Puerto Rico’s New Makers’ Movement

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photo: Francisco Collazo

Ring made by a Puerto Rican artisan, on sale at Localista, a new design shop featuring all-local designs, located inside the recently reopened Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Ring made by a Puerto Rican artisan, on sale at Localista, a new design shop featuring all-local designs, located inside the recently reopened Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that over the past six months or so, I’ve been experimenting with the use of the platform Contributoria as a way of funding longform features I want to research, write, and have published, as well as a means of expanding my audience.

For the most part, this has been successful. While the site could improve in some significant ways, it has allowed me to work on projects I’d otherwise be hard-pressed to actualize with limited resources, including one about The New York Botanical Garden, one about the Blaschka glass collection at Harvard, and the most recent one about the enduring fascination with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Not every one of my proposals has been successful. A project about c-sections has proven to be challenging when it comes to attracting widespread support, and both times I’ve proposed it, I’ve failed to attain the backing needed to be able to pursue it. Yet each month opens with the opportunity to propose a new project, and my goal for 2015 is to do my part to propose a compelling project each month and then hustle as much as needed to round up the support to get each project fully backed.

If you’re a newer reader, I’ll explain again how Contributoria works. As I mentioned a couple months ago, “Contributoria is akin to crowdfunding, but supporters don’t pledge any of their own money to back a project. Instead, they use their monthly allotment of 50 points to ‘back’ projects they want to see funded by the site. You sign up for a free account at www.contributoria.com and allot your points as you wish. Contributoria doesn’t send out any spam and neither do I– just a monthly notification when I’ve listed a new project proposal and when I’ve published a project.”

My current project is about an emerging makers’ movement in Puerto Rico. As with my previous projects, this one requires quite a bit of backing– about 200 more supporters by the end of the month. I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look at my proposal and back it with your points if you feel so inclined. A full description of the project is on the same page where you have the option to back it.

You can sign up for an account on Contributoria’s main page.

And feel free to spread the word! I’m @collazoprojects on twitter.

Thank you.

Coverage of missing Mexican students

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
Although US media have not been doing a good job covering the disappearance of the 43 students in Guerrero, Mexico, I’ve been trying to do my part to fill in some of the gaps. My reporting has involved both on-the-ground and from-a-distance coverage, and true to my general approach to work, has endeavored to share and explain aspects of the story that have been overlooked.

A flyer showing one of the missing students, held by a participant in the November 20 protest in Mexico City.
A flyer showing one of the missing students, held by a participant in the November 20 protest in Mexico City.

To that end, here’s a round-up of the work I’ve published on the subject, as well as an interview I did just today with one of NPR’s Los Angeles affiliates, KPCC.

“Artists Put Faces to the Missing Students of Mexico” (Hyperallergic)

“With art and music, Latinos in US respond to Ayotzinapa” (Latin Correspondent)

“Anonymous launches Operation Sky Angels in response to Ayotzinapa
(Latin Correspondent)

“#YaMeCansé: Mexican Attorney General’s closing remark sparks protests and a hashtag” (Latin Correspondent)

“Art in a time of agony: Mexican artist Valeria Gallo speaks about #Ilustradores con Ayotzinapa” (Latin Correspondent)

“Watch 4 protest corridos dedicated to Mexico’s missing students” (Remezcla)

“The Disappearance That Broke the Camel’s Back” (Foreign Policy)

“Mexican corridos tell the story of the 43 missing students” (Interview with KPCC)

Daily Outtake: Latin American Design Exhibit at MAD

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
Last week, Francisco and I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Arts and Design, where the exhibit “New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft, and Art in Latin America” had just opened.

Some of the works in the "New Territories" exhibit. (Photo: @collazoprojects)
Some of the works in the “New Territories” exhibit. (Photo: @collazoprojects)

Like the Guggenheim, the physical lay-out of MAD doesn’t always work; we’ve seen really excellent exhibits there and some that really suffered from poor use of space. Fortunately, “New Territories” avoids those problems, mainly because the work is so strong and varied that the visitor’s interest is held and there’s a thrill in going from one floor to the next (the exhibit is spread out over three floors) to see what else you’ll find.

There are some heavy hitter artists/designers in the show, including Vik Muniz and Pedro Reyes, as well as those who will likely be new to most viewers. Our visit was far too cursory, so we’ll be back for a more leisurely experience before the show closes on April 6, 2015.

Now in New York: Photography Exhibit about El Salvador

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
I don’t ever take for granted the fact that I live in New York City, where we enjoy so many resources and events related to Latin America. One of those resources is New York University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), which sponsors a number of lectures, exhibits, films, and other activities that are open to the public. Today, Francisco and I headed downtown to check out one of their current projects, the exhibit, “Stories of El Salvador.”

The exhibit is at NYU's Kimmel Center.
The exhibit is at NYU’s Kimmel Center.

There are many stories from Latin America that were never fully or well reported in the U.S., and the civil war in El Salvador was one of them. For this reason, the exhibit is important; at the same time, it probably doesn’t provide quite enough context and background for the visitor who happens upon it. Still, the powerful photos that comprise the exhibit, particularly the ones that were taken during the war itself, may be intense enough to provoke the viewer’s curiosity, compelling him or her to learn more.

