On Thursday, I found myself in the midst of history when I went on a trip to the bookstore in São Paulo. About 100 protesters had gathered outside to protest Yoani Sánchez, the dissident Cuban blogger who escaped to Brazil last week from her home country. She was at the art film inside the bookstore, Livraria Cultura, giving a talk as part of a national speaking tour. I had recently read about Yoani Sánchez in a Brazilian paper because her talks in other cities had also provoked demonstrations.
The protesters I stumbled upon in São Paulo were divided into two groups—one side came out to support Sanchez, while the other came out to contest her views. Pedro Bocca, a 26-year-old activist who opposes Sanchez told me, “Yoani lies [about conditions in Cuba] to destabilize the Cuban government…our mission is to demonstrate that, in Brazil, there are people who support the revolution.”
For me, the protest was thought-provoking because it reminded how strong the right to free speech has become in Brazil. Thirty years ago, this country still had a military dictatorship.