In New York, “the most Latin American city of of all the cities of America,” [es] as Claudio Iván Remeseira affirms, the Hispanic cultural and artistic dynamism can be felt. Global Voices spoke with this recognized journalist and cultural critic regarding his blog Hispanic New York Project: a prism that reflects the actual panorama that enriches New York and the country.
Global Voices (GV): A mere ten years (approximately) following the arrival of blogs, we see that their solid welcome continues strengthening. Given your experience as a writer and journalist, what can we attribute this peak of blogs to?
Claudio Iván Remeseira (CR): Blogs are a form of direct communication that responds to our times. A hundred years ago, writers, journalists and politicians published a type of magazine or flier, occasionally one or two pages, through which they were able to have a bearing on public opinion. This was a very common resource. Blogs are the equivalent of this type of medium, and they are rooted in a long standing need for expression.
GV: Upon immersing yourself deeper into the blog, you notice an artistic and cultural effervescence generated by Latin Americans in New York City. What guidelines do you employ to spark so much diversity?
CR: Editorial criteria is key to every publication. What we've done is quite original: try to rethink the dominant vision about Hispanics in New York; and incorporate voices from Spain, Mexico and Portugal into the Hispanic universe.
I use the definition of “hispanic” employed by Dominican academic Pedro Henríquez Ureña [es], who was invited to Harvard University's Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, where he gave speeches entitled “Literary currents in Hispanic America” from 1940 to 1941. According to Henríquez Ureña, “hispanic” refers to all that derived from the cultures of the villages that populated the Iberian Peninsula (Hispania of the Romans) and later intermixed through the Conquest and colonization with indigenous villages (mislabeled as “natives,” considering they were also in the last instance immigrants, mostly from Asia, and in part from Oceania) from that which today we call Latin America.
The difficult thing is not being able to publish more pertinent information. I don't pretend to compete with large companies like Univisión or Fox New; but every day I try to include 6 or 7 important news items. The topics are geared towards news on the Latin community in the United States, and international politics covered by Hispanic columnists in New York or in other cities in the United States. I also publish a list of events of art, cinema, literature and theatre, such as the Teatro Stage Festival, for example, co-sponsored by the Hispanic New York Project.
GV: Can you share a bit about the relationship between academia, particularly Columbia University, and your blog Hispanic New York Project?
CR: This blog is a personal initiative. I am the editor and the only person responsible for its content. The Hispanic New York Project, on the other hand, is an academic-cultural initiative put up by Columbia University's Center for American Studies, and comprises three fundamental elements: education (through an annual seminar for undergraduates about the city's Latino history) and research; programs of activities about literature and film directed towards the community; and the production of books and other publications: the first result of this editorial effort is entitled “Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook” (Columbia University Press, 2011), of which I am the editor. We also provide free advising to writers, journalists and academic researchers.
GV: What was the impact – if any – of your virtual project in the development of this anthology?
CR: A direct relationship between the blog and the anthology does not exist, since both projects are independent from one another. The anthology was born from the necessity of having a textbook for the classes that I offer at the Center for American Studies since 2006. Given the small quantity of anthologies of books that deal with the topic of our class (with the exception of those such as “Latinos en Nueva York: Communities in Transition,” edited by Gabriel Haslip-Viera and Sherrie L. Baver, and “Mambo Montage: the Latinization of New York”, by Agustín Laó-Montes and Arlene M. Dávila), we decided to create this “reader” that includes up to date information about the topic. We hope that our publication complements previously mentioned texts.
The first video of the presentation for the “Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook” anthology: