Nowadays, it's difficult to imagine an entrepreneur not using some kind of project management software on a daily basis, no matter how simple the tool. It's even harder to consider this scenario when a team is spread out through various offices, perhaps in different parts of the world. In these cases, project management tools are as essential – if not more so – than a business card.
Among the numerous software and cloud-based solutions that have cropped up to meet this demand, platforms such as Basecamp – designed by the renowned development team at 37Signals – have become synonymous with increased efficiency and organization in the modern workspace.
But there is always room for improvement, no matter how polished the competition – and that opportunity to innovate motivated a team of young, Puerto Rican entrepreneurs to develop Blimp, a new and surprising contender in the highly contested software niche of project management.
Launched late last year, Blimp has quickly won over a loyal group of supporters. Co-creators Giovanni Collazo (@gcollazo), José Padilla (@jpadilla_), and Elving Rodríguez (@Elving) have developed a company culture that values accessibility and openness towards its clients, also contributing to Blimp's rapid growth.
“No one is protected from angry clients”, mentions Giovanni. “We all do customer support, and share our personal email addresses and phone numbers with all our clients”. This practice has turned some of their clients into active collaborators that help develop an even stronger product – one that might easily surpass the expectations of the small core team that is responsible for Blimp.
What follows is an excerpt from the author's original interview with Giovanni Collazo about Blimp, the future of his company, and Puerto Rico. It was originally published in Spanish through PuertoRicoIndie.com [es].
Global Voices (GV): Your product competes with numerous high profile options. How is Blimp different?
Giovanni Collazo (GC): Blimp is a software with opinions, not a blank canvas like most of the tools that are available out there. This is a design decision that in some ways might limit its adoption rate, but also has the potential of attracting clients that simply love the product and can help us accelerate that rate.
When I say it's a software with opinions, I mean specifically the process we implement to manage a project's tasks. The majority of project management tools let users input tasks and manage them in the best way they can figure out the software. This becomes a problem for people that have never managed a project before or don't know how to. Blimp suggests one specific process for administrating a project. In this process, tasks are put through a series of simple steps that allow for better organization of your work, produce better results, and empower you to make better decisions during key moments within a project.
Blimp's process is derived from the techniques of lean manufacturing used by Toyota and other giant companies. The process starts out by laying out tasks that need to be done; then those tasks are worked on; then the results of those tasks are evaluated; and then those results can be approved or rejected. If the results are rejected, you start again; if they are approved, a task is considered complete.
GV: A problem within local technological entrepreneurship is its constant preoccupation with tailoring specific solutions for the Puerto Rican market. We've heard before about “a Facebook for Puerto Ricans” or the “a Twitter for Puerto Ricans”, and even a “Kickstarter for Puerto Ricans”.
It seems that the vision of providing services to a global community has been hijacked by one based on exclusion that is severely limited in scope – thereby difficult to grow and maintain. Yet Blimp is not “Basecamp for Puerto Ricans”. You are concerned with introducing new ideas into the global market.
GC: The new “default” is for all businesses to be global from day one. Whoever doesn't understand that is lost in space and needs help. Having said that, I think there is a big opportunity in creating services and businesses online for specific regions. But for those to work there needs to be some innovation, you need to provide something that no one else does, because others are reaching for the entire globe and your service might only work within a city, town, or street. I think the term is “micro-niche”.
A good opportunity that remains untapped is that Puerto Ricans spend millions of dollars a year on online sales, and I think that more than 90 percent of those transactions are done with companies outside the country. There's a huge opportunity there to make money with a “Puerto Rican Amazon”, but there needs to be innovation in order to take on Amazon. What can we do being geographically close to the buyer and understanding his cultural context, that Amazon can't?
So I don't think it's all bad. If you can make money with that and you don't harm anyone – good. But I agree that for many, the “default” is still to develop for the local market and then move elsewhere, as if the Internet had frontiers. From day one you are competing against the best in the world, no matter what you are working on.
GV: You've mentioned that Blimp bypassed financing its product through external channels outside the company because you didn't want your vision to be compromised. How about crowdfunding? Would you consider it in the future in order to develop new features or a new product, as the team behind blogging platform Ghost has done?
GC: More than compromising our vision, what we didn't want to have to do was to ask for permission. We are hackers and don't like to ask for permission. Perhaps we don't have the best ideas, but our ideas get made because we don't have to wait for anybody and this is something that we are not willing to negotiate. For us, creating a economic dependance on external elements is a way of having to ask for permission – and that's why we eliminated that possibility from the beginning. If we want to do something we have to get whatever we need directly and without intermediaries.
I think crowdfunding is a way of not having to ask for permission and doing what you want to do. The idea is to go directly to someone who cares and will benefit from your project and is willing to pay upfront so that it can become a reality. They are clients for what you are creating, not investors. The idea behind Ghost is a great one, and we know of other “free software” projects – free as in “free speech” not “free beer” – that have used crowdfunding successfully. This is better than going to investors, and we have already spoken about things that we are interested to do that go in that direction.
GV: Why do you think there are not many companies like yours in Puerto Rico?
GC: I think there are more people than we think and we are working, within initiatives such as Startups of Puerto Rico to make us more effective in the process of producing technology startups. I think we can hack Puerto Rico's economy.
Fernando Samalot is, among other things, a gifted musician from Puerto Rico's independent music scene, known for his participation in the experimental group tachdé [es]. The guitarist and vocalist launched his first solo effort, inner, a couple of months ago, after a series of intimate concerts that resulted in its production. The album's cover, an image of Samalot extending his hand towards a setting sun, points to another one of his great artistic interests: photography.
Through his Instagram profile (instagram.com/simonebirch), Fernando began exploring this new passion while sharing the results -a collection of genuinely inspiring photos, filled with adventure, spirituality, and plenty of heart- with the rest of the world. Now living in Los Angeles, he continues to share his explorations into nature and other discoveries and observations through the most popular online social network for photography, which has become one of his main avenues for expression.
We sent Fernando a few questions about his incursion into photography through Instagram and asked him to shine a bit of light into some of our favorite photos from his collection.
Global Voices (GV): How did you get into Instagram and what inspired you to use the medium as a new vehicle for expression?
Fernando Samalot (FS): Instagram has played an important role in my life for the past two years. Its significance and its purpose has evolved through time, in tune with my needs at the moment. Originally, it came into my life thanks to my good friend Ferdy Valls (of the electronic duo GRLS) – in October 2011, during a Portishead concert we attended in New Jersey. I didn't have any previous experience with photography so at first I simply took pictures of whatever caught my attention.
Months later, I found myself at a crossroads after the end of a relationship and the separation of my band, tachdé, where I had spent all my life – and my Instagram turned into a photo-diary of sorts where I could channel all my processes. It was then that I began to use it as a vehicle for artistic expression, although it was really more like therapy.
Once those wounds had healed, it became a diary of my adventures in Puerto Rico. By then I had more followers on Instagram and I knew nothing else that I would want to share more with the rest of the world than Puerto Rico's treasures. I was interested in being like an ambassador, showing off a side of our island that many don't know. I wanted to share all the peace and inspiration that I found in its rivers, beaches, valleys, and mountains. It was definitely one of the most beautiful times of my life.
Since then, having moved recently to California, I've maintained a big part of that aspect in my photography – it's still a photo-diary of my adventures. I've documented many trips and explorations, both external and internal. It's the channel where I've manifested myself the most emotionally, spiritually, and artistically.
I owe a great deal of my development in photography to Instagram, since by being exposed to so many incredible photographers from around the world I've been able to develop my “eye” and found my own style. Instagram has been a great source of inspiration, my school, my gallery, and main social link – and contrary to my experience on other social media sites, it has opened many doors and has invited me to explore, learn, connect, experiment, and grow.
GV: How would you describe your image “feed”?
FS: My feed consists largely of landscapes, portraits, and self-portraits. There's an abundance of sunsets, silhouettes, mountains, valleys, forests, and whichever beautiful landscapes I've had the good fortune of visiting. I try to capture to the best of my abilities the magic and serenity I feel in these places. Since my feed is so personal, each photo usually carries an emotional charge. It's been therapeutic and liberating for me, being able to share my processes through photography and even more gratifying my musings resonate with others.
GV: What qualities do you look for in a photo before sharing it?
FS: The most important quality I look for in a photo is for it to transmit a real and honest emotion – whichever it may be.
GV: Can you walk us through part of your process?
FS: All of my photos are taken and edited on my iPhone 4S. They arrive spontaneously, I seldom think of a photo I'd like to take beforehand. I usually capture moments when my subjects are off-guard, and that gives them a more organic and natural feel. When I'm the subject, I ask whoever might be my companion at that moment to take the picture for me, taking into account some directions I give them in terms of composition. In this way, a lot of my photos are collaborative efforts between my friends and I.
