Getting to Know Global Voices’ Latin America Team

Some of the very best weblogs from around Latin America hardly ever receive mention on Global Voices. That's because their authors are also contributors here and spend most of their time drawing your attention to others’ posts. Well, it's long past time to highlight their personal creativity and boundless enthusiasm for new media in Latin America.

mayo.jpgEduardo Ávila [Regional Editor] – Eduardo was one of Global Voices’ first contributing authors and is now taking my place as Latin America Regional Editor to lead the rest of the talented team. In fact, his dedication to Global Voices is probably a factor in why he no longer has been able to update his personal blog Barrio Flores with the frequency that long time readers will recall. These days Barrio Flores serves mostly as a window into the colorful scenery that passes Eddie during recent travels to India, Bolivia, and Chile. Along with Natasha Quiroga, Eddie is also the co-founder of the Bolivian-American Project.

Jorge Gobbi [Argentina] – Jorge's blogging is prolific if not compulsive. In fact, he blogs so much that he routinely writes a weekly roundup of what he has written and where it's published (in addition to his “lifestream“). Besides his contributions here at Global Voices, Jorge also frequently writes about his personal travels and the travel industry in both English and Spanish. His third blog Vida Vacia [ES] tends to focus on internet related topics. In the last week alone he's meditated on what's acceptable as a blog comment [ES], Delhi's urban planning crisis [ES], the clever violators of Creative Commons licenses, and how few Latin Americans are aware of the various types of beer (eg. ale, stout, pilsen), but rather focus on the brands. Jorge is also a compulsive traveler as is readily apparent on his Flickr page. His last trip was to Peru, where he met up with our (slightly shorter) Peruvian contributor Juan Arellano:


Juan Arellano [Peru] – Juan is one of our most active members on the Latin America authors’ mailing list and his charm comes across in every message. A recent and characteristic email to the group ended with “hugs for the guys … and kisses for the girls.” And, speaking of women, they are one of Juan's favorite subjects, both for his blog posts and photography. In fact, he updates his Zooomr account almost as often as he gets through a book and each day brings a new glimpse into Lima's neighborhoods, events, and, yes, women. In the last few months Juan has also been keeping a bilingual Tumblr account with fragments of fiction and everyday vignettes like this one:

Cada dos o tres días la encuentro, tomamos la misma combi y luego me siento uno o dos sitios detrás de ella, nunca a su lado. Después la contemplo maquillarse, creo que una vez me vio que la observaba a través de su espejo, no demostró inmutarse. Hoy le cedí el asiento, no me lo agradeció. Cuando me bajo ella sigue su viaje. Nunca miro atrás.

Every two or three days I see her, we take the same bus, and I sit one or two seats behind her; never at her side. Then I contemplate how she does her make up. I think that she once noticed when I observed her reflection in the mirror, but she didn't move a hair. Today I offered her my seat; she didn't thank me. When I got off, she continued on her way. I never look back.

Lastly, Juan is the project lead of Global Voices’ Spanish Lingua site, which he recently summed up in this post:

Pero fuera de este blog últimamente he estado en algo que implica leer muchos blogs extranjeros y enterarse de lo que pasa en distintos países, así como familiarizarse con usos y costumbres ajenas a las nuestras. Resulta que he estado haciendo algunas traducciones para Global Voices en Español. No soy traductor, pero algo entiendo de inglés, y como ésta labor está a cargo de voluntarios, pues añadí mi granito de arena al sitio. Y es algo que me ha gustado hacer.

Outside of this blog I've lately been involved with something that requires reading a lot of foreign blogs and discovering what is happening in various countries as well as becoming familiar with customs and traditions that are far different from our own. You see, I've been doing some translations for Global Voices en Español. I'm not a professional translator, but I do understand some English and, as this is run by volunteers, well, I'll add my grain of sand to the site. And it's something I've enjoyed doing.

imag0042-1jpg.jpgJuliana Rincón [Colombia] – Born in Lima, raised in Colombia, working independently in Costa Rica, and now back in Medellín, Colombia to study orthodontics, Juliana might be one of the region's most connected bloggers. She frequently organized knitting meetups while living in San José and is now behind the upcoming inaugural blogger meetup in Medellín. And yet, despite all of her avid followers from Costa Rica, Colombia, and beyond, her weblog has a conversational tone that always makes you feel like it's just the two of you. Last week was her 26th birthday. As she described it:

Hace 26 años mi papá corrió emocionado por las calles de Miraflores comprando arreglos florales y diciéndole a cualquier persona que se le acercara : “¡son dos! ¡Son dos niñas!”, mientras levantaba sus dedos en una inconsciente señal de victoria … Los 25 me gustaron, creo que me gustarán más estos 26.

