Milton Ramírez [es] is one of the first Latin American collaborators for Global Voices and Global Voices en español [es]. A bit reluctant to be interviewed, he finally agreed to this little chat where he tells us about his diverse activities, in which we can always find a link to his native land of Ecuador and technology.
Hello Milton. Tell us, what is life like for an Ecuadorian in New York?
Like all those interested in coming to the United States, New York is a destination that many and all yearn for, including Ecuadorians. The Ecuadorian nucleus is in Queens, and its presence is so strong that an extension of one of the most prestigious Ecuadorian Universities, Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja [es] exists there. What does an Ecuadorian do exactly? Occupations are quite diverse and range from providing services like cleaning, maintenance and construction, to positions in the government, activities in the media and, of course, charity organizations as well as the arts.
You're a professor. Tell us about your work.
I was a professor for some time while I lived in Ecuador. Nevertheless, it isn't the only thing that I've done or accomplished. I have been a sales agent in half the world and I've also had to experiment with various activities here, among them being a math and Spanish teacher in New Jersey in Saint Mary High School.
My work has always been one of educating and my training shows this. I have been able to link this knowledge, for example, with sales administration, personal management and quality control. But I was trained to detest technology in schools and to consider it imperialist. To this day, I still can't disagree entirely.
How did you find out about Global Voices and decide to participate?
Among the activities that I touched upon, one of them that I have barely even mentioned is blogging. I had a blog in Spanish for this then and as always, I was on top of what was happening in Ecuador, whether it was because of interest of nostalgia. That's how I began writing suddenly about Ecuadorian blogs [es]. One day I was surfing Google and as any other blogger, I was filled with a huge sense of satisfaction when I saw a link to my blog on one written in English. It was on Global Voices Online (GVO).
A number of days passed and I received an e-mail from David Sasaki, after I had written him about the link to my blog, inviting me to write for GVO. I didn't doubt this, but to my surprise, my work had to be in English and although I didn't feel ready, I took the leap and wrote about the Hispanic Blogger Union, no longer in existence today. Since then, it has been an utter pleasure to contribute to GVO to this very day.
You are one of the few who collaborates as an author and a translator. How did you end up doing both for GV?
I wish I could say I do it perfectly, but more importantly, I do it for the responsibility; I do it because writing allows me to make Ecuador's presence known to the rest of the world, not because the country doesn't have good journalists, but rather because the reports in English are mainly written by foreigners that sometimes don't offer reliable sources.
To me, the translations came as an aspect of learning. The first time that I completed a translation (not professionally), it seemed simple and enjoyable. But at the same time, it gave me the opportunity to learn about other cultures. As a result, I'm very selective when I choose a topic to translate.
Tell us about your personal blog and other sites in which you participate.
For many, blogging is seen as an activity for the unoccupied. For me, it's a form of expressing my ideas and sharing my interests with people surfing the Web. I have had an entire collection of blogs but at the moment there is Voces Lojanas [es], where I write about the happenings in the province and city of Loja, my city of birth. Then there is Spanish Readers Blog [es] about being a bridge between that which happens in the tri-state area on the coast of the United States and Ecuador, and subsequently, the blog that I've had for years, Education & Tech, where I write, or try to write, about my doubts and diatribes against education and technology immersed in this field.
Less than a year ago, I began collaborating as an associate editor for a prestigious blog dedicated to technology: geeksroom.com [es]. And most recently, I've been invited to elportalvoz.com [es] for the ATEI web network. The invitations to write for other sites have also varied, but I should focus on a few for now, as I only write part time.
How do you view the dynamic of technology applied to education, above all in the Latin American setting?
I would like to have a sufficient foundation to be able to voice my opinion about that which happens in Latin America. Unfortunately, my knowledge in closely related to my environment, the United States. Now, that does not exempt me from stating my own criticisms about what I know about education in the rest of the world.
Historically, in Latin America, one of the countries that has distinguished itself in educational material is Argentina. And those who want a first hand example simply have to read Tiscar Lara [es], Rosa María Torres [es] or Diego Leal [es].
Despite many efforts, however, our countries have not been able to liberate themselves from UNESCO and the surplus from the Alliance for Progress. It continues to glorify two tools as though they're some sort of magical cure for all of the problems with technology in our schools: projectors and PowerPoint slides.
Our educators still believe that technology is something imposed upon us by the empire –the United States. This could not be further from reality. Technology and the curriculum are the mediums. The educators are the ones who are called upon to bring this synchronization to life. And in a world that is so high tech, it's a sin that elementary and high schools, as well as universities, do not bring themselves up to date on these materials.
The problem with everything is the funds and with the crisis enveloping every corner of the Earth, the implementation of technology in these centers goes from being extremely limited to totally absent.
Speaking of Loja, what do you miss most from home?
Many things. My family, my friends, and that academic contact that exists solely in Loja. The numbers are relative but if you compare them with the Ecuadorian and Latin American economic flow, three years ago academic tourism made the city of Loja nothing more and nothing less that $7 million USD and this surely has changed today.
This small city in the south of Ecuador enjoys the privilege of being the cradle of writers and artists, among distinguished musicians as well. This is attributed to the various educational centers of superior levels, such as the sited UTPL, the National University of Loja and the Salvador Bustamante Celi Conservatory of Music. This conjunction of good speech and progressive spirit of Loja's natives makes the city attractive not just to Ecuadorians but also foreigners that have decided to come and study here.
Apart from writing about Ecuador, technology and education, what other topics interest you?
I never only dreamt about writing, I didn't even like to do it when I was a student. But I haven't published a book either. There are very few people who have been able to make the writing technique marketable, and as a result, I only do it in my free time.
In the time I have left, I like to read a lot, in the traditional way with printed books. Law truly interests me as well and I wanted to become a lawyer as a second career. This is a closed lens, but I also work and teach myself business management. I still don't have a prosperous and established business, but from a very young age, I have been a salesman and I like to serve people (for money). With all of the laws in place, who knows what I'll become in the link between those who look to build businesses between their countries and the United States.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Jokingly, I'll tell you what happened to me in New York when I had just arrived in this country. The English that I had was one I learned in Bernardo Valdivieso — a legendary high school in Loja. I had frequently been hearing “good night” and one night, at my temporary workplace, I was repeating these two words over and over. When I did it, the Americans that I spoke to, looked at each other and smiled, which made me wonder if something bad had been going on. Of course, I had used a farewell phrase as a greeting, when the correct thing to say was “good evening.” Now I don't commit such horrors.
Thank you, Milton.