By Jessica Swanson, CNJ595 student

Yoani Sanchez is a Cuban blogger and one of the foremost champions of freedom in the Western hemisphere. At the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies on Wednesday October 30, she spoke to about 50 onlookers.

Her wavy black hair is longer in person than it seems on the cover of her book, Havana Real, that about a dozen students and I read for CNJ595, a class on news blogging.  Our entire class attended  Sanchez’s talk, though it wasn’t mandatory and it was delivered in Spanish, which some of us do not speak.

Sanchez spoke about communism, technology, and the younger generation in Cuba. She gave specific examples of her son’s education, Cuban President Raul Castro’s hypocrisy, and her feelings about leaving (and returning) to Cuba. She defended her blog, Generation Y, and its reach in Cuba, where internet access is limited.

Her tone resonated with the same urgency and authenticity of her book. Regardless of what critics say about her blog, Sanchez’s love for Cuba is exemplified by her loyalty her country and the way she reports on it. And despite the fact that she has been criticized by Fidel Castro himself and kidnapped by government agents, she believes in Cuba’s potential for change.

In our journalism classes we are taught the importance of impartiality in reporting a story. But Sanchez, through her blog, demonstrates how having passion and a goal can strengthen one’s writing. In our class, we are each writing blogs. Our instructor let us chose the topic and advised that it be something we care about. Some chose fashion, others politics, and still others sports. But the success of our blogs, like Sanchez’s, is predicated on our passion for writing them.

Sanchez began her talk by saying she wasn’t sure if she was a blogger, a journalist, or a citizen. Then she shrugged her shoulders and added that her title as a citizen, or “ciudadana,” was the most important. And our class understood that as bloggers, we too are citizens first.

And even though we write our blogs with unlimited internet access, we understand Sanchez’s plight. As new bloggers, we want people to read what we write. On Wednesday, Sanchez taught us that if you write well and consistently, an audience will follow.