Workshop Announcement: How to Report on Cuba

What started as Facebook venting about my frustration with the majority of reporting on/about Cuba has turned into what’s going to be a powerhouse workshop offered live in NYC on April 27 with my friend and colleague, Conner Gorry, who has lived in Cuba for more than a decade.

More details coming soon (we’ll post them all here), but for now, mark your calendars and spread the word. Space is going to be limited!Save the Date

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.

Help Wanted: My March Contributoria Project

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photo: Francisco Collazo
**

A mural on a Head Start  preschool in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photo: Francisco Collazo)
A mural on a Head Start preschool in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photo: Francisco Collazo)

One of the most common challenges writers and journalists face is that of funding the research phase of their work. Unless you’re on staff (and even then, there’s no guarantee), it can be tough to cobble together the money that allows you to do the work that’s necessary to investigate and report a story responsibly and thoroughly. All too often, we pay out of pocket in the hope that our investment will pay off– that we’ll be able to sell the story once we’ve committed money and time into writing it.

It’s a gamble I’ve made time and again, but one that has become harder to make now that I have three children and more financial responsibilities. Investing money in a project that may not have a sure outcome isn’t the best business strategy when you’re a writer.

That’s why I’ve been very grateful for Contributoria, a platform that supports journalists and writers by funding their project proposals. I’ve been able to research and report two stories thanks to their support, one of which has been republished in The Guardian, which is a partner of the platform.

The way Contributoria works 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 March 2015 project is about c-section rates in Puerto Rico and requires quite a bit of backing– about 200 more supporters by the end of the month… which is just a few days away. I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look at my proposal and back it if you feel so inclined. 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.

SANER show at Jonathan LeVine Gallery in NYC

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo
**
Among the many subjects I cover in my work, one of my favorites is street art, and that’s because it explores and embodies so many of my other interests–politics, social justice, en fin, la gente y el pueblo, how life is lived and seen at street level–in a single, colorful, impactful form.

Saner and two of the works in "Primitivo," on view at NYC's Jonathan LeVine Gallery until February 7, 2015.
Saner and two of the works in “Primitivo,” on view at NYC’s Jonathan LeVine Gallery until February 7, 2015.

I’m starting my work week filing an article for the art website Hyperallergic about “Primitivo,” the just-opened show at Jonathan LeVine Gallery by Mexican artist, SANER, who started as a street artist and who has, over the years, moved into other genres, including drawing and painting. I’ll link back to that article when it’s published. In the meantime, you can take a virtual tour of the show through Francisco’s photos, which he shot on Friday before the show opened to the public.

Chin-chin! A cocktail for the new year

Text & Photo:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**
I thought I didn’t like bourbon.

Wedded to tequila and mezcal and charmed by their seemingly infinite possibilities, I didn’t give this most American of spirits much of a chance. The memory of the burn from sips of Wild Turkey nipped while making bourbon balls with my mom during childhood holidays didn’t exactly entice.

So when Francisco handed me a drink he’d ordered from the bar at San Juan, Puerto Rico’s recently renovated and reopened Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, and said, “Bourbon, honey, and lemon–try it; it’s delicious,” I almost said, “No, thanks.”

But something about the smell was so seductive, I couldn’t decline. One sip and I was reminded that one of life’s great lessons is try and try again.

Condado Vanderbilt makes its “Gold Rush” cocktail with Woodford Reserve (though the menu says Knob Creek). When we returned home to New York, Francisco decided to make his own version of the drink. This is what we’ll be drinking tonight to say farewell to 2014 and to ring in 2015:

Francisco's version of the Condado Vanderbilt's Gold Rush. (Photo: @collazoprojects)
Francisco’s version of the Condado Vanderbilt’s Gold Rush. (Photo: @collazoprojects)

[Makes two cocktails]
-2 shots of Buffalo Trace bourbon whiskey
-3 ounces of fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice (The Condado Vanderbilt does not use Meyer lemons, but the distinctive aroma and taste of the Meyer lemon elevates the drink considerably)
-a dash of St. Germain liqueur
-1 teaspoon of mountain forest amber honey

Mix well in a shaker with plenty of ice. Serve over more ice in an old-fashioned glass that has been rimmed with a light coating of honey and spritzed with Meyer lemon.

Chin-chin and salud! Here’s to a wonderful new year full of health, happiness, and wholeness!