Then comes the editing. It is one of my favorite parts of the process and might very well be its own art-form. I love sitting down with an image, little by little transforming it until it gets to where I want it. Although I try to maintain as much fidelity to what I saw with my eyes as possible, sometimes I find myself taking the images to a more dreamlike plane.
GV: How do you edit them?
FS: The three main apps I use, for color, contrast, and lighting, are “Snapseed”, “PicFX”, and “Afterlight.” Sometimes I also use “Superimpose” for a double exposure effect.
The editing process allows for so much experimentation that each image presents numerous possibilities. This keeps the process refreshing and prevents me from falling into a formula. A lot of times I end up with nine versions of each image, and then comes the most tedious – but funny – part of the process: choosing just one.
GV: One of these images ended up as the cover to your debut EP as a solo artist, “inner”. The music you produced as part of tachdé is very cinematic as well. How does your music relate to image? And have you ever thought about the music that would accompany one of your photographs as you work on it?
FS: Good question! I feel there is an energy that flows between my music and photography, as both are born from a deep space within me and I feel they resonate with the same sensibilities. My intention is the same as with any art I practice, transmitting an honest emotion that passes through the superficial veil and gets to the root of our true nature. Be it as it may, I want to share my love with everyone. I've seen the healing and transformative effects this can have on other people, strangers and friends alike – beginning with myself. Many times I've seen an image so beautiful or listened to a song so stunning that it inspires real change within myself. Music and photography both have served as my medicine. It's with that same intention that I share them with others, hoping that they might help others as much as they've helped me. In the end, all the love you put into your work is what people will receive – that's why I put so much of me into mine, because I want to be an instrument of light at the service of others.
Perhaps I veered off topic a bit, but to answer your second question: few times I've imagined the music that could accompany my images, although in more than one occasion I've found myself remembering Fripp & Eno's album, Evening Star, as I stare into a beautiful sunset. It's one of my favorites. There is something in those repetitions and melodies that I've found perfect for meditation. It's just the type of feeling that I wish to induce in others.
The following are a small sample of the images found in Fernando Samalot's Instagram gallery, which you can visit at instagram.com/simonebirch.
This photo was taken at Angeles Crest, the mountains to the north of Los Angeles. It was my first day out adventuring in California and one of the most spectacular sunsets I've seen. That day we ended looking at the sun until it disappeared into the Pacific. It was majestic. When the time came to choose a cover for my first solo album, this photo popped out from the others. I feel it captures much of what I wanted to say with the album. The exterior light reflecting the interior.
My first week in California, and thanks to Instagram, I made a friend who invited me to Joshua Tree to spend the day. I think I had never seen such a vast landscape. It was very moving and just a preamble to all the other places and beautiful moments that were waiting for me.
I was sleeping on a flight to Puerto Rico when I woke up agitated from a dream where I was falling. This was my attempt to channel that dream. It was very symbolic for me, specially at that moment when I was about to make the decision to leave the island, of facing my fear and jumping into the unknown.
My last months in Puerto Rico were filled with adventures. This photo was taken in Orocovis, in the river known as The Hippie. It was cloudy out but for a moment when the sun came out. I was able to capture its reflection on a pool that glowed with colors I had never seen in a river. A real treasure in every sense of the word.
In 2012 I had the good fortune of traveling to Spain for the second time. This was taken at the Natural Park in Peñalara, to the north of Madrid. In this forest I contemplated my future, which at that point was still uncertain. The photo was taken by my great friend Mariola Rosario, one of the photographers I most admire and respect. Then I cropped and edited it. It ended up being one of my favorites and just looking at it takes me back to that place.
This photo is definitely one of the most charged I took following my move to Los Angeles. It was a really intense time when I didn't know I had made the right decision. I'll share the caption I wrote for it: “Remember, you chose this. You chose to be a ghost.” – I need to get my head straight. I'm all over the place. Floating in a sea of uncertainty with nothing to hold onto and no solid ground to stand on. My mind escapes me. It waits until I'm most vulnerable and then runs off to those same old familiar places… as if comfort and nostalgia ever shared a bed. Well, I don't want to go back there for anything, anymore. I don't have to. I just want to be here, now. As afraid as I am, just be here now. In that moment of loneliness and uncertainty I found a strength I didn't even know I had. That's when I found that life's darker moments are precisely when your light has the most potential to shine. This was three months ago and since then my entire life has changed. I am grateful of having this chronology of events and processes, of being able to look back and see the progress. It's funny to think of what a little app on my phone has brought about all these events. Incredible, perhaps – but that's what happened.
Puerto Rican street artist and photographer Enrique Arce, known as Aslan, (@ASLANTWIT) has been posting photographs of airplanes on his Instagram account for over six months now as part of his “#parriba” (upwards) series. The project looks to engage with the community via a “Scavenger Hunt” [es] challenge detailed on his blog. Selections from the series are printed and pasted unto tiles, which are then tacked on to walls and buildings throughout San Juan. Those lucky enough to be the first to find one of these tiles and send a picture to Aslan with its location win a copy of the tile for them to keep.
In a recent interview published by Global Voices, Aslan notes: “I started collecting [the photographs] at first without a clear motive. It wasn't until I decided to work on the series that I realized that this exploration could lend itself to a different type of artistic creation that would attract attention. Its interesting to see how simple ideas such as looking up (or “p'arriba”) and photographing an airplane are the ones that attract more people.”
Below you will find ten of my favorite #parriba airplane photographs from the gigantic series – with over 600 photographs to date! All photos are republished with the artist's permission. Follow Aslan as he continues to collect more photographs through Twitter and his blog.
The following paintings belong to Aslan's collection of Creaturas en limbo (Creatures In Limbo), presented here to show some of the artist's other work. More can be seen in his blog.
Former President of the Association of Puerto Rican Journalists (ASPPRO), Wilda Rodríguez, wrote a scathing column [es] on the current state of journalism in Puerto Rico for local blog 80grados.net. In it, she asks for what she refers to as “simply the basics”: journalism that is informed, honest, and sensible, in order to make a better country – not before saying that:
[…] the majority of journalists are sloppy, ignorant, and undeserving of the distinction of being chroniclers of the people.
It's hard to imagine anyone betting on Calle 13‘s success back in 2005, as the popular Puerto Rican group prepared to release their eponymous debut. Back then, reggaeton was still very much the rage on – and off – the island, and René Pérez Joglar (“Residente” – the group's lyricist and vocalist) and Eduardo Cabra Martínez (“Visitante” – band leader and musical mastermind) where, at first glance, just another duo trying to make it. However, their irreverent blend of hip-hop, electronica, World Music, and reggaeton was in truth much more interesting than anything else getting the media's attention – even revelatory by local radio standards.
And while the majority of the entertainment press – not ready or willing to tackle Calle 13's more politically minded lyrics and public statements – chose to focus on the group's penchant for controversy, René and Eduardo kept working on their music: upping the stakes with each release, collaborating with renowned musicians like Café Tacuba and Gustavo Santaolalla – among many others – and conquering Latin America in the process. “Our project is honest and good. We have good lyrics, good music, we have a great live show,” René said to me simply, a couple of days before headlining the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York City. The more than six thousand people who showed up at Brooklyn's Prospect Park for Calle 13‘s set clearly agree with him.
Our conversation took place over a couple of hours last July 3rd at Residente's apartment in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Comfortable, yet spare, with colorful paintings by local artists adorning its walls – it's evident René spends more time away from home, having played over a hundred concerts in 2011 alone. We sat down over a beer to chat about Puerto Rico's independent music scene, Twitter, and his involvement with the Movimiento Revolucionario Calle 13 or MRC13 for short – a revolutionary movement inspired by the group's lyrics. What follows is an edited version of that interview, produced for Puerto Rico Indie‘s online music series Archipiélago [es].
NOTE:If the video doesn't display English subtitles automatically, first press PLAY and then look for the CC (Captions) button under the video timeline. Click the CC button to enable or disable english captions.
The Internet and its social networks have a peculiar way of introducing new distractions to our timelines. Reading the constant stream of status updates and tweets generated by friends, strangers, and peers can be similar to the experience of channel surfing. Too much information, not much of it particularly useful or striking.
Then something catches your eye and opens up new worlds to explore. Such was the case when I spotted a couple of Twitter users talking about Reyerta TV [es] (Brawl TV), a short story collection written by Puerto Rican writer and blogger Juanluis Ramos. I had met Juanluis thanks to our passion for music (we both run our own music blogs, his is “El Cassette Grabao” [es] or “The Mixtape”) and had even collaborated on some blog posts, as well as appeared in local radio as part of a music panel together. But I didn't know about his book before that tweet, and it was just a few days after it caught my eye that I sat down and read it.