26 years ago my dad ran excitedly through the streets of Miraflores, buying flower arrangements and telling anyone willing to get near,
“there are two of them! Two girls!” while raising his thumbs in an unconscious sign of victory … 25 I liked, I think that I'll like 26 even more.

Iria Puyosa [Venezuela] – Like Eduardo, Iria was one of our first contributors, offering Global Voices readers a glimpse into Venezuela's diverse, dynamic, and always witty Spanish-speaking blogosphere. Though she hasn't been able to contribute lately, Iria's been staying plenty busy teaching university classes and frequently writing about literature, politics, and the potential of internet tools for political activism and dialogue. In the beginning of an inspiring post for media activists, she writes:

Una pregunta que me ha acompañado durante todas mis incursiones en medios (masivos, alternativos, comunitarios o ciudadanos): ¿Tiene sentido práctico un proyecto de comunicación para el desarrollo en un contexto de pobreza crítica? ¿Acaso no es más urgente atender necesidades básicas de saneamiento ambiental, recolección de basura, suministro de agua potable, cloacas, cuidado pre-natal, vacunación, medicina preventiva, nutrición, control de la delincuencia? ¿Cómo justificar invertir en radios comunitarias o en acceso a internet cuando no se pueden cubrir necesidades básicas? Sólo se justifica está inversión si entendemos que la pobreza y la exclusión no sólo tienen una dimensión económica, no sólo se miden en acceso a bienes y servicios, sino que la pobreza y la exclusión también tienen una dimensión cultural, que se mide en acceso a información y conocimiento, en capacidad para poner a circular nuevas ideas y para participar en la toma de decisiones sobre asuntos públicos.

A question that has accompanied me throughout all of my incursions into media (big, alternative, community, or citizen): Does a communication project make practical sense for development in a context of major poverty? Is it not perhaps more urgent to attend to basic necessities like environmental sanitization, garbage collection, potable water provision, sewers, prenatal care, vaccinations, preventive medicine, nutrition, and delinquency control? How to justify investing in community radio or Internet access when basic necessities cannot be covered? Such an investment is only justified if we understand that poverty and exclusion do not only have an economic dimension, do not only implicate access to goods and services, but that poverty and exclusion also have a cultural dimension, which involves access to information and knowledge and the capacity to circulate new ideas and participate in the decision making process in civic life.

390627053_b8d2fb389f.jpgLuis Carlos Diaz [Venezuela] – I first met Luis Carlos before I ever realized it. I had been reading Periodismo de Paz, for over a year and was looking forward to meeting the brain behind the blog at a Caracas meetup organized by Iria. I was sure that the sagacious observer of politics and society was well into his 50's and had led a long career of journalism and academia. When I met a young, easy going student just over 20, I was sure he was someone else. But Luis Carlos is much more than a talented blogger and social critic, he is also a dedicated citizen journalist as you can see in interviews and mini-documentaries he has uploaded to YouTube. He was also the lead organizer behind Elecciones 3D [ES], a citizen journalism project covering last December's presidential election. Luis Carlos is currently in Madrid, Spain for the Second International Congress on Blogs and Journalism:

Espero estar a la altura del encuentro con un relato que recoge algunas impresiones comunicacionales del pasado 3 de diciembre como fenómeno infociudadano con repercusiones en el mundo digital. Le sumé además una contextualización del panorama de medios en Venezuela, para acercarse mejor al inentendible proceso político venezolano.

I'll be presenting an outline that gathers some examples of communication from the December 3 election that show the infocitizenry phenomenon and its repercussions in the digital world. I also added a contextualization of the mediascape in Venezuela, to make the Venezuelan political process more easily understood.

