Cuban independent journalist Yoani Sánchez, a brazen defender of free speech and founder of 14ymedio, the island’s first independent daily digital news platform, has been named a Distinguished Presidential Fellow at the University of Miami, making her one of the 100 Talents, an initiative introduced during UM President Julio Frenk’s inauguration.
As part of the 100 endowed talents, an initiative that seeks to enrich the curriculum and enhance the academic reputation of the University, Sánchez will teach a non-credit course in the spring 2017 semester, give academic lectures and participate in events with members of the faculty and student body.
“It is an honor to welcome Yoani Sánchez to our University as a Distinguished Presidential Fellow,” said Frenk. “I am excited that our students will be exposed to this brave champion of press freedom who promotes journalistic principles under very trying circumstances.”
As her first event, Sánchez will launch UM Cuba Forums with a lecture titled “The Power to Tell a Story: Daily life in Cuba through the lens of an independent journalist,” to be held at the Newman Alumni Center on October 24, immediately followed by a Q&A session with President Frenk.
In the spring, she will offer a non-credit course titled “New Cuban Voices,” which will explore issues related to the current state of Cuban society and how it may continue to develop moving forward especially as relations between the island nation and the U.S. continue to thaw.
“Since I visited Miami in 2013, I understood that preserved in the city were many traditions, memories and customs of Cuba that had long been forgotten in the island,” said Sánchez. “This opportunity to share experiences and knowledge with UM students and faculty will be enriching for my identity and I also hope to better connect with both realities.”
Sánchez first came to UM in April 2013 when she visited the UM Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) to get acquainted with the collection and offer her insights and experiences to a group of student journalists. Later that year, she returned to UM to offer a master class at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban America Studies (ICCAS).
A University of Havana graduate with a degree in philology, Sánchez immigrated to Switzerland in 2002 and returned to Cuba two years later determined to lead an independent life as a Cuban citizen. She launched a blog called “Generación Y” (“Generation Y”) that chronicled daily life in Cuba. President Barack Obama praised her blog in November 2009, writing that the blog “provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba.”
In 2008, Time magazine listed her as one of the world’s most influential people. Her work has generated many awards including the Ortega y Gasset Prize, Spain’s highest award for digital journalism, the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University, and the World Press Freedom Hero Award from the International Press Institute.
In 2014, Sánchez launched the digital newspaper 14yMedio, which offers a fresh voice in the island with exclusive national news, highlighting not only political and economic developments but also social and cultural activities.
As director of 14ymedio, she oversees editorial operations, leads special features, and writes in-depth pieces about Cuba’s reality. Since Cuba’s government does not allow for a free press and allows only limited Internet access, Sánchez has found an ingenious way of distributing 14ymedio. This includes sending it abroad to users who distribute through email, and a PDF version is shared once a week as part of a “paquete,” a collection of movies, magazine and other publications that is offered for transfer via a USB flash drive.
Sánchez is thrilled to return to UM.
“Students always teach me much more with their questions and life experiences, because they have that necessary dose of curiosity that makes them investigate and dig deeper on issues. I feel younger and dare much more intellectually when I am with them,” she said.