A wonderful collection of grainy, technicolored, pop-culture inspired windows into fully realized worlds that revel in television's classic tropes. Juanluis imbues his stories with the heavy heart of a child that has taken everything in without having the chance to sort it all out: a town's sanity rests on the secret identity of its butcher, the most hated wrestler known to the sport; a woman with no cooking skills lives out the plot of a telenovela, trying to win a man's heart with a single meal; a retired detective becomes his nemesis's closest ally as his world view unravels. CLICK-CLICK-CLICK. Each story a satisfying slice of literary fiction bent on reworking our memories from sitting in front of the TV.
Intrigued with what I had just experienced, I sent Juanluis a few questions about Reyerta TV and his experience publishing the book.
GV: I just finished Reyerta TV a few days ago. So… How do I subscribe to this? Is it like Cable TV or more like Netflix? Tell us a bit about what it is and how it works.
Juanluis Ramos: Sometimes you'd wake up on a Saturday morning, there was only one television set in the house, so you couldn't turn on the Nintendo. On top of that, it was pouring outside, so you couldn't go out and ride your bike either. The only option was to sit down in front of the television and watch whatever your dad was watching.
He was nice and would let you watch Ninja Turtles, and would even watch them with you, but once that show was over and a soap opera would begin (I don't know why local channels always have to broadcast soap operas) – then it was your mother who sat down to watch. Once that was over, it was the wresting superstars that everyone in the family sat down to watch. And afterwards a movie with karate or guns – and you would get really pumped because you loved to see some kicking and shooting. Then the news, and you'd watch even if you didn't know much about what was going on. Your mother would call you for dinner and after you'd eaten, then you could turn on the Nintendo.
That's more or less Reyerta TV. But in the end, it is just a book.
GV: The collection was published first in 2010 and now enjoys a second edition. It is not only surprising that it exists, but that its design shows great care in what must have clearly been a labor of love. When did you decide to publish Reyerta TV and how many people did the process involve?
JR: The idea to publish the book came after an earlier version of it came in second place in a literary competition sponsored by the University of Puerto Rico. Several publishers expressed interest in publishing the book, but nothing came out of it. Until a new publisher Libros AC[es] (AC Books) was born, offering Reyerta TV as one of its first two titles.
And yes, it is a labor of love. It is so because it was made between friends. It was designed by Samuel Medina with artwork by Cristian Guzmán Cardona.
GV: You also received the National Story Award handed out by Puerto Rico's PEN Club. What's been the general reaction to Reyerta TV?
JR: Overall it has been good. I was reviewed in a couple of local newspapers, various blogs, a few radio shows with a focus on culture, and it even showed up in Venezuela's national television just the other day. Also, several University of Puerto Rico professors have assigned the book to their students, and tell me that they enjoy it, plus they send me essays they've made in school about my book. Sometimes these teachers invite me to class so I can talk with their students and their reaction has always been positive – they have shown much interest.
GV: Which one's your favorite story within Reyerta TV?
JR: I'm not really sure, but the one I have most affection for is the chronicle that ends the book, “Ficción Aparte: Boletín de Última Hora” (Fiction Aside: Breaking News). Why? Because everything in that text happened to me. It's really intense, to have been robbed in front of your house, for someone to hold a gun to your head and steal your computer – with the book's manuscript in it. They stole the book weeks before I took it to the press. Then, I had to do it all again.
GV: Since we both met through our music blogs, and could very well be considered music geeks, I wanted to ask you: What's the soundtrack to Reyerta TV?
JR: A difficult question! It's something I've thought about since the book came out and I've never been able to come close to a satisfying answer – but let's see…
GV: Excellent. I would add “De mí enamórate” [es] (Fall in love with me), written by Juan Gabriel and sung by Daniela Romo, and “Watching the Detectives” by Elvis Costello & The Attractions. I think we just might have made one of the greatest literary mixtapes ever.
Enrique “Kike” Arce is known online and on walls as Aslan, one of the most innovative street artists working in Puerto Rico. His online presence has developed into a key instrument for promoting his work while actively engaging with his followers and fans. Aslan's projects mix the more traditional art tools – pencils, ink, paper, acrylics on canvas – with cutting edge social tools like Instagram, blogger platforms, as well as more playful components like toys, t-shirts, vinyl records, and tiles.
Aslan's blog is a virtual gallery of his works and ideas, which reveal a joyful, highly stylized and colorful world filled with wonder and nostalgia, and influenced in large part by American and Japanese popular culture. Enrique recognizes his art as fun for both him and his audience – and it is precisely that preoccupation which brings cohesion to his various projects.
His series of airplane photographs, #parriba [es] (upwards), is perhaps Aslan's most ambitious and engaging project yet. Using his iPhone and the popular photo application Instagram, Enrique documents airplanes flying high above – collecting hundreds of samples in the process. A selection of photographs is then printed and pasted unto tiles which are scattered throughout San Juan's buildings, walls, and streets. People are invited through his blog and Instagram to participate on a “Scavenger Hunt” [es]: the first person to find each tile and take a picture of its location wins his own copy.
Selections from the #parriba series.
The #parriba series is a powerful example of the interactions possible between artists and the public at large online. By blending technology, exploratory elements, and serialization, Aslan has arrived at something that is both rigorous and accessible, art that can be enjoyed far from the galleries that often alienate artists from potential followers – and clients.
Global Voices (GV): How would you describe your work? What do you think are its most distinctive features?
Aslan (A): My work demonstrates the passion I felt as a kid towards japanese Otaku culture and the Pop Culture of the 80's. In a very spontaneous way, I've decided to illustrate these fantastic themes that congregate in my mind, creating characters or creatures from how I see the surreal world.
GV: Do you feel as part of a wider artistic movement?
A: I think that my work has made me part of a group of emergent artists in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans are known around the world for being helpful, for extending a helping hand to neighbors, friends, co-workers – and that is not an exception in the art world. The support that each of my projects receives is grand, it transcends barriers and turns into friendships. Criticism is constructive and helps us to improve.
GV: Why Instagram?
A: I decided to use the medium as a means of expression towards an artistic goal. I'm an impulsive and hyperactive person that always needs to find something to do and I found the perfect medium – social networks, which have so much happening that they are a perfect match. They represent a new lifestyle where we acquire tons of information. I decided to show my work through them in order to help in educating Puerto Ricans to appreciate art.
GV: How did you arrive at the concept for #parriba and why your fascination with airplanes?
A: If you only knew – I have no fascination with planes. It's more like an obsession with posting (photos). When I first decided to think about what to do with Instagram that was different to how it is normally used for – photos from daily life – I found planes interesting because of their abundance and the monothematic capacity that proved to be a perfect fit with my vision.
I started collecting them at first without a clear motive. It wasn't until I decided to work on the series that I realized that this exploration could lend itself to a different type of artistic creation that would attract attention. Its interesting to see how simple ideas such as looking up (or “p'arriba”) and photographing an airplane are the ones that attract more people.
GV: How many pictures of airplanes do you currently have? How many do you need?
A: Over the past six months – or more – I've been taking more and more pictures. It has become part of me, to the point I've collected over 600 photos. I think for a project like this to take flight you need at least 200 photographs or more. Although it is never enough – I've thought about expanding the project to the whole island and I would need more than a thousand photos. It's something I have been thinking about and will decide sometime. For the time being I keep preparing myself by taking photos each time I can.
“Don Quijote felt he needed to defend himself from giants. I need to protect my family from these giants that are being installed in a densely populated area. Not only are they feet away from [our] homes but they are in fertile grounds used for agriculture,” wrote Puerto Rican blogger Raúl Colón on a post titled “Don Quijote, “Molinos”, Health Risks, & Santa Isabel” [es] this past May. A resident of Santa Isabel, a southern coastal municipality in Puerto Rico, Raúl is concerned about the health risks related to having 44 wind turbines installed near his home.
The project “Finca de Viento Santa Isabel” (Santa Isabel Wind Farm), of the San Francisco, California, company Pattern Energy, is one of several [es] multi-million dollar renewable-energy projects projected to begin production this year on the island – and once completed it will be the largest of its kind in the Caribbean. The company states on its website that it expects “to provide clean, safe and renewable energy equal to the annual power needs of about 25,000 homes.” However, as the first turbines were being raised during the last weeks of May, some of Santa Isabel's 21,000+ residents such as Raúl began having second thoughts about the project and its proximity to their homes.