Melissa de Leon [Panama] – Melissa hardly needs much of an introduction. She is the two-time, consecutive winner of the Bloggies’ Best Latin American Blog category for her famous and tasty digital journal and recipe book, Cooking Diva. Lesser known, but perhaps even more impressive, is her Spanish language blog Diablos Rojos, named after the colloquial expression for Panama's brightly painted buses. Last week she was in Chicago for the IACP's International Committee Latin American Fiesta, where she sampled one of my own favorite cocktails:

Even though I consider myself a fan and researcher of Latin American drinks, always exploring new ways how to serve them, they really caught me by surprise at this party. Guests were able to sample and prepare an array of exotic combination of mojitos, including mixes with rhubarb, pomegranate, kumquats, blood orange and basil. A total revolution of flavors!

Upon returning to Panama, she discovered an article about Panamanian blogs (titled “Those Virtual Diaries”) written by Armando Carrasco and published in the weekly La Prensa supplement, Ellas Magazine.

I have scanned the three-page article to make it available to the readers that have not been able to secure a copy locally, and for the ones outside of Panama. It is in Spanish, BUT…as I always say, how about if you start now practicing this beautiful language!

Renata Ávila [Guatemala] – Renata's contributions to Global Voices have brought us much closer to Guatemala's growing blogosphere. Her blog, Nothing is Peramanent, is in Spanish, but its title and tag line (“The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.” Salman Rushdie.) say plenty about the author. In addition to GV contributor and personal blogger, Renata is also a human rights lawyer and the project lead, along with Francisco Marroquin, of Creative Commons Guatemala and will soon be headed to Dubrovnik, Croatia for iSummit 2007. The prose on her personal blog is so poetic, subtle, and nuanced that I would only do it harm by attempting any translation, but if you understand Spanish, I wholeheartedly encourage you to add it to your list.

rosarioRosario Lizana [Chile] – Along with Eddie and Iria, Rosario is another of our most veteran contributors. Each week she dutifully reports on the latest events, developments, and conversations in Chile's busy and rowdy blogosphere. Along with many of Global Voices’ authors, she came to India for our December Summit, but unlike the majority, she decided to stay. Make sure to check out her Flickr account for some great photos of her trip (along with her new place in Santiago). Much of her blog reflection while traveling focused not just on India, but also those who flock to the Subcontinent in search of something more. In a post titled “Ashramholic” she writes:

Hay quienes vienen a India a buscar espiritualidad, yo creo que India es una gran lección de como perder la virginidad espiritual. Y es ahí donde puedes empezar a encontrar cosas. Está todo muy confuso, mucho negocio enredado con el espíritu. El saber mirar eso y entender que este país, el segundo más poblado del mundo, debe comer todos los días, que los niños trabajan, no sólo son bonitos y que la señora que canta, no lo hace al azar, es para que le des dinero, que muchos se visten con trajes típicos para vender sus productos, que muchas casas de masajes ayurvédicos en lugares turísticos son finalmente de prostitución infantil (y que los que las usan son en su mayoría hindúes), puede ser que se encuentres algo. Algo muy bonito y muy potente.

There are those who come to India in search of spirituality. I believe that India is a great lesson on how to lose your spiritual virginity. And that's when you begin to discover other things. It's all very confusing, a lot of business entangled with the spirit. To know and watch and understand that this country, the second most populated in the world, must eat every day. That the children work and that they're not just cute to look at. That lady who sings, doesn't just do it at random, but so that you'll give her money; that many who dress in traditional clothing do so to sell products; that many ayurvedic massage parlors are actually places of child prostitution (and that the majority of them are Hindu). It's true that you can discover something. Something very pretty and very powerful.

royRoy Rojas [Costa Rica] – Roy is on a comeback mission after more than a year-long absence from Global Voices. Just as Juliana moved from Costa Rica to Colombia, Roy wrote us saying he was interested in covering the Costa Rican blogosphere again. He's also making a comeback on his personal blog. Fans of South Park will be interested on his perspective of the show. From the post “Putas Gringos“:

En este video los personajes de South Park visitan Costa Rica y nuevamente siguiendo su norma racista, descriminatoria, nos muestran de muy mala forma. La verdad no es de extrañar pero deberian darse una vuelta por aqui para que vean la realidad de las cosas, una muy diferente a la que vemos aquí. South Park se ha caracterizado por hacer este tipo de programas insultando a Mexicanos, Dominicanos, Salvadoreños y ahora nos toco a nosotros. Quién será el siguiente?. Como dice HomeTown3RioS “lo que si debemos dejar claro es q siempre sale a relucir su egocentrismo y su complejo de superioridad… en este caso presentan una Costa Rica donde San José parece un tugurio… ” Lamentablemente este programa no haría gracia si no fuera así, su gracia esta en el ofender de la forma mas cruda.

