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Mexico: Hero Reports, Mapping Acts of Kindness

Categories: Latin America, Mexico, Arts & Culture, Digital Activism, Ideas, Technology, War & Conflict, 7 Billion Actions
Screen grab from the Juarez Heroreports map [1]

Screen grab from the Juarez Heroreports map

Heroreports [2] is a non-profit project dedicated to crowdsourcing and mapping reports of citizen courage and positive social behavior. It started in Ciudad Juárez, México [3] as an initiative of the MIT Center for Civic Media [4] called “Crónicas de Héroes“, under the direction of Yesica Guerra [5], a researcher in urban design with a master's degree in Architecture and Urbanism from MIT. Ciudad Juarez is known for being one of the most violent cities in the world [6], due to drug cartel violence and female homicides [7].

Yesica Guerra describes the project in this video interview with the Knight Foundation [8] blog [en]:

The following video is a trailer in Spanish for the Juárez Heroreports [es]:

According to Maite Fernandez [9]from the International Journalists’ Network [10], the idea for the project came about in 2009 when Christopher Csikszentmihályi [11], director of the Center for Future Civic Media [4] visited Ciudad Juarez as part of a delegation that would suggest ideas for improving life in the city.

The initial success of the Juárez Heroreports, which has documented and geo-located some 1045 accounts of positive civic actions, has been followed by other sites in Monterrey, México, [12]the border between Tijuana, México, and San Diego, California, USA [13], and even Kazakhstan [14]. While they are all part of the same networks, each site has its own individual design and personality. Nevertheless, the focus and goal remain the same.

Heroreports is described [15] as a campaign of positive thinking. Here is an example of one short witness report submitted on April 9, 2011 [16], in Ciudad Juárez:

Un día que regresaba del Paso Tx. Iba una señora caminado mayor de edad que regresaba de trabajar y traía muchas bolsas pesadas vi como un joven le ofreció ayuda hasta que la subió al camión.

One day I was returning from El Paso, Texas I saw an elderly lady walking home from work who had a lot of heavy bags. I saw a young man offer her help and even assisted her on to his truck.

Projects like Heroreports show an innovative way of employing digital media in local communities. The benefits are manifold, bridging the realms of online activity and “the street”. The potential uses and results cannot be fully predicted. Already, some submissions read more like literary short stories than mere reports.

The Heroreports websites are empowering individuals to speak up and focus on positive citizen behavior in densely-populated areas that suffer from conflict, and are becoming useful sources of comparative socio-geopolitical documentation.