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How Cuban Voices Get Heard: Interview with Mary Jo Porter

by Chabeli Castillo, guest writer

Mary Jo Porter (M.J.) will give an interactive and dynamic presentation focusing on the projects that she has been leading during the past few years to support the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom and an open society in Cuba.

M.J. Porter is Yoani Sánchez’s English-language translator. Yoani Sánchez is a Cuban blogger who has achieved international fame and multiple international awards for her critical portrayal of life in Cuba under its current 52-year-old totalitarian regime. Mainstream media such as The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy Magazine, The Huffington Post, and many others publish Yoani’s writings in English using Porter’s translations.

She will talk about how her personal experience as an American traveling to the island for the first time impacted her life and how this reflects the economic and political situation of Cuba.

After visiting the island and seeing for herself what the reality was, Porter became involved with this human issue. Porter dedicates endless hours of her life to help Cubans, who do not have the right to freedom of expression, to spread their message in the United States and throughout the world.

Porter started projects like Translatingcuba.com and Hemosoido.com with the hope that “the voices on this site will mirror the free, open and plural society we all know that Cuba is ultimately destined to be.” Through this project volunteers can translate the words of Cuban bloggers* from Spanish into languages such as English, French, and German.

Students will be encouraged to translate a blog post as a group with Porter and learn how the translation process works. Through this activity the students will be able to better understand the powerful connections that can grow between the translator and the writers on the island and the meaningful and important role of spreading the word about reality in Cuba.

Porter has helped to bring the voices of Cuban independent journalists* and other prominent figures within the opposition to the Castro brothers’ dictatorship in Cuba to the non-Spanish speaking world.

Porter is a dedicated woman who decided to join Cubans in their fight to show the world what it is like living in Cuba. She recently translated Yoani’s first book in English, “Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba Today.” In this book, Yoani illustrates the absurdity of living under a totalitarian state simply by describing her day-to-day life. The book is a window to an alternative information system about Cuba.

Cuba’s independent journalists and bloggers like Yoani, with the priceless help of M.J. Porter, have become the real reporters of the island and the voice of the suppressed Cuban people.

Independent journalists or Cuban bloggers comprise a very diverse group of people: teachers, priests, college graduates, jewelers, crafters, political prisoners, etc. They all share a number of characteristics:

  • Write from the island of Cuba.
  • Are independent, that is they are not paid by the Cuban government.
  • Write under their own names.
  • Their blogs contain material of wide general interest.
  • Their blogs are updated on a regular basis.


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