In this video the characters of South Park visit Costa Rica and, following their discriminatory and racist norm, they show us in very bad form. They should really swing by here to see the reality of things, which are very different from what we see in the episode. South Park is characterized by these types of programs, insulting Mexicans, Dominicans, Salvadorans and now us. Who will be next? As HomeTown3RioS says “what we must make clear is that they always display their egocentrism and superiority complex … in this case, they present a Costa Rica where San Jose seems like a complete dive …” Lamentably this program wouldn't make its viewers laugh if it wasn't like this; its humor is in offending others in the crudest way.

Tim Muth [El Salvador] – Tim's El Salvador Blog is well known throughout the US and El Salvador (including the US embassy). But thanks to his contributions here at Global Voices, we've also been introduced to the country's Spanish-speaking blogger community. A few weeks ago Tim was back in El Salvador where he visited a community radio station in Guarjilla.

Leon Kadoch [Panama] – Leon is a talented Panamanian information architect who also helps us keep our eyes out for the latest happenings in the incredibly sociable Panamanian blogosphere. Along with Juliana, he also celebrated his birthday last week and we'd like to wish him a very happy 28th. After explaining the trouble of having a bday that can fall on Good Friday, Leon writes how he celebrated:

This year, I had a blast three days before my birthday at a local bar with my coworkers and good friends. I had the opportunity to see one of my co workers playing the guitar at a tribute gig to the Rolling Stones. Some of my friends were missing that day due to other things happening around.

Milton Ramirez – Like nearly all of our contributors, Milton is involved in more than just Global Voices. He also frequently writes about education and internet technologies on his personal blog, co-found the Hispanic Bloggers Union, and is always trying to help promote the blogs of his native city, Loja. Despite all of this – and being a full time educator in New York City – Milton has been instrumental in translating Global Voices content into Spanish.

Rodrigo Peñalba and Mario Delgado [Nicaragua] – Though Nicaragua's blogosphere is still smaller than most, Rodrigo and Mario are trying to help bring more attention to the few bloggers out there by covering their conversations here at Global Voices. In fact, the blog team has been instrumental in encouraging more dialogue and online participation in the country, where expat forums and traditional papers seem to rule the day. Their site is a daily look into Nicaragua and beyond. Rodrigo also administers MarcaAcme, an online cultural magazine with four of its own weblogs. One of those recent posts examined why the Anna Nicole Smith story was picked up so widely in the Latin American press:

Porque nos interesa a nosotros, los latinos, el caso de Anna Nicole Smith, una gringa que hasta donde la mayoría sabe, su mayor logro fue mostrar sus atributos por todos lados. La respuesta es obvia: Ella representa a la cenicienta que vemos en las películas de Hollywood y en las novelas. ¿Se acuerdan de Pretty Woman, con Julia Roberts? ¿Se acuerdan de Maria la del Barrio con Thalía? La historia siempre es la misma: la versión romántica de una chica que sale de la pobreza para triunfar en la vida. La diferencia entre estas historias y la de Smith es… bueno, que la de Smith es una historia de la vida real y que no tuvo un final feliz.

Why are we Latin Americans interested in the case of Anna Nicole Smith, a gringo whose greatest achievement, as the majority know, was showing her attributes to everyone? The answer is obvious: It represents the Cinderella story that we see in all the films of Hollywood and soap operas. Remember Pretty Woman, with Julia Roberts? Remeber Maria the one from Maria del Barrio with Thalía? The story is always the same: the romantic account of a girl who escapes poverty to prevail in life. The difference between these histories and the one of Smith is… well, that Smith's story was real life and that it did not have a happy ending.

Carlos Raúl van der Weyden Velásquez [Colombia] – Our newest contributor, Carlos, is helping Juliana cover Colombia's Bogota-based bloggers. He blogs frequently in both Spanish and English and, indeed, The Colombia Herald is one of the best examples of a “bridge blog” I've ever seen.

It's been an absolute honor to work with such talented, creative, and intelligent people. And we are all fortunate to have someone as knowledgeable and passionate about both Latin America and citizen media as Eduardo Ávila to be leading the region forward.


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