Juliana Rincón Parra was born in Peru, lived in Costa Rica and has now settled in Colombia. She has collected a BA in Drama, experience working as a bilingual copywriter, as translator, has played around with SEO, html coding, Web 2.0 and is now studying dental lab, which makes her very excited about doing teeth metal work and learning how to do metal-porcelain dental crowns and caps. She blogs in Spanish at Medeamaterial, a blog about anything Jules related.
As if it all wasn't enough, for the past two years Juliana has always found some free time to collaborate to Global Voices Online as an author and has just accepted the challenge to be the new GVO Video Editor, on the top of the regular roundup of the Colombian blogosphere. Better than trying to describe this multi-tasking author, it is only fair that we explore her new expertise and have a video of her introducing herself:
When did you start blogging and what has motivated you to blog?
I started an online journal on opendiary.com back in 1999. Then I stopped and started several times on different platforms, including online forums until 2005, when I opened my blog Medeamaterial in blogspot. For me writing has been a lifelong way to vent, express myself and share random thoughts I have. Later on I found that it also comes with a sense of community and I've met wonderful friends through it and discovered that there's empowerment that comes with the whole experience of writing and getting feedback on what you write.
What is Mediamaterial about? How would you introduce it to someone who can't read Spanish?
Medeamaterial is a blog about whatever is going on in my life. That's where I can post interesting links I stumble upon, pictures of my crafting endeavours, complain about my day, write about topics that matter to me or just write up my experiences when travelling. It started as a place to vent, and as something I could do at work whenever I was supposed to be “looking busy” but there wasn't anything to do. It used to be a lot more personal and anonymous, but as more people know who I am and started reading it… including my parents, boyfriend and people interested in HiperBarrio project, I had to quit on the whining, complaining and any other juicy personal tidbits and tone it down for PR reasons :)
You haven't told us about it, but we have also found out there is another blog of yours, the gastronomic Manos en La Masa. Please tell us about your hidden cooking skills and let us know your recommended Latin American dishes.
I used to blog at Manos en la Masa… but I haven't really been cooking lately, so I haven't been able to write in there. I like cooking, but I hate cooking for survival or regular meals. So if I HAVE to cook to eat… most of the time I'll just fix a sandwich or have an arepa with queso (cheese). The food I really love is Peruvian food. They have this dish, it's made out of cow's hearts on a stick and over the grill called Anticucho. Sounds disturbing, but it is the BEST thing ever. They serve it with a spicy ají sauce, and a slice of boiled potato and a piece of corn on the cob. Hmmm. love it. I haven't had it in such a looong time.
So when in Perú, definitely try it. Try everything. Peruvian food is the best I've ever had. Colombian food is a bit bland for my taste, but there's this soup called Ajiaco made of chicken and 5 different types of potato that rocks. And for the ones going to Costa Rica, I'd recommend jumping over to the Caribbean side and having “rice and beans”, which has coconut rice and spicy chicken (or fish) on the side, with a great tasting sauce.
Would you have a most memorable blogging experience?
Can I have two instead of one? I have a professional one, which was blogging live from Pop!Tech. The whole idea that I could have the chance to travel thanks to blogging was too unreal to grasp, and then there I was, writing online, publishing, and few minutes later, getting feedback from people who don't speak English, who had been following pop!tech in Spanish through my blog.
The other one is based on many different moments and experiences, and has to do with the personal connections. I've met many good friends through blogging, blogs have seen me through falling in and out of love and blogging has also helped me keep up with friends and family who are far away.
What are the main issues affecting your blogosphere?
I guess that most bloggers still don't feel that what they write matters. That their blogs are powerful tools. In Costa Rica, the main issue was that bloggers were afraid that people would be offended by what they wrote, so they avoided any strong topics. That has changed since thanks to a few bloggers who aren't afraid of making their opinions known.
