking up. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I’m very critical. I’ve always perceived that
the US restrictions are the excuse of the Cuban
government, the scapegoat of the Cuban government,
for justifying everything from economic situation
to the lack of liberties. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: As such, I
would like for the embargo to end tomorrow to see how the
Cuban government would explain the lack of access to the
internet or the inability to form other political parties. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The quality of
the educational system in Cuba has also suffered
significantly in recent years. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: There is a popular
myth exported from Cuba that we have excellent
public health systems and educational systems. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: In truth, it is
extensive and reaches everyone in the country, but the
quality has declined. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: When Soviet
subsidies were halted, the Cuban
infrastructure could not maintain the educational
or medical infrastructure that had been set up. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: As
such, there has been a huge exodus of
teachers and instructors. An instructor, for example,
of technology and software and kind of information
systems would have a maximum monthly
salary of $30 a month. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And in addition
to the financial restrictions or limitations,
there’s also the issue of significant
political indoctrination of the educational system. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: It’s very difficult
for a professor of technology or information systems
to be in a classroom with students who do not
have access to the internet. How do you teach that? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And there’s also,
the government has an intention to paint the internet
as a battlefield. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: So they prepare a
lot of soldiers to wage battle. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: Everything that I
can tell you is still little. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: But in Cuba, we
have a specific department in which students
focus on waging ideological battles
on the internet. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: From
blogs that are in line with government thinking to
people that enter other forums or comment on other
blogs to guide the discussion more in
favor to the positions of the government. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And for them, I
am a kind of internet devil. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: And so
I imagine that it’s very difficult for an
instructor of anything that touches the internet, and
who has a more modern mind, to be teaching anything that
touches with technology. MARY GROVE: Last
question, if I may. What is your greatest hope
for Cuba and for the future? YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: I think
that Cuba needs freedom. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The freedom to
stand on a corner and scream, there’s no liberty here. YOANI SANCHEZ:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: The day that I can
do that in a street in Havana, I will feel that my country
has entered the future. MARY GROVE: On behalf of all
of us here, muchas gracias. YOANI SANCHEZ: Muchas gracias. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] YOANI SANCHEZ: Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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