Our guest today is a Venezuelan blogger, who is also a writer, human rights activist, and an advocate. Marianne Diaz Hernandez writes in Global Voices Online and volunteers to Global Voices Advocacy.
Hi Marianne, would you please tell us when you started blogging? Can you let us know more about your blogging experience?
I started blogging in 2006, on my personal – and extremely random – blog “La Vida no Trae Instrucciones” (Life doesn't come with instructions). Since then, I have had a few attempts of “serious” blogging, until the beginning of this year, when I started “Ex-Cátedra“, which is a blog where I write on other non-personal subjects, mostly related with Venezuelan laws, development issues, gender, poverty and human rights.
I have to confess that for me, my blog, specifically my personal blog, is kind of a concessionary, where I go to say things that no one in my “real” life wants to hear. And in the same way, when I write about the things that worry me, about poverty and hunger and law-making, it's also because that’s the way to get to the people who actually want to hear about that. If it wasn't for my blog, I wouldn’t have friends and my family would have disinherited me already.
How did you learn about Global Voices Online? And what attracted you to Global Voices Advocacy?
I first knew about Global Voices Online through some wonderful people from Th!nk About It. I became interested in the work they were doing, and after that, I learned about GV Advocacy and their amazing commitment to online freedom of speech, and I thought that sadly, it might be needed that someone from my country reported the constantly-changing situation between our government and freedom of speech in the web; so I wrote a message to Sami Ben Gharbia, who made the mistake of letting me join Advocacy. Now I’ll never leave.
We all know that you're not only a blogger, but you also are a writer with an already published storybook, “Cuentos en el Espejo” (Stories in The Mirror). You are a lawyer as well, you blog for Amnesty International on Human Rights Issues, participated on “TH!NK ABOUT IT” blogging competition, and for sure you have your twitter. I am not going to ask you the obvious question, “How do you find time for all that?”. But let me ask you instead to give us a brief on each one of the above projects you work on, and if you have more projects to add to this impressive list.
Well, I don’t even know if all of those things you list are related at all. I might say that I have this insane need to write about everything I know and see, and therefore I write stories, and that’s why I blog. On the other hand, I’ve always been interested in human rights and gender equality issues, and that’s the reason I offered myself as a volunteer for Amnesty International. Amnesty International led me to Th!nk, and Th!nk led me to Global Voices, and combining them all makes me think that destiny draws the most amazing and beautiful patterns in one’s life.
I plan on continue writing on all the things that interest me. I have a storybook on hold to write, and another on hold to be published. And I hope to be useful in the future in the organizations where I volunteer, hoping to give back all the good things they've given me.
How do you see your blogging, human rights, and advocacy experience effects your book writing? And on the other hand, do you think being a writer has helped making you a better blogger?
I hope that effect isn't apparent, but I think that every human experience enriches the stories one writes. I believe that the main difference between writing in one's own room, in the solitude, and blogging, is the people one gets to know, and therefore, all those different opinions and views on life, and beliefs and cultures, may enrich one's characters and stories. Besides that, to blog is a way to expose one's writings to a broad audience, and a chance to receive good and bad critics, and so, an opportunity to improve that was impossible to get before the net existed.
However, I don't think my actual writing of “books” has improved my blogging. If so, it has taken my time for writing in my blog. But it was a necessary balance.
What is your most memorable blogging experience, or writing experience in general? And how do you see the impact of what you write on people?
I would have to recall from four years of writing a blog, what's the most memorable about that. But I have to say that almost all the bizarre, awesome, unbelievable opportunities I have had in the past four years, have come from my online activities. I've been contacted to be a part on forums, contests, to travel abroad, I've known amazing people that I'm very fond of, I've done things I'd never thought I'll do.
In general, I only can see the impact of what I write when people come to me and tell me what they thought or felt when reading me. I particularly remember two reactions, one of a person who read one of my fiction stories and told me that she almost cried because she felt that the character was herself; and another, of a person who read my work on the situation of water in Valencia, and was so shocked that remained speechless for a few long minutes. That last one didn't feel that good to me.
Do you prefer calling yourself a writer or activist?
I call myself a writer and started filling the dotted lines for “occupation” with “writer.” But that's more a self-declaration for what I want to be, even though people think that's a lot of vanity. I don't dare to call myself an activist; I only write on the things that make me worried, but there are so many people who are actually doing a lot of work for humanity and human rights, that I don't even dream or dare to call myself an activist.
But I write, and since I can not even imagine a life without writing, so I'm a writer. Not a great one. Not a famous one. But one.
We know that you yourself are a fan of “García Márquez“, “Rubem Fonseca“, “Andrés Neuman” and “Rodrigo Hasbun”. You also like Venezuelan writers like “Ana Teresa Torres”, “Fedosy Santaella”, “José Luis Palacios”, “Gustavo Pereira”, and “Gabriel Jimenez Eman”. So what it the common thing that attracts you to all those writers?
All of those Latin American writers are very different, but they have one thing in common that is what appeals me: they don't fall into the common cliché of what Latin America is for the world community: drugs, prostitution, and violence. They all know that there are other stories to tell, and they spend their lives telling those stories, every one of them in their own style. Yes, there is delinquency, but there are also stories of success, of love, of betrayal, of life and death and every single little thing in life can be told and written, and every one of them may contain a wonderful story. And that's what I love of those, and other, writers.
For people like me who live in the other side of the world, Venezuela for us might only mean “Hugo Chávez“, Petrolium, “Stefanía Fernández“, and “Tarek El Aissami,” the Minister of Interior and Justice whose first name is just like mine. So we would like to know more about you and how you see Venezuela “en tu espejo” (in your own mirror)?
Well, it might be a little hard for me to try to explain Venezuela in a few words, especially regarding the current political and social situation of the country. But if I have to give you a portrait of my country, I'll say to you that it's -and it may sound as a cliché- the most incredible and beautiful country in the world, blessed with an amazing weather all year long, with deserts and snow and forests and jungle and beaches all in the same country; and I have to say that it's a nation of strong and creative people, a nation of joyful and welcoming people. And hopefully, that's an image we'll soon be able to make stronger than oil and politics.
And I won't tell you our flaws. That would be cheating.
So let me ask you about your own dreams. What are your dreams?
I dream, as everyone, of being happy. I dream for myself that people read what I write, and enjoy it. That's all I can ask for. And I dream for my country to find a balance between what different sectors of its population want and dream for themselves, and that the time arrives when we can leave behind resentment and anger, and dream collectively of the same goals for Venezuela.
Finally, Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Well, since I won't be writing or translating a lot in Global Voices Online the next few weeks, for I'm moving to a different city and that's a lot of work, I'd love to seize the opportunity to encourage people who may be interested in citizen journalism, to check out and see what Global Voices Online is doing, and may be, to offer as a volunteer author or translator for their language. I may assure you, that it's an once-in-life experience, and one you'll never regret.