Cubans thirsty yet wary

As Cuba embarks on economic reforms, blogger and author Yoani Sanchez said islanders are embracing change with a dose...

As Cuba embarks on economic reforms, blogger and author Yoani Sanchez said islanders are embracing change with a dose of skepticism.

In one of her rounds through the streets of Havana, Yoani S__nchez once again confirms that _we Cubans are thirsty for change._ The hustle and bustle of small kiosks selling fruit shakes and other snacks on the most centric avenues of the city show that its inhabitants have set their hearts into achieving a certain degree of prosperity amid cracked pillars and balconies on the brink of collapse.

_This rebirth is tremendously fragile because it depends, first of all, on the little knowledge we Cubans have of managing an enterprise,_ said the founder of the Generation Y blog in a phone interview with El Nuevo Herald. Sanchez_s new book WordPress: A Blog to Speak to the World (Anaya Editorial) is arriving in Miami bookstores.

_Behind the economic reforms, there is government urgency because it has its coffers empty and has been forced, to its chagrin, to grant economic power to the citizens,_ said the 35-year-old philologist from her New Vedado apartment in Havana, adding that the population viewswith skepticism the changes which, _though heading in the right direction of an opening, are slow and superficial._

_Looking at the excessive taxes and the short list of businesses permitted, you realize that the government has no intention to allow these small businesses to grow and become small and medium enterprises,_ said S__nchez, who nonetheless considers that through this opening _the self-employed of today can become the empowered of tomorrow._

Using her own case as reference, S__nchez has no doubts that _economic autonomy results in political autonomy._ After receiving in 2000 a degree in Philology from the University of Havana and facing the frustration of having a monthly income of barely $10, she opted to work teaching Spanish to tourists visiting the island. She survived more than a decade doing this while creating, in 2007, the blog Generation Y, currently visited by 14 million people monthly and translated into 17 languages. In 2009 she also discovered the possibilities of Twitter to send SMS tweets from her mobile phone without the need of Internet access.

_Twitter has saved the alternative user_s skin on numerous occasions,_ said S__nchez, who gives classes in her home, at a hotel or on the street _to teach people how to have Internet without having Internet._

_The only requisite is that the student must have a mobile phone and then I show him how to tweet in limited situations,_ said S__nchez, who in her new book shares her experience. The book, published in Spain in March with a prologue by the President of the Madrid Community, Esperanza Aguirre Gil de Biedma, is available in Cuba only in photocopies.

In a country with limited Internet access, S__nchez is part of the growing blogger movement, which includes her husband, journalist Reinaldo Escobar, photographer Orlando Luis Pardo _ who provided the images for her book _ Claudia Cadelo, Miriam Celaya, Dimas Castellanos, Eugenio Leal, Rebeca Monz__, Regina Coyula and Baptist pastor Mario F__lix Lleonart.

S__nchez began to tell the world about Cuba_s reality after being inspired by her son Teo, then a child.

_In 2003, a great family friend [dissident Adolfo Fern__ndez Sa__nz] was sent to prison during the Black Spring. When our son asked us why, we told him, _because he was a very brave man._?_ Her son_s response: _Then you are little cowards because you are still free._

Now 16, Teo brings his mother the vision of a generation eager to know the world. _When I see my son interested in Japanese Mangas [animated drawings], speaking fluent English, feeling a part of the global village, and asking _who is this person_ when he happens to see Fidel Castro on television, I feel happy because I can foresee a healthier generation,_ S__nchez said.

st and C in the Vedado neighborhood _ are a part of her life in which she prefers not to dwell.

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