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    Blogger Yoani Sánchez hits the books at the University of Miami

    Posted on Tuesday, 04.02.13

    Blogger Yoani Sánchez hits the books at the University of Miami


    Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez spent several hours on the University of

    Miami campus Tuesday, learning how to access the university's digital

    collection on the Cuban experience and diaspora and holding a political

    discussion with UM academics.

    She was scheduled to speak Tuesday evening at a dinner at the Country

    Club of Coral Gables hosted by the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba,

    which is associated with the Cuban-American National Foundation.

    UM President Donna Shalala welcomed Sanchez to the campus and the Cuban

    Heritage Collection, which houses more than 50,000 Cuba-related books

    and documents. Among the rare items that she explored was the 1878

    biography of Father Felix Varela, a Roman Catholic priest and educator

    who advocated for self-rule and the end of slavery in Cuba. A public

    high school in the Hammocks section of Miami-Dade County is named for

    the Cuban priest, who is highly esteemed in the Cuban community.

    Sánchez requested to visit the Cuban Heritage Collection, according to

    the university, and CHC Director Esperanza de Varona and Maria Estorino,

    an associate librarian, gave her a personal tour of the collection,

    which is housed on the second floor of the Otto Richter Library.

    While at the collection, Sánchez met with representatives from the

    campus chapter of the Federation of Cuban Students. She told them:

    "Information to me is like a breath of fresh air.''

    She also met privately with about 20 academics at the Institute for

    Cuban & Cuban-American Studies, a UM research center that is engaged in

    the Cuban Transition Project, which studies and makes recommendations

    for the reconstruction of Cuba "once the post-Castro transition begins

    in earnest.''

    Among the topics discussed were the future of Cuba, how Sánchez sees

    change evolving in Cuba, the case of imprisoned American Alan Gross,

    Cuban youth, and how to improve the flow of information into Cuba, said

    Andy Gomez, a senior fellow at the institute.

    Asked if she saw herself as a future opposition leader in Cuba, Gomez

    said that she responded, "No, I see myself as a citizen of Cuba who has

    the responsibility to bring about change.''

    "With Yoani's visit, we've consolidated the bridge between Cuban exiles

    and the people of Cuba,'' said Gomez, who said that even a decade ago

    such ties would have been impossible.

    "She was honest, eloquent, simple,'' said Gomez, "but she's exhausted.''

    Since leaving Cuba Feb. 17, Sánchez — who writes the Generacion Y blog

    and sends out a constant stream of 140-character Twitter messages on

    daily life in Cuba to hundreds of thousands of followers — has been on

    an international tour that has taken her from Brazil to Mexico and from

    Prague and Amsterdam to New York and Washington.

    Despite many international invitations, she had not been able to travel

    abroad until a recent change in Cuban travel policy.

    Sánchez will host a town-hall-style meeting at the Adrienne Arsht Center

    for the Performing Arts in Miami on Wednesday, taking questions posed

    via Twitter and from people in the audience.

    She will focus on questions regarding technology, innovation and social

    change from Twitter users, although audience members can ask "questions

    regarding topics of importance,'' according to event organizers.

    Pamela Silva Conde, co-anchor of Univision's news show Primer Impacto

    (First Impact), will moderate the event, which begins at noon. It's

    organized by The Knight Foundation and Roots of Hope, a group whose goal

    is bridging the gap between Cubans abroad and those on the island.

    Twitter questions can be directed to @askyoani, @PamelaSilva and by

    using the hashtags #AskYoani and #YoaniResponde.

    The "Tweet Up with Yoani Sánchez" is a ticketed event but tickets are

    free of charge. To register, visit

    Miami Herald Reporter Daniel Chang contributed to this report.

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