“Stories of El Salvador” joins two different but complementary collections of photos. Because the venue, the Stovall Family Gallery on the 8th floor of NYU’s Kimmel Center, is not an actual gallery (just a hallway and part of a common room where students relax or study), and because it’s not staffed by anyone, it’s not immediately clear where the exhibit begins. Turn left and go through the glass doors, looking for the “Stories of El Salvador” text on the wall; after viewing the photos in the common room, come back out to the longer hallway for the remainder of the exhibit, which includes photos from the war and more recent images of women who were and remain involved in social justice initiatives related to the war.

A photograph by Susan Moelles in the exhibit.
A photograph by Susan Moelles in the exhibit.

The exhibit is only open through this Sunday, May 4, but the gallery is open daily. If you’d like to visit and you’re not a student, just be sure to bring a photo ID, which you’ll need to present to security on the ground level of the Kimmel Center at NYU (60 Washington Square South). The exhibit is on the 8th floor. There is no charge for admission.

Helping out for the Holidays

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photo: Francisco Collazo
The very first country I traveled to outside the U.S. was Costa Rica.

I was 15 and I was alone, but I wasn’t scared. Not even when the shower in my host family’s home shot hot sparks at me while bathing. Not even when I took a chicken bus through the mountains in the middle of the night to go to the beach for the weekend. Not even when an earthquake-the first I’d ever been in-rattled the ground.

I carry every place I’ve ever been inside me, and I carry the people I’ve met with me, too. I think about them and wonder how their lives have unfolded.

Holiday cheer for all.
Holiday cheer for all.

This Christmas, my friend Rebecca, a military wife, is hosting a holiday gift drive for Costa Ricans in need. Rebecca lives in Costa Rica and volunteers in her community throughout the year. During the holidays, she ramps up her efforts even more, counting on the generosity and support of friends and family to help.

She explains:

This all started because people wanted to send us care packages…. People back home wanted so support our family who was living in a third world country on the local economy with no military base. During our time there I began simple (limited Spanish) conversations with people I interacted with on a regular basis– from the mom who was dropped off with her babies to sell fruit on the street to the guy who carried our trash down 18 flights of stairs because he was not allowed to use the elevator.

On Easter I happened to walk by one of the men who walked those stairs for the trash. He was sitting with his children and had a small loaf of bread. His wife was working. He was allowed to bring his children to work on Easter. There they sat, happy and thankful for their loaf of bread. Upstairs, we had a huge Easter feast with most of our favorites from the U.S. It was at that moment I realized I was blessed to be in the presence of gracious folks with true faith who were happy because they had bread and family. Talk about being humbled by the presence of the Lord. He was there with that family.

I decided then to ask family and friends to stop sending care packages for us, but instead to put together boxes of random items they felt they took for granted on a daily basis. I asked them to send those boxes to us and to allow my family to give them out to folks we met along our journey. Thus, Random Acts of Kindness began… care packages designed so that we can show others that they are not forgotten. Even after four years of this I still get tears in my eyes with every package. Who cries over boxes of toothbrushes, soap, and adult and children’s diapers? This girl!

If you’d like to help out with Rebecca’s project, you can do so in one of two ways. This year, she and her family are taking care packages to abandoned elderly as well as bags of groceries to families who live in the mountains of Puriscal. If you’d like to send a care package, you can fill it with toiletries and self-care items and send it to Rebecca via US mail; packages must be posted by December 7. A list of suggested items is below. The other alternative is to send money via PayPal, which Rebecca will use to purchase groceries for one of 20 families who have been adopted for the holidays. Each grocery bag will include: 2 or 3 Reusable Grocery Bags, Rice and Beans (Black and Red), Sugar, Corn, Flour, Cooking Oil, Coffee, Fresh Fruit, Cereal, Oatmeal, Powdered Milk, Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows (a big treat down here at Christmas), Ketchup, Mayo, Jelly, Peanut Butter, Christmas Cookies/Chocolates, Box of Diapers and Wipes.

Items for the Elderly

Sensitive Wipes
Diaper Rash Cream
Talc Free Powder
Skid Free Socks
Sensitive Hydrating Lotion
Sensitive Bars of Soap
Tooth Paste and Sensitive Toothbrushes
Sugar Free Chocolates & Sugar Free Hard Candies
Regular Chocolates & Regular Hard Candies or soft mints
PJs with buttons for men
Nightgowns for women or Pjs with Buttons
T-shirts for men (white)
Softer Bristled Hair Brushes
Bobby Pins
Bath Towels (not too thick b/c they need to be air dried)
Bed Linens/Blankets
Lysol/Clorox Wipes
Other Cleaning Supplies

TO PARTICIPATE, PLEASE EMAIL REBECCA at rhyleman@aol.com with RAK as the subject. She will provide you with specific instructions for mailing or PayPal-ing.

And thank you/gracías.