...How has this woman with limited Internet access at home in Havana, few high-powered connections, no organization and limited financial resources pulled off a grueling, attention-grabbing itinerary across three continents that would challenge even the most savvy road warrior?
As it turns out, the same way she has managed to make a living in Havana and cultivate hundreds of thousands of Internet and Twitter followers around the globe: by plugging into an extensive, informal network of dedicated supporters...
Her flight from Havana to Brazil was covered by business supporters of a film festival that planned to screen a documentary in which she appeared. Another film festival took her to Prague. A Mexican university paid for her travel to Mexico City. The IAPA put up Sánchez, volunteer chair for Cuba of the group’s Freedom of the Press Committee, at its three-day conference in nearby Puebla, IAPA Director Julio Munoz said.
Yoani Sánchez in New York
Her flight from the Netherlands to Miami? Paid for by her sister Yunia, a pharmacy tech who emigrated from Cuba two years ago, friends and supporters said.
Sánchez, who has often fielded skeptical questions during public appearances about how she managed to finance and organize the tour, has been emphatic in saying she hasn’t taken any government money.
In fact, says Ted Henken, who coordinated her New York and Washington visits, he advised another Cuban blogger , Orlando Luis Pardo, who accompanied Sánchez on part of her itinerary, to say no to a Washington tech conference co-sponsored by the State Department because it would have covered his expenses.
But because some of the institutions and organizations that hosted Sánchez may receive government funding, Henken, a professor of Latin American Studies at Baruch College in New York, said it’s impossible to say categorically that absolutely no public funds have gone into underwriting her tour.
Orlando Luis Pardo
But, he added, “To the extent that she can prevent it, she doesn’t take any government money.
“We care about image and we care about reality,’’ said Henken, who is also president of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy.
So careful has Sánchez been about the source of trip financing that she demurred upon learning that a Miami event to which she was invited was being billed as a fundraiser for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, the group that employs her brother-in-law and receives U.S. government funds. She agreed to attend only after the event, at the Coral Gables Country Club, was scaled down and attendees, including Bay of Pigs veterans and CANF members, were asked to pay only the cost of putting it on, organizers confirm.
Mary Jo Porter, a Seattle transportation planner who has been translating Sánchez’s popular and award-winning Generacion Y blog into English for five years, laughs at claims that the U.S. government is paying for her translation work or the tour.
Mary Jo Porter
The job of translating the blog into more than a dozen languages, she said, is done by volunteers such as a couple in Japan who own a furniture shop, a Dutch lawyer and a Polish woman living in California. A couple living outside Montreal, former Cuban journalist Aurora Moreira and her husband, Chilean-born Camilo Fuentes, run and maintain Sánchez’s blog site, Henken said.
“We’re all waiting for our check from the CIA,’’ joked Porter, who flew to New York last month at her own expense to meet Sánchez for the first time. “It’s been lost in the mail for five years.’’
“We haven’t directly financed her trip or travel. We just took on the costs of the events,’’ said Raul Moas, executive director of Raices de Esperanza.
When a Cuban, through talent or solidarity with others, starts to move beyond the “survival level,’’ she said, “that starts to bother the government and it starts questioning the integrity and moral ethics of a person.
“The Cuban government says I am a millionaire — yes, a millionaire in friends,” she said.