Here in Colombia I'm still trying to figure out what the deal is. There are many blogs I've never heard of, and I'm sure there are plenty I should be reading, but I've never known about them because people aren't that good about linking to other blogs or expanding conversations on theirs. Also, most people discuss national issues, but not the local ones, so sometimes great things are going on in a certain region, but bloggers don't write about them.
When did you start reporting these and other issues on Global Voices Online?
I started on February 2006. David Sasaki, then editor of Latin America, asked if he could post one of my articles, and then he wondered if I would be willing to help out writing about the Costa Rican blogosphere. I didn't need much convincing, and I've been writing ever since.
You have just taken up now a new role as video editor for Global Voices. How is it going so far and what are your expectations on the job?
On working as the video editor… it's been great! I don't know how many bloggers are paid in Colombia, but I don't think they are all that many, much less who can make a living out of it. In my case, it's just amazing to get paid for doing something I was very happy to do as a volunteer. Besides, I get to watch incredible videos from all around the world all day long.
My goal is to find as many wonderful individuals who are doing Vlogs and citizen journalism from the different parts of the world as I can, and let them know that they are doing a great job in documenting their lives and their country. So far I've started a VideoGlobalVoices channel on YouTube where I've been linking and subscribing to the citizen media videos and channels I've found, I'm still test running it to find out what other ways we can maximize its use. I hope eventually, people will start writing in to suggest their videos or their work, and we'll be able to cover even more people and more areas.
You mentioned briefly you have been involved with Hiperbarrio. Could you tell us about it, and how this project has helped some people in Medellín to reflect on or change the perception of themselves and their community?
Hiperbarrio has been growing at the same time the rest of mainstream Medellin and Colombia has been discovering blogs. I don't know if we could be talking about a change throughout Medellín, since we started with just a couple of communities, but as of January, when the work done in La Loma was shown, it seems that government officials, community members and the public in general finally caught on in what we have been attempting to do: empowering communities to tell their stories.
I think people didn't really understand what we were doing, what “blogs”, citizen media and citizen journalism were all about, and what all these concepts had to do with them. But seeing the physical examples: videos, pictures and articles, and seeing the pride these young adults had in their products, knowing they were writing about their community from within their community, I think the message finally got across, and interest in HiperBarrio has grown, and now we have people in government organizations asking for our help in diminishing this particular type of digital gap.
Talking about gap and divided, there don't seem to be many women blogging from Latin American countries. Would you say that this is true for Colombia?
I hadn't heard that particular statistic about gender ratios regarding Colombian bloggers… What I'd venture is that perhaps female Colombian bloggers are more private about their blogging, and maybe don't pinpoint to geographic locations. I guess computers are still a luxury item here in Colombia: many people use the computers at work, and usually, if they are using computers it is because they studied something related to computer science, and that would support the gender gap idea. Now that I think about it: I do know plenty of girls who use the internet on a daily basis, but they are between 15- 21 years old and can be found on online forums, myspace and facebook.
Another concern would be that I've found that there's a perception here that someone who sits at a computer at home is considered to be “doing nothing all day”. Or they are “playing with internet”. So in an average Colombian household, boys and men are allowed more free time at home in general, watching TV, playing soccer, playing video games or using the computer, while girls and women get to do chores, laundry, prepare meals, take care of children or wash dishes. Thus, boys would get to spend more time fiddling with internet and discovering these new tools of technology, and women wouldn't.
What would say to get women in Colombia motivated to blog more?
How to motivate women to blog more? When we opened Hiperbarrio, we got more women interested in taking the courses than men, so my guess is that just having more opportunities to take part of these courses will get women into the blogosphere. It would also have to do with access to computers, and curbing machismo. If women have to share computers at home with family members, it is usually the men who have first dibs on who gets to use it.
Juliana Ricón, taking a break from the online world and enjoying a trip to different towns east of Medellín, in Antioquia, Colombia, in a trip which is known as the ‘orient tour’