Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cuba: Interview with Blogger Miriam Celaya

Thursday, January 8th, 2009 @ 20:22 UTC
by Claudia Cadelo

ExcerptMiriam Celaya is a Cuban blogger, whose blog Sin Evasión [es] is celebrating its one year anniversary. She started writing under the pseudonym "Eva González," but six months later she decided to use her real name. In this interview with Claudia Cadelo, she talks about how she started blogging, the decision to leave her pseudonym behind, and about her participation in the recent blogger gatherings on the island.

Miriam Celaya is a Cuban blogger, whose blog Sin Evasión [es] is celebrating its one year anniversary. With an art history degree, she worked nearly two decades at the Department of Archaeology at the Science Academies. In addition, she has been a literature and spanish languages professor, where during this time, she became familiar with the use of computers. However, the institute did not have an internet connection. It wasn't until her time working with the digital magazines “Consenso” and “Con Todos” did she learn about the use of the online medium. Soon with the help of other Cuban bloggers, namely Yoani Sánchez of Generación Y [es], she started her own blog under a pseudonym “Eva”. However, that soon changed when she decided to use her own name to publish her blog. Here is an interview with Celaya about her start in the world of blogs, why she chose to leave her pseudonym behind, and her participation in the blogger gatherings.

Claudia Cadelo: How would you define the type of relationships that you have with your blog?

Miriam Celaya: I don't define it. I don't like to categorize things that are dear to me. I prefer to say that my blog is the space where my character and my habitual tendency to provide opinions can be combined with the possibility of freely expressing myself beyond the limited boundaries of interpersonal relationships, within the reality of this country. My blog has allowed me to start relationships with many people, the majority Cubans like me, but also of other nationalities, all of which are very close to me and very needed. It has allowed me to practice tolerance, a skill that - I admit- was very hard for me years ago and something which I had been working on. I also got to know myself better. It was like a second birth for me, and I only hope that the blog will allow to grow as a human being.

CC: You started your blog with a pseudonym, but later you stopped using it. Could you talk about the reasons why you started to blog anonymously?

MC: Some people thought that I hid my identity out of fear of repression. That is not true. In reality, paradoxically, here it is more dangerous to remain “anonymous” by trying to hide. In this semi-clandestine state, one is more prone to blackmail. I was aware that the police knew my real face and could guess that I was scared… My identity was evident: in the magazine Con Todos (and before with Consenso) I published indistinguishably as Miriam Celaya, as T. Avellaneda, as Lucía Morera and as Eva González, and the four had the same writing style. However, I had my own personal reasons to use the mask of Eva, which is the pseudonym that I always preferred: my father, who died in October 2007, was fearful for me because he suspected that I was involved in “something dangerous” and that I also was fearful of possible retaliation against members of my family. In any case, no one can take Eva away from me.

CC: What were the events that led to you showing yourself with your real name? When was it?

MC: As I mentioned, the death of my father and the end of the, let's say, “grace period” that I gave to others, who are very important to me and that always gave some resistance to my intentions to show my face. It is always difficult to convince others about your reasons, especially if those “others” love you and worry about you. I think it was a time of maturity with the circumstances, I publicly discovered myself at the right moment. That was in the summer of 2008, when I was already blogging six months incognito.

CC: Now that you have experienced blogging both anonymously and under your real name, could you tell me about the positive and negative aspects of each and what differences have noticed between the two? Do you feel like you made the right decision?

MC: I feel and know that I made the right decision. I don't have a doubt, especially because it was a completely personal choice and one is responsible for one's own actions, right? I assume all of the consequences for what I write and for the way that I write. The negative aspect of posting anonymously is that it takes away credibility in the eyes of the readers. They understand your reasons and even justify them, but some could wonder that in the distance, whether one is exaggerating the truth hidden behid the pseudonym, avoiding that the opinions and the events can be authentic or verifiable. I truly felt happy with the reaction of the readers upon learning my identity, they encouraged me a lot, connections were made with them, and I gained confidence in myself. However, I don't regret having used my pseudonym during that time: Eva González is a real part of me, even though it was not the name given to me when I was born, October 9, 1959. In an anthropological perspective, Eva was (is) something like a rite of passage.

CC: You are participating in the blogger gatherings, which is how we met. Could you tell us how you feel being a part of that group and in general about your thoughts regarding this phenomenon?

MC: I think it is an extraordinary event, even though of its modest proportions and because of all the difficulties for the blogosphere from Cuba. The gatherings have allowed us to grow closer together and unite the will for the search of independent, civic spaces for dialogue. Up until now, we had been unconnected. The blogosphere also allows us to be something that had been banned: to be citizens, and our gatherings become the forum where people from different backgrounds, ages, experiences, and lines of thinking, can come together, and we profess respect for one another and we encourage this strong feeling, which is inner freedom, and is something that they can't take away. Without a doubt, I am a part of “this”.

CC: Everyone that is part of a journalistic and creative activity like yours, who leaves behind anonymity and publishes their opinions publicly, must have personal and social goals. What are they? Which goals have you accomplished and which ones are close to be accomplished?

MC: I wouldn't say that I am a journalist, even thought I do express my opinions publicly. My personal goals are to contribute any way that I can to the encouragement of dialogue, to search for pluralistic and common spaces, and to push for a different Cuba with which we all dream and need. I don't accept the opinion of some readers who thank me for what I do “for Cuba”: in reality, I only follow my personal convictions and I don't take on the role of Messiah or Joan of Arc. I am not a leader, nor do I follow leaders. Through the blog, I tried to connect myself with many interesting and capable people, people like you and me, who are around, on the streets, who surround you and who you didn't even know existed, and who have the same wishes as you.

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