Concerned activist groups such as the Frente de Rescate Agrícola (FRA) [es] (Agriculture Rescue Front) have raised awareness about Pattern Energy's Santa Isabel wind farm claiming [es] the project will have a adverse effects on the municipality's agricultural industry and its residents’ health – without the promised benefit of reduced energy costs. The Puerto Rico Farmers Association President Ramón González blasted the project, stating to the press: “What is happening in this case is troubling. They are sacrificing 3,000 acres of some of the island’s best farmland.” Several members of the FRA where arrested late last year while protesting at the site.
Below, a humorous tour of Pattern Energy's Santa Isabel facility by Puerto Rican independent musician and artist Fernando Castro Álvarez. The video features the character of “El obrero Curet”, a worker more than happy to risk his life and well-being in the name of “progress,” and was produced as part of Fernando's audio-visual project, La Avanzada Y.
Thumbnail image of a wind turbine in the Isle of Lewis, taken from http://www.uhi.ac.uk/sustainable's Flickr account under CC License BY-2.0.
Charlene Jane González de Jesús, a student at the University of Puerto Rico, was detained by state police last Thursday, April 19, 2012, at the institution's Río Piedras campus after taking her top off in public as part of a performance art piece in protest of gender inequality.
The fourth year Drama major was approached first by campus police, who intervened after having received several complaints from offended parties and proceeded to drive González to the Río Piedras police station once she refused to put her top back on. At the station, she was interviewed by state police and received a citation for next Friday, April 27.
The case was widely reported by all major local news media outlets, except by the University of Puerto Rico's own newspaper, Diálogo and its online component Diálogo Digital [es]. Diálogo reporter Joel Cintrón, who covered Charlene's story, expressed his frustration through local blog 80grados.com [es], which ended up publishing the censored piece:
[…] la historia fue reseñada, pero el presidente de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, Miguel Muñoz, dio la orden de que el tema de Charlene y su arresto no se trataran de ninguna manera por Diálogo Digital. Así me lo hizo saber Melba I. Guzmán Díaz, relacionista pública que fue nombrada como directora de Diálogo pero quien en la práctica funge como relacionista de la administración.
[…] the story was covered, but the University of Puerto Rico's president, Miguel Muñoz, gave the order that Charlene and her arrest where not to be addressed in any way by Diálogo Digital. So I was told by Melba I. Guzmán Díaz, the public relations manager named director of Diálogo who in practice acts as a publicist for the administration.
Questions about why campus police had taken Charlene González directly to the police station and not the University's security office were left unanswered by said institution's security personnel.
Charlene Jane González de Jesús, at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus (Source: Facebook Public Profile)
Local bloggers and social media users where quick to disregard University president Muñoz's wishes that the story go unreported – with many chiming in on Charlene's story. Perhaps most controversial was PODER 5's Michael Castro, who describes himself as a “Christian human father, husband, teacher, blogger” on his Twitter account (@MichaelDCC), and led the charge against Charlene's protest.
Personalmente entiendo que ni hombres ni mujeres deben andar por ahí descamisados[…] En una playa, si un hombre quiere andar descamisado lo hace y punto y la mujer usa su bikini y ya está. Si quieren ir a una playa donde ir topless sea para ambos entonces esas playas tienen acceso restringido porque no todo el mundo quiere verle los pechos a una mujer[…] Hay un lugar para cada cosa pero algunas personas no entienden eso, en especial gente como Charlene Jane Gonzalez […]
Personally, I understand that neither men nor women should walk around topless[…] At a beach, if a man wants to walk around topless he can do so and a woman can wear her bikini and that's it. If you want to go to a topless beach for both, then those beaches have restricted access because not everyone wants to see a woman's breasts […] There is a place for everything, but some people don't understand that – especially people like Charlene Jane Gonzalez […]
He continued, making numerous references throughout his post to Charlene's breast size:
Si Charlene quiere que la acompañen va a tener que buscar otras muchachas con su condición de microbusto para que la acompañen en la lucha por los derechos de las que no tienen… derechos.
If Charlene wants people to join her she better find other women with her condition of “microbust” so that they may accompany her in her fight for the rights of those who don't have any… rights.
The misogyny was not lost on all readers, some of whom reached out to Michael through Twitter, Facebook, and blog comments:
En el caso de Charlene González de Jesús, su PROTESTA DESNUDA es un acto en el que ejerce un DERECHO HUMANO DE LIBERTAD DE EXPRESIÓN, que NINGUNA SOCIEDAD DEBE CONDENAR… Pero, que tú, o que yo, no estemos dispuestos a realizar este tipo de protesta, sea por los criterios morales o éticos que cada cual tenga […] no es JUSTO que impongamos nuestros criterios a la hora de limitar o prohibir una MANIFESTACIÓN PACÍFICA que denuncia las actitudes de discrimen en nuestra sociedad, INCLUYENDO EL RECHAZO AL CUERPO DESNUDO EN PÚBLICO…
In the case of Charlene González de Jesús, her nude protest is an act in which a human right to free speech is exercised, which no society should condemn […] That you or I are not willing to participate in this type of protest, be it for the moral or ethical criteria that each of us may have […] it is not fair for us to impose our criteria in order to limit or prohibit a peaceful protest that denounces discriminatory attitudes in our society, including the rejection of the naked body in public…
What remains crystal clear is that there are still many more people on the island that, like Michael Castro, dismiss Charlene's protest and subsequent arrest as something worthy of public ridicule. Katherine M. Cepeda-Rivera writes for Cruce – an online culture magazine published by Puerto Rico's Metropolitan University – about the more than 800 comments [es] posted under leading local newspaper El Nuevo Día's initial news report about the incident:
Los mismos nos plantean un problema grave: un problema grave de moralidad. Tanto hombres como mujeres se dedicaron a escribir insultos dentro de los cuales se encontraban: “puerca”, “sucia”, “puta”, “inconsciente”, “loca”, “desquiciada” […] Aparentemente mostrar las tetas es un acto más lascivo que, de acuerdo con algunas personas, un beso entre gays o lesbianas, más lascivo que un hombre se case con una mujer veinte años menor o viceversa, más lascivo que el problema de trata humana en Puerto Rico. Repito, TRATA HUMANA en Puerto Rico (el cual no ha tenido cobertura). El que una mujer muestre las tetas es un acto más lascivo, más lascivo… LASCIVO.
These pose a grave problem: a grave problem about morality. Both men and women wrote insults, including: “pig”, “dirty”, “whore”, “irresponsible”, “crazy”, “mad” […] Apparently, showing your breasts is a more lascivious act for some than a kiss between gays or lesbians, more lascivious than a man marrying a woman twenty years younger or vice versa, more lascivious than the problem of human trafficking in Puerto Rico. I repeat, HUMAN TRAFFICKING in Puerto Rico (which has received no news coverage). For a woman to show her breasts is a more lascivious act, more lascivious… LASCIVIOUS.
Amárilis Pagán Jiménez states her concerns in a separate column for Cruce, “El cuerpo en guerra” [es] (The body in battle):
En Puerto Rico al día de hoy, los cuerpos de las mujeres son campos de batalla devastados por el fundamentalismo religioso, el conservadurismo gubernamental y la hipocresía de los líderes políticos que seguramente disfrutan plenamente de sus propios cuerpos y que prefieren guardar silencio con una mojigatería que les debería avergonzar. Acuso a esos líderes, a las iglesias cuyos discursos sólo contribuyen a reprimir el cuerpo humano y a verlo como pecado y a las empresas que se lucran de la venta de nuestra sexualidad, de todas las agresiones sexuales, la violencia en relaciones de pareja y la represión de expresiones políticas legítimas que hoy nos avasallan. Pero también asumo parte de la culpabilidad, y creo que el resto del país debe asumirla. Porque en la medida en que guardamos silencio, miramos a otro lado o nos sentimos con demasiado trabajo como para apoyar las acciones de defensa de nuestra humanidad, nos hacemos cómplices de quienes nos agreden.
In Today's Puerto Rico, women's bodies are battlegrounds devastated by religious fundamentalism, government conservatism, and the hypocrisy of political leaders that surely enjoy their own bodies to the fullest – and that prefer to remain silent with a prudishness they should be ashamed of. I accuse those leaders, and the churches whose discourse contributes to the repression of the human body and to see it as sin, and the businesses that make money by selling our sexuality, from all the sexual aggressions, violence between couples and the repression of legitimate political expressions that subjugate us today. But I also assume part of the blame, and I think the rest of the country should too. Because as we remain silent, look the other way or feel too busy to support the defense of actions in favor of our humanity, we become accomplices to those who assault us.
And as interest for Charlene's story dies down, one comment lingers and a question remains. As blogger and Twitter user Michael Castro wrote to fellow Twitter users @aerogirl80 and @elcolao in their back-and-forth about this incident: “My attitude is a reaction to Charlene's “protest”. Some praise her, some defend her, and I laugh.”
One of Puerto Rico's most recognizable journalistic voices, Rafael Lenín López has made his career on local television news programming (Noticentro, WAPA TV) and radio shows (Pegaos en la Mañana, Radio Isla). At 34, he has already been elected twice as president of the Puerto Rican Journalists Association.
Although his incursion into Facebook and Twitter should not come as a surprise, what is genuinely thrilling is the way in which Rafael has been able to use social networks as a bridge between his different journalistic enterprises.
Rafael uses his @LeninPR Twitter account – with over 20,000 followers – to offer quick updates and information about the latest news, later to be covered in greater depth on television or radio. The account has also provided him an outlet to voice his opinions and establish a more direct connection with the Puerto Rican audience. In fact, it was through Twitter that we politely asked Rafael for some time away from his busy schedule in order to answer a few questions for us:
Journalist Rafael Lenín López. Photo republished with his permission.
Global Voices (GV): I would like to start by asking you – not about the beginning of your career (we’ll get to that later) – but about your introduction to social networks. Since you already had the experience of working within more traditional or established mediums such as radio and television, what motivated you to start reporting through Twitter? How did you come by this medium?
Rafael Lenín López (RLL): Hello! Thank you for your interest. After the frenzy over Facebook, I was a little skeptical about going into other social networks. However, I went into the Twittersphere and found a much more practical way to simultaneously report breaking news and create a new personality through a medium with an audience which was different from the one for traditional media. It also grants me the opportunity to slip personal comments and opinions through, which wouldn’t be allowed in traditional media. I can quickly exchange comments with the audience, people get to know me better, and I get to know them better as well.
GV: You’re presently working for WAPA TV and Radio Isla, and you were also reelected president of the Puerto Rican Journalist Association. Has your exposition over social networks created any conflict with your professional work? Has it resulted in any qualms about the way you present yourself to the audience? Do you hold any considerations when you send a tweet or share something over the social networks?
RLL: For more conservative individuals perhaps this “over-exposure” would imply a conflict, but not to me. I try to complement my professional job with the content I put out in social media. Maybe it has become the outlet through which I combine the work I do in radio with the work I do on TV. My objective is to share the most urgent and immediate information through social media, and leave the details and explanations for radio and television.
I write my opinions and comments when I deem it important to express them and generate some sort of discussion or debate. People need that spark to wake them up. To date, there hasn't been any conflict generated by this.
GV: Journalism seems to be more hard-pressed than ever to adopt a greater focus towards entertainment, thanks to the economic realities of media outlets. The emergence of the so-called “crowdsourcing” also complicates the situation. Were these trends already taking shape when you started your career? What were your greatest challenges back then? How does it all compare with your experience in the present day?
RLL: When I began my career at WPAB Radio in Ponce, none of these trends were emerging just yet. I had the chance to witness a great and disorderly transition in mass media, a transition that made most people a little crazy and left many without a job. At the beginning, I was working with analog broadcast consoles and playing publicity ads from cartridges; I edited reels with razor blades and ripped the paper out of the teleprinter with a ruler. I used to break into a sprint whenever I heard the bell that announced an urgent piece of news. And be mindful that I’m only 34 years old!
The present-day experience is completely different, but what I’ve gone through previously – at risk of sounding a bit nostalgic – allows me to perfectly understand the situation confronted by communicators nowadays.
GV: What is the present state of journalism in Puerto Rico? Are journalists fulfilling their role?
RLL: I think they are. I think we have journalists that tend to be very responsible and committed to their work and, above all, to our nation. However, we should improve our investigative journalism.
GV: You recently shared an essay on Facebook [es] about the national broadcast of the picture of a decapitated head. In this essay, you say: “we have to take an investigative angle on these cases, and analyze how the lack of proper planning to confront this social problem has brought us to this point.” What hinders this kind of coverage? Is investigative coverage being done as rigorously as it should?
RLL: Our daily criminal activity does not allow us communicators – hence the rest of the nation – to take pause and thoroughly analyze the social problems we’re afflicted by. The daily time slots allowed for news are taken up by the most recent events, and very little time is left over for a more composed discussion. Alternative media, therefore, plays an important role in this.
GV: The Occupy Wall Street movement is becoming the North American version of the Arab Spring. What’s your take on this movement? What effect could it have on our island?
RLL: I think it’s appropriate for people to attempt to occupy spaces we’ve come to accept as “not ours.” However, I think we’re far from a widespread movement in Puerto Rico because of the poor sense of collectivity we have when it comes to explaining and solving our own problems.
GV: In your career, which news have most impressed you and what did you learn from them?
RLL: For its human drama, the explosion in Río Piedras in 1996 – without a doubt. Considering more frequent, everyday events, the trials over cases of corruption are evidence of how our political elite is rotting from the inside. Also, when it comes to people, both interviews to Filiberto Ojeda Ríos [es] marked me for life.
GV: Is it difficult to detach yourself emotionally from news that impassion you, be it a coverage on elections, interviews, or anything else? Do you feel detachment is a requirement?
RLL: I don’t think it’s necessary, and I usually don’t detach myself. I’m a citizen and resident of this nation and this planet. We cannot offer coverage as if we were aliens. This doesn’t mean we should take sides in a controversial case. In such situations, what’s appropriate is to present all angles justly.
GV: You’ve openly supported musical projects such as Orquesta el Macabeo and Calle 13 over Twitter. Do you follow the local musical scene? What other music do you like?
RLL: I do follow the local musical scene. I like what’s happening out there with the artists and cultural exponents that aren’t well received by the mainstream media. That’s how I realize how disconnected traditional media really is.
I listen to almost every kind of music, as long as it’s good.
GV: Lastly, could you share with our readers any advice that you understand is vital to achieve a better nation for everyone?
RLL: We need to build a nation whose ultimate goal is solidarity and collectivity.
Special thanks to Diana Campo (@dianadhevi) for her work translating this interview.
With more than 2 million views since being uploaded to YouTube a week ago, music group Calle 13's new video “Latinoamérica” [es] has found widespread acclaim online and around the world.
The clip, co-directed by Jorge Carmona and Milovan Radovic, begins with the Puerto Rican duo of brothers René Pérez Joglar (Residente) and Eduardo José Cabra Martínez (Visitante) visiting a small Peruvian radio station in the mountains, where they are introduced by a Quechua-speaking discjockey. It then alternates between clips of Latin American people and landscapes, as well as several animated segments which allude to the lyrics “vamos dibujando el camino” (we are drawing the way as we go) [es].
A couple of blogs from the Puerto Rican blogosphere have commented on the video. Ivonne Acosta Lespier, from the blog Sin Mordazas [es,] wrote:
En lo alto de los Andes, en tierra Inca, nuestros embajadores de buena voluntad René Pérez (Residente) y su hermano Eduardo Cabra (Visitante), censurados en su propia tierra, cantan lo que quisieran que nuestra gente escuchara a “las caras más bonitas que he conocido” que resultan ser los olvidados del mundo en la era del capitalismo salvaje.
In the heights of the Andes, in Inca land, our ambassadors of good will René Pérez (Residente) and his brother Eduardo Cabra (Visitante), censored in their own land, sing what they wish our own people could hear, to “the most beautiful places that I have known,” which are the world's forgotten people in the capitalist era.
El estribillo podría ser un himno para cantarle a los desarrollistas preferidos por este Gobierno que se canta “verde” pero destruye la naturaleza de nuestra Isla para venderle terrenos, incluyendo los que antes estaban protegidos, al mejor postor y ganar millones.
The lyrics could be the hymn to sing to the favorite developers of this government, who call themselves “green” but destroy our island's nature to sell lands, including those lands that before were protected, to the best bidder and to win millions.
PuertoRicoIndie.com, which recently posted an essay [es] comparing Calle 13's ‘Latinoamérica’ to a song by the ever-popular Mexican rock group Maná, that shares the same name, had this to say about the video:
Una colaboración entre los directores Jorge Carmona y Milovan Radovic, el vídeo captura la diversidad del continente, encontrando su esencia entre su gente y sus paisajes. Logra esto con la misma efectividad que lo hacen la música y letras del tema – René Pérez y Eduardo Cabra reconocen que el tema es más grande que ellos dos y que el trabajó está en documentar. Tampoco se trata de sorpresas, si no de un reflejo – de la historia, de la realidad, de la actualidad.
