Sánchez argues that her fame is her shield from repression. And while she steadfastly attacks the government, she has not joined any dissident organization and calls herself an independent or alternative journalist.
And while Cuban officials argue that Sánchez is virtually unknown on the island, her supporters point out that the government blocked access to her blog until recently, and that the states news media monopoly treats her as a Soviet-era non-person.
A baseball player here can be well known, but the question is how important are his home runs to the future of Cuba, Escobar said in a phone interview from Havana.
Sánchez can look a bit like a hippie at times, favoring loose cotton blouses, long skirts and dark hair down to her hips. She speaks softly and mostly slowly. But even relatives paint her as fiercely headstrong since the age of 5, said Henken.
Mary Jo Porter, the Seattle engineer who founded the volunteer network that translates Generación Y and other Cuba blogs, said part of Sánchezs appeal is the juxtaposition of her fragility, her small and slight physical form, with the iron strength so apparent in her voice, her life and her work.
But, Porter said, put food in front of her and she eats like a lumberjack, and in private shes even more cheerful and funny.
Theres no behind-the-scenes-Yoani what you see is the real her, the translator said.
Born in 1975, Yoani Maria Sánchez Cordero is part of what she dubbed Generation Y Cubans whose names are often spelled with odd Ys because of Moscows influence over the island at the time. But she came of age as the Soviet Union collapsed, cut off its huge subsidies to Cuba and plunged it into its worst economic crisis of the 20th century.
The daughter of a modest family her father, William, is a retired train engineer who now fixes flat car and bicycle tires, and her mother, Maria Eumelia, works as a taxi dispatcher she studied IberoAmerican literature at the University of Havana.
Her graduation thesis was titled Words under Pressure: A study on the literature of dictatorship in Latin America and was partly based on a novel by Perus Mario Vargas Llosa about the assassination of Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1961.
Escobar said that they met in 1993 when she borrowed his copy of another Vargas Llosa novel, and their son Teo is 17 years old.
The couple later taught Spanish, mostly to German visitors, and guided them around Havana, while at the same time learning German.
Sánchez moved to Switzerland to work in a bookstore in 2002 in what was planned as the first step of the familys departure, Escobar said. Teo followed a year later, but a string of factors, including her fathers illness, led them to return in 2004.
Having lost their Cuba residency by staying abroad for more than 11 months, they bought round-trip tickets to Havana for a family visit and tore up their passports after landing to avoid being returned to Europe. They lived in legal limbo until the government agreed to recognize their residency again.
Sánchez, who had put together her first computer in 1994 from used bits and pieces Escobar said she also fixes the fridge in their Havana apartment and experienced the Internet while in Zurich, returned with a new career: digital journalist.