Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez and Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho highlighted the second day of Miami's Hispanicize conference Tuesday.
"I was an undocumented resident of this country," Carvalho told a packed ballroom at the Intercontinental Miami hotel in downtown Miami.
Immigration reform and digital connectivity were the predominant themes of the fifth annual Latino trends event.
Carvalho’s remarks generated much applause from the crowd at Tuesday’s “Latinovator Lunch,” which featured Sanchez as keynote speaker.
"Digital connectivity is the civil right of our generation," said Carvalho, before pointing out that Miami-Dade County is the first school district in the nation to be "thoroughly, wirelessly connected."
On the second day of the four-day conference, Fusion’s Mariana Atencio introduced Sanchez and presented her with a "Latinovator Award."
On stage, Sanchez announced her latest project, the launch of an independent newspaper in Cuba, despite the fact that journalism is tightly censored by the Communist regime.
"The first question is, are you brave enough to do this?” said Sanchez, about her process for recruiting newspaper staff members. "The second is, are you willing to learn how to be a true journalist?”
She told the audience the newspaper already has a team of eleven people, and will be launched in late April or early May.
"The [newspaper’s] name is a secret until the day of its birth,” she said, "out of a mixture of superstition, and wishing to surprise the public."
Sanchez has gained worldwide fame for her efforts to combat censorship in the island, through social media and her blog, "Generation Y."
She has taken to those platforms to publicly criticize the Castro government for oppressive tactics, including the detention of several journalists and political dissidents. Sanchez said that the government blocks all social media, and Internet access is tightly controlled.
She broadcasts her social and political commentary through dozens of daily tweets and blog posts, by sending them to collaborators abroad through SMS text messages.
"More than anything else, mobile phones are essential," she said. "Those phones are the single most important resource in the island."
The message was well received by the audience of bloggers and journalists, many of whom had their smart phones in hand, presumably sharing highlights of the speech on social media with the hash tag #hispz14.
The multi-industry event attracts thousands of media-industry professionals, musicians, and entrepreneurs from around the country, and bills itself as a launch pad for Latino creative endeavors.
Previous honorees of the “Latinovator Award” include journalist Soledad O’Brien, actress Rita Moreno and music producer Emilio Estefan.
This year, some of the Hispanicize headliners include singer Carlos Vives, and award-winning NPR journalist Maria Hinojosa.
The conference ends Friday with the “Latinas Who Rock” closing bash, featuring Grammy-nominated singer and composer, Sheila E.