A collaboration between directors Jorge Carmona and Milovan Radovic, the video captures the continent's diversity, finding its essence among its people and landscapes. It achieves this with the same effectiveness as the song's music and lyrics – René Pérez and Eduardo Cabra recognize the song is bigger than the two of them and that their job is to document. It's not really about surprises, but of creating a reflection – of [the continent's] history, of its reality, of actuality.
René “Residente” Pérez, who has spent the week actively promoting the video through his Twitter account, @Calle13Oficial [es] proudly proclaimed to his millions of followers:
el video de #Latinoamerica en menos de 1 semana llegara a los 2 millones de views,sin sonar en la radio.
The video for “Latinoamérica” in less than a week will reach 2 million views, without the song being played on the radio.
He later added:
El video de”Latinoamérica” llegó a las 2 millones de visitas..Gracias a VEVO por nada..jeje..
The video for “Latinoamérica” reached 2 million views… Thanks for nothing, VEVO!
The video for “Latinoamérica” was uploaded directly to YouTube by the group, eschewing the popular music video syndication platform VEVO, which is used by many international artists and is co-owned by Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Abu Dhabi Media.
Calle 13 was recently nominated in a record-setting 10 categories for the 2011 Latin Grammy Awards, including “Song of the Year” and “Record of the Year” for “Latinoamérica.
Really?! Yes – there is a political satire show aimed at young people, and it’s not Los Rayos Gamma™ 2.0. En Serio is broadcast on channel 30 (Play TV) in Puerto Rico, Sundays at 6pm, and through their website.
It’s inspired mainly by successful American political satire shows – blending Stephen Colbert’s irreverence, Jon Stewart’s social commentary and Bill Maher’s panel discussions, and adapting those influences for a young Puerto Rican audience with topics of interest and local guests. To date, En Serio’s studio has hosted a healthy mix of politicians, bloggers, analysts, musicians and activists.
With the show's first season officially over, we sent some questions to En Serio’s anchorman, Alejandro Díaz, in order to learn more about his experience with the show and its production process. The resulting interview is a great way to familiarize yourselves with the show before the start of its second season, scheduled to begin during this month (September 2011).
Global Voices (GV): For those who haven’t tuned in yet, what is ¿¡En Serio!?, and where can you catch the show?
Alejandro Díaz (AD):En Serio is a political satire show produced with the intention of reporting the weekly news in a humorous way, thus setting us apart from traditional media and their manner of reporting, which never breaks the surface. You can tune in on Sundays at 6pm, on channel 30 (on local Puerto Rican television station Play TV). You can also watch us on Mondays from 6pm through our website achoenserio.com [es], where all of our episodes are uploaded.
GV: How did this project come into being? Was it always meant to be broadcast through both TV and the Internet?
AD: It was our producer’s (Juan Marrero) idea. Juan came to me with the concept more than two years ago, but it wasn’t anything tangible. None of us thought it would materialize. Last summer, we attempted to start working on the show, made exclusively for the Internet. But our lack of discipline kept us from even writing a script. Last February, Juan calls me up and tells me that the owner of local channel 30 (Play TV) was interested in the show – that he wouldn’t censor us, and that he would allow us to put all the episodes online. It was very important for us to be able to upload all episodes to the Internet because our target audience spends more time online than in front of the TV set. Besides, there aren’t that many shows that do that sort of thing in Puerto Rico.
Image credit: achoenserio.com
GV: Do you have any academic background on media production? Who or what inspired you to make a show about political commentary, discussion, and satire?
AD: I have no academic background on production, but I’ve worked in many production projects. My father was a publicist for years, and I used to help him out in the sets for his ads. I also worked with my brother in some short films he made. I never expected to work in production, and I wasn’t interested in being in front of the cameras either, but Juan’s idea got me really motivated. I’m a fan of politics, but I’ve never been fond of how they treat political topics on our island. I used to get embarrassed when my friends turned on my car’s stereo and it happened to be tuned to AM radio.
GV: How many people are involved in the show’s production? How long does it take to make an episode?
AD: Right now, there’s 5 of us, and it takes us 5 days to make a complete episode. On Wednesdays we meet up to discuss the most relevant topics and to decide which of those have the most potential for comedy. This meeting is very important because it is where we decide the angle from which we will report each news piece, and we are at disadvantage because we’re the last show to discuss any topic on a typical news cycle since we air on Sundays. On Thursdays and Friday mornings, I write the script. We record the monologue and panel discussion on Friday nights. On Saturdays, our art director (Alfredo Bermúdez) works on all the required images and edits the recordings from his home. By 6pm on Sunday, Alfredo has a finished show, and we do the interview live.
GV: How do you decide whom to invite to the show, either for an interview or a discussion panel?
AD: We try to have young people that ascribe to different societal and economical ideologies (conservatives vs. liberals) for the discussion panel. We’re not interested in partisan debates because they’ve proved to be of no use at all as a solution to anything. Besides, there’s WKAQ [es] and RadioIsla [es] for that. In the next few months we’re going to try new things with the panel. We want political discussions to be more humorous without losing substance. We also have a discussion panel about films, plus other pending panels about sports and music. Some of the guests are friends of ours, others have been referred to us. We’ve even met some of them through Twitter.
I have to admit I don’t have a set system when it comes to choosing guests. Usually, Juan comes up with a name, then I come up with another, until we come to an agreement. The difficulty in getting a hold of them factors into our decision.
GV: Which is the most difficult: the monologue, the interview or the discussion panel? Which part of your job is your favorite, and why?
AD: The most difficult is the monologue. Preparing it takes the most time in the production stage, and it’s an emotional investment. That’s why I think it’s my favorite part as well. Seeing the final product and hearing the audience’s reactions and laughter is very gratifying.
GV: Who would you like to interview in the future? Is there anyone you wouldn’t interview?
AD: I’d like to interview Alejandro García Padilla, since he conveyed interest in coming to the show before announcing his candidacy [for local governor], but we don’t exist for him anymore. Apparently, channel 30 is below his level now. I confess that I’d also like to interview Ruben Sánchez [a local TV and radio personality] and spend the entire interview interrupting him [as he does frequently on his interviews].
GV: Who constitutes the show’s audience? What are you doing to make the numbers grow?
AD: Our audience is composed of young people – students and professionals interested in local and global politics. We’ve worked to make our audience grow by handing out flyers in places where they gather. We’ve also been reviewed by local newspapers, and our press releases have been published. Another medium that has covered the show is the Puerto Rican blogosphere.
GV: I imagine you watch shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher… Do you have a favorite? Who has the best monologue, in your opinion?
AD: Of course I watch them! They were the inspiration for this project. My favorite, even though I know some of my colleagues think otherwise, is Jon Stewart. Stewart has achieved what I aspire to: a balance between comedy and information. Stewart is the happy medium between Colbert and Maher. He’s not as serious as Maher, nor as silly as Colbert. For most young people, these shows – along with the Internet and social networks – are their main news sources. That is what we aspire to be.
We want to be one of the primary news sources for Puerto Rico's youth. Behind our cynicism and satire are actual facts that help keep our audience informed.
Interview originally published in Spanish at PuertoRicoIndie.com. Translation for Global Voices by Diana Campo (Twitter: @dianadhevi).
A polarizing figure in Puerto Rican politics, Jorge Santini is currently serving his third term as the Mayor of San Juan. During his years in office, Puerto Rico's capital has faced plenty of tough challenges that affect the entire island – slow economic growth, rise in crime, the ongoing drug wars, more homeless people living in its streets, and more.
There are, however, very specific issues that affect San Juan's residents and business owners, administrative issues, for example, that slowly take their toll on the day to day lives of voters and leave them wishing for better leadership. Such is the case with Giancarlo González, born and raised in San Juan, and currently residing in the historic district of Old San Juan. Giancarlo runs the blog JorgeSantini.com [es], dedicated to improving the life of sanjuaneros by reporting on the particular issues that affect him and his neighbors, as well as those who visit the district.
Poor administrative handling of issues such as traffic, city planning, and energy conservation are all discussed in JorgeSantini.com in an effort to form a discussion between fellow residents, businessmen – and of course, their mayor. Global Voices sent some questions over to Giancarlo in order to learn more about his experience with the blog.
Global Voices (GV): When did you acquire JorgeSantini.com and what did you intend to do with the URL in the first place?
Giancarlo González (GG): I first acquired JorgeSantini.com in 2005, after noticing that for the 2004 elections it pointed to the opponent's website (Puerto Rican Senator Eduardo Bhatia of the Popular Democratic Party). I found it funny and showed it to different people when the subject came up… One day, I checked the domain and found that the opposing party had let the name expire, so I bought it.
I had no plans for it initially, but I did have ideas for San Juan, so I thought it was a good URL name to have in case I had an opportunity to talk to the mayor.
GV: What motivated you to start the JorgeSantini.com blog?
GG: I wanted to get the mayor's attention. I ran into him several times and mentioned that I had the name, and he always said that “he would get in touch with me in regards to some ideas he had.” He also left me some contacts – which I called, but never received a response…
One day, I just decided to start blogging about the situation with JorgeSantini.com and the fact that the mayor didn't care enough about the name nor the potential opportunities that we could develop [through it].
During the 2008 elections, his ad-agency (Publicidad Tere Suárez, which I am familiar with) contacted me in regards to the blog, and requested that we redirect the name to the official election site – santinialcalde2008.com [no longer online] – which we did. But the relationship never went beyond that, so after the election was over, I reactivated the blog.
GV: Have you always lived in the municipality?
GG: Yes, born and raised in San Juan. This past year, however, I moved to Old San Juan.
GV: Has the blog allowed you to get closer to your neighbors? How has it impacted your community?
GG: Unlike the suburbs, Old San Juan has a lot of issues – traffic, the homeless, construction, commerce, activities, etc. After experiencing numerous traffic and parking issues, I decided to focus the blog on Old San Juan issues, reporting situations that I considered important for every resident of the area.
People email me their concerns and complaints, and I post them on the blog. In many cases, it's as simple as noticing a “closed street” that is currently open [es], and cars keep going in, only to have to back up because the street has no exit. Visitors encounter issues of poor guidance and the municipality does a bad job of keeping order with incoming traffic. This is my number one concern. If a resident of Old San Juan has a medical emergency on a Saturday or Sunday, there is a high probability he will not have aid arrive on time [es] (or he will not be able to leave fast enough) because of the log-jam traffic.
Traffic in Old San Juan on a typical weekend. Image by jorgesantini.com.
GV: What do you think is the role of citizen journalism? Do you consider yourself a citizen journalist?
GG: Peole say “the world is smaller” in terms of technology connecting remote places and allowing people to communicate easier. This also means that there is a lot of “news” that happens in specific areas, that is much easier for individuals to report on – the major newspapers can't cover every single issue that is ocurring in specific sectors of Puerto Rico. For example: Santurce, Hato Rey, Ocean Park, Viejo San Juan, Condado, Miramar – each particular neighborhood or district within the municipality of San Juan has issues affecting the residents of that community. How do you get the message accross to those who can do something about it?
I think the role of citizen journalism, at least on my end, is to try and make the life of those around you better by reporting and proposing solutions to daily situations that may be improved. Why should Old San Juan residents feel like they live in a prison, when it takes them twenty minutes to exit their home, spending time in eternal traffic jams, or having to hear a “symphony orchestra” of car horns every Saturday and Sunday?
I consider myself part of a problem that has a solution – but the municipality is too inept to implement the necessary rules and restrictions to solve the problem. If this means I am a “citizen journalist” then I guess I am, but I don't consider myself to be one. I just want to solve a problem that affects all of us in Old San Juan.
GV: Have you received any communication from Jorge Santini or his staff? Do you think he has read it?
GG: Not from Mayor Santini, but people within his circle have read it. I also report on positive news related to Old San Juan.
Lampposts throughout the city waste electricity during daylight. Image by jorgesantini.com.
GV: Would you consider ceding the URL to the mayor's upcoming campaign efforts?
GG: Probably not. I already did that in 2008 and the advertising agency that handles the campaign hasn't expressed any interest in providing access to the municipality for us in order to be able to present issues that need to be solved, so I don't think they deserve it.
I'll probably step up the content and promotion of the blog during his campaign – if it results in more efficient management of the insane traffic jams around “La Puntilla” on weekends I'll be happy.
Maybe the blog provides fuel for the mayor's opponents, resulting in controversy – which would drive attention to the issue. Think about it: Jorge Santini cannot provide for decent traffic management in Old San Juan… How come? Isn't the role of a mayor to provide efficient administration for the city?
GV: What are some of your favorite spots in San Juan?
GG: In Old San Juan: Cuatro Sombras [es], Baccaro, Fefo's, Cafeycultura, Antonella's (best pizza in town!) and a new Waffle Place on Tetuan St. Very nice!
GV: What is the biggest challenge facing your community right now?
GG: The lack of a leader who truly cares about his residents’ and businesses’ particular situations. A great leader would make the entire municipality proud by implementing efficient handling of access to Old San Juan.
Those in government expect this traffic mess and don't care to make it better – while those who do care, end up running into issues with people who stand in the way. For example, local businesses set up in areas where they end up contributing to limitting traffic flow, and there are local restaurants who have managed to close down access to specific streets, etc. Taxis in Old San Juan need to make inefficient turns on Paseo Covadonga because Tetuan Street no longer pulls up to Fortaleza St. This was made to please the restaurants in the area, but it affects the traffic flow.
How can the municipality continue closing and fixing streets without avoiding the monumental collapse of the local economy due to limited access and the insane traffic to enter and exit the city?
The first post on the FemiLista blog [es], titled “Bájate de mi carro, puta” (Get out of my car, whore) was published at 3:44 am on Wednesday, June 8, 2011. In it, the blog's author and creator – who goes simply by the Internet handle of “Yuyu” – narrated the unfortunate events that led to its creation.
As Yuyu explains in her blog [es], a night out socializing and partying with friends (and friends of friends) ended up with her catching a ride to a club with three fellow Puerto Ricans – men she had just met, but trusted enough to get her to where the rest of the group was convening. During the ride, the car's driver, one Mr. Eduardo Hilera, Legislative Assistant to Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner in Washington, turned hostile toward his newly met passenger while questioning her manner of speaking:
Empezamos a conversar: de dónde somos, qué estudiamos, las preguntas de rigor. De golpe, el joven que va manejando me dice: “¿Qué problema de autoestima tu tienes que hablas así?” […] “Pues no me gustan las mujeres que hablan así. Tengo mucho respeto por las personas que hablan simple”.
We started a conversation: who we were, what we studied, the usual questions. Suddenly, the driver asks me: “What self-esteem problem do you have that makes you speak that way? […] I don't like women who speak that way. I have much respect for people who speak simply.
The conversation turned to politics, with Mr. Hilera insisting several times to know her opinion about Puerto Rico's current Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, who unbeknown to Yuyu at the time, was and is still his employer:
Bueno, pensé, a la tercera va la vencida: Pienso que no sirve para nada tener un tipo que tiene voz pero no voto en el Congreso. Sabía que había cometido un error.
Well – I thought – the third time's the charm: “I think that there is no real use in having a guy that has a voice but cannot vote in Congress.” I knew I had made a mistake.
Mr. Hilera, who has been under employment at his current position since 2009, proceeded to unleash a slew of insults on his female passenger, identifying himself and another one of the men as employees of Pedro Pierluisi. She was then told to exit the car – “Bájate de mi carro, puta” (Get out of my car, whore) – and left alone in the streets of D.C.
The account spread through the Internet via email, the blogosphere, and social networks, where it reached local media outlets and well-known reporters, such as Rafael Lenin López, President of Puerto Rico Journalists’ Association or ASPPRO [es] who sent out the following tweets with links to FemiLista later that evening via his @LeninPR Twitter account:
The next morning, as promised, Lenin asked the Resident Commissioner during his morning radio show on Radio Isla about the FemiLista blog's account of Mr. Hilera's behavior in Washington.
Pedro Pierluisi had this to say, as reported by local newspaperEl Nuevo Día [es]:
Sí me dicen que hubo un incidente mi equipo de trabajo… Yo no he hablado con Eduardo Hilera. Él está en Washington, yo estoy acá en Puerto Rico. Y lo que te puedo decir es que si hubo algún tipo de insulto en ese incidente… porque la dama se haya expresado negativamente en cuanto a mi persona o lo que yo hago… Yo rechazo cualquier insulto. Esa no es mi manera de ser… Eso lo saben todo mis empleados y ellos deben reflejar como yo me comporto y lo que yo hago. En su momento me sentaré con Eduardo y le llamaré la atención si es que ocurrió tal insulto […]
I've been told there was an incident with my staff… I have not yet spoken with Eduardo Hilera. He is in Washington, I'm here in Puerto Rico. What I can tell you is that if there was any type of insult during the incident… because the lady expressed herself negatively in regard to my person or what I do… I condemn any insult. It is not the way I am… All my employees know that and they must reflect the way I conduct myself and what I do. In due course I will sit down with Eduardo and I will scold him if it turns out that such an insult ocurred […]
[A]quél que vota no puede tener ningún tipo de opinión sobre el votado ni su gestión ni tampoco puede involucrarse en la gestión política más allá del voto cada cuatro años. El cargo político, una vez alcanzado, se cubre de una impunidad que le permite al que lo ejerce disparar a diestra y siniestra frases machistas, racistas, homofóbicas, etc. sin ningún tipo de consecuencia.
The electorate can't have any opinions about the elected nor his performance, and also can't get involved in politics besides voting every four years. The political office, once reached, covers itself in an impunity that allows its holder to spit out phrases that are sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. without any type of consequence.
She goes even further, linking Hilera's desire to silence Yuyu with the role of Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner in Congress:
Reproduce también la ironía del cargo: elegido democráticamente en la isla, va allende los mares (¡de domingo!) a gestionar de la forma más antidemocrática: sin voto. Lo que se le niega al Comisionado es lo mismo que se le niega a Yuyu, la traductora. Y esto es lo que la infortunada frase de Hilera esconde: una hilera de prejuicios y una hilera de políticos bajándose del carro.
[The insult] also reproduces the irony of the office [of Resident Commissioner]: elected democratically in Puerto Rico, he crosses the ocean to work in the most antidemocratic way: without a vote. What is denied to the Commissioner is the same thing that is denied to “Yuyu.” And this is what the unfortunate phrase by Hilera hides: a history of prejudice and of politicians told to get out of the car.
Fellow Puerto Rican blog La Acerahad a different take [es], volunteering the following advice to FemiLista‘s author:
En momentos como ese, es mejor decir una mentira positiva, que la realidad negativa. No conocías a esa gente, y estoy seguro que con un “me da igual” llegarías hasta tu hogar sin humillación. Tristemente, fueron tus palabras que prendieron este fuego.
It's times like these when it is best to say a positive lie than a negative truth. You didn't know these people and I am sure that with an “I'm indifferent” you would have gotten home without any humiliation. Sadly, your words lighted this fire.
But it's clear that Yuyu would rather let her opinions be known, writing on FemiLista:
Este blog será dedicado a denunciar actitudes y comportamientos misóginos por parte de nuestros políticos, periodistas y pensadores. Asimismo, destacará temas de interés en torno al movimiento por la igualdad de género. Espero que esta página sirva como un espacio para reunir a mujeres y hombres con el valor de decir “¡basta!” en la tierra del eterno “ay bendito”.
This blog will dedicate itself to denouncing the misogynistic attitudes and behaviors of our politicians, journalists, and thinkers. It will also highlight related themes of interest to the movement towards gender equality. I hope this page will work as a space to unite women and men with the courage to say “Enough!” in the land of the eternal “oh well” (“ay bendito” [es]).
Thousands have followed the impulse to be seen online through video based social networks – expressing their feelings, showing off their talents, and filming every aspect of their lives (including goofs and gaffs). Fewer, however, have been able to establish themselves as an online presence with a popular video channel on Youtube.
Christian Ortega published the first episode of his regular web series “La Cabeza de Christian” (“Christian's Head”) back in the summer of 2009. Through LCC [es], as it is known for short, Christian generally speaks his mind about Puerto Rican politics, headline news, and his life on the island for seven to nine minutes at a time each week. It's Puerto Rican life filtered through the mind of an energetic and media-savvy twenty-one year old. To this date, his Youtube video channel has amassed over 1.3 million views – and counting.
Global Voices (GV): What was your first video camera and what did you record with it?
Christian Ortega (CO): I've only had one video camera – the same one I currently use, a Sony HDR-SR12. The first footage I recorded with it took place around my home. I recorded birds singing in the morning and my dog playing around. I then started acquiring the necessary editing skills using software like Sony Vegas and Adobe After Effects. I'd watch tutorials online through Youtube – so you could say I make videos thanks to the site. Without having a user account yet from which to upload my own content, I was already being influenced by Youtube.
GV: How did the idea for your project, “La Cabeza de Christian”, come about?
CO: Three years ago I did not pay attention to any type of news. It was then that I first listened to @JayFonsecaPR [Jay Fonseca; a local young radio and TV personality that comments on news] and developed an interest for what was happening in my country and the rest of the world. Without having listened to 180 grados [es] (“180 degrees”, Fonseca's program) every Monday to Friday from 5pm to 7pm, La Cabeza de Christian would not exist today.
The station I'd tune in for news, RED96FM, was closed down and replaced with Ritmo 96, its programming dedicated to merengue and bachata music. A news program that appealed to the youth was taken off the air by those beloved “market forces.” All the indignation I'd built up in my head needed a place for release. But it wasn't all indignation – I wanted to have a space where I could have some fun as well.
After a couple of months of studying tutorials in Youtube, it was inevitable that I'd start watching videos by Shane Dawson, Smosh, Nigahiga, Philip DeFranco, among others – all of them american vloggers with different focuses and recording methods. The idea of having my say through Youtube came from watching all of these programs and the delivery comes from the way I naturally act, what I read and who I am.
GV: Did you think your videos would find an audience like the one you have today?
CO: I never imagined it. I always thought that they would be enjoyed only by family and friends. It has been a very emotional experience, full of human warmth.
GV: What topics interest you the most?
CO: I'm passionate about history, philosophy, politics, and colonialism – this last one interests me a lot, how it has impacted the world, as of course, how to eradicate it. Social sciences, technology, and in six months I'll have more topics to add if I am asked the same question again. I'm very nosey and prone to have several interests at the same time.
GV: The University of Puerto Rico (UPR) is going through a critical time in its history. Through “La Cabeza de Christian” your viewers have been able to follow your participation in the student strike. What is most surprising about the on-going conflict afflicting the institution?
CO: What's most surprising to me is the wave of repression coming from the state, who has decided to invade all of the university's campuses that show any type of commitment to fighting against the imposition of an $800 fee for this semester and $400 for all subsequent semesters through use of police force.
GV: What do you think is (or should be) the role of Puerto Rico's blogosphere? Is it a substitute for traditional media?
CO: I think the principal role of our blogosphere should be tackling topics in a more in-depth manner so that people that consume the information can receive other points of view about the same problem that was mentioned in traditional media. It also serves as a dissenting voice amidst an oppressive reality against the individual and against a collective that wishes to maintain every citizen obedient and subservient.
To be honest, our blogosphere does not yet have the resources necessary in order to substitute traditional media but it does have the talent in order to serve as an example to them. But since we don't have the considerable resources needed to establish our own information networks, at least personally, I depend on traditional media in order to inform and form my opinions, that I'll then be able to transmit through alternative media.
GV: Many people in the blogosphere would love to live off their online projects, but we don't hear a lot of stories about local blogs successfully monetizing their blogs. Can bloggers live off their blogs?
CO: My own efforts have been pretty effective. I first invested money in a hundred pin-back buttons to sell and little by little I was able to buy two machines so I can make them myself – not only for my vlog but now I offer the service to others with similar projects.
My products have traveled to parts of Latin America, the United States, and Spain. And although the fact gives me great pleasure, it has not produced sufficient money to live off the vlog. I think that for that to happen we need more companies assigning funds for online marketing efforts. But that method doesn't make me entirely comfortable, since I think that it would make me have to respond to other interests other than my program.
GV: What is the biggest challenge facing Puerto Rico's youth?
CO: Puerto Rico's youth in general should be prouder of their roots and more conscious of the historical events that have taken place on our island. This historical conscience and defense of our roots should lead Puerto Rico's youth to visualize themselves inside a colony of the United States that should be repudiated and protested against.
Besides fomenting this nationalism of the oppressed, I believe we must also look to an economic nationalism, in order to reinforce our local economy. If we are going to be consumers, at least we should consume what we produce most of the time. Puerto Rico's youth has to assume the responsibility imposed by our status as a colony and to stop living in a vacuum free of all worry.
GV: Are you “preaching to the converted” or do you reach a broader audience with “La Cabeza de Christian”?
CO: I spend a great part of my day reading messages and compiling information in my mind about the people who watch LCC and I can say I am not preaching to the converted. I've spoken to people who don't share my views and say they enjoy the videos, as well as there are people who share ideas with me but hate the way I execute them.
The capacity to reach a young audience – 13, 14, 15-year olds – allows me to speak to a depoliticized group that has yet to assume postures; and perhaps by mentioning historical events or important figures in Puerto Rico's history I can help foment different views to those they would have without knowing of said facts.
I also recommend from time to time books and places I've visited – I record these experiences and share them through my vlog. Its gratifying to know that someone is reading a book I recommended through social networks.
GV: Is there any topic you are not willing to speak about in front of a camera and share with your followers?
CO: The relationship I have with my viewers has reached such an extreme – and this might sound absurd – that I feel I must share every topic that affects my personal life. A few months ago my dog passed away and I wanted to say it on Youtube so that people would understand my mental state in those weeks. I was criticized a lot but I know those people don't know the relationship you can establish with others through social networking.