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)

Categories: Latin America, Mexico | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Upcoming Project (And How You Can Help)

Julie Schwietert 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 have to kick in any of their own funds to back a project. Instead, they use their monthly allotment of 50 points to “back” projects they want to see funded. You sign up for a free account 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 newest 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. 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!

Thank you.

Categories: Puerto Rico | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Categories: Art, Latin America, New York | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Daily Outtake: A visit to the chocolate factory

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
Sometimes, Mariel thinks Francisco and I have the coolest jobs in the world.

Like when we’re invited to tour chocolate factories and eat lots of chocolate.

Yesterday, we headed down to Sunset Park to visit Li-Lac’s new chocolate factory and, of course, sample the wares.

We lost count after five. (Photo: @collazoprojects)

We lost count after five. (Photo: @collazoprojects)

Li-Lac’s an interesting hold-out in a world of artisanal bean-to-bar chocolatiers, among them other Brooklyn-based chocolate producers, Mast Brothers, Raaka, Tumbador, and Cacao Prieto, to name just a few. Li-Lac, which was founded in New York in 1923, prides itself on being “stubbornly old-fashioned” (in fact, that’s its tagline). While those other chocolatiers are dabbling in novel flavor combinations (I happen to love Raaka’s bourbon cask aged and vanilla rooibos raw chocolate bars), wrapping their bars up in fancy packaging that sometimes costs as much as the chocolate itself, and promoting the backstory of their beans and who produced them, Li-Lac is doing just fine with its handmade bestsellers. During a tour of the factory, we were told that customers won’t let Li-Lac “get all fancy.” “They like the flavors they tasted 20 years ago and they don’t want us to change them,” said Anthony Cirone, president and co-owner of Li-Lac. Nostalgia trumps innovation and it seems to be a business model that’s working just fine for them.

Our visit to Li-Lac was for a media preview, but the grand opening to the public will take place on Saturday, November 22, from 11am-5pm. There will be free chocolate, of course. Visitors will be able to see the production line, where chocolates are “enrobed” and finished off with a hand-drawn “signature.” And if they don’t get enough sweet treats during the visit, they can purchase some more in the on-site store.

Categories: Food, New York | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Daily Outtake: Working on Oso Blanco

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photo: Francisco Collazo
One of the subjects in which I have a profound interest is preservation.

Preservation of all sorts, really, but especially the preservation of places. This interest is inextricably related to my desire to rescue “quiet” stories, the impetus behind so much of my work… and definitely my best work and that which I enjoy the most. There’s that desire, always, to inscribe in our collective memory the stories of what happened there, wherever “there” is, and anytime a “there” is obliterated, its stories tend to go with it. It’s as if the physical place has to exist for the bulk of our memories to persist.

This garita (or sentry box) is not a part of Oso Blanco, but it's part of a structure that has been deemed worthy of preservation. (Photo: Francisco Collazo)

This garita (or sentry box) is not a part of Oso Blanco, but it’s part of a structure that has been deemed worthy of preservation. (Photo: Francisco Collazo)

One of the “theres” that is of ongoing interest to me is Puerto Rico. Having lived there for 2.5 years, I was always fascinated by how sites of history were preserved and how they were wiped out, and how value was imposed upon a place, often by the weight and perceived significance of the stories that transpired there. The forts in Old San Juan? Saved. Colonial era houses? Saved? The wall surrounding Old San Juan? Also saved, at least for the most part.

But Oso Blanco? Well, that’s another story.
Oso Blanco was a state penitentiary that opened in 1933 and operated until 2004, when it was shut down by authorities because the retrofitting needed to bring it up to code was deemed too expensive. It would be cheaper to move inmates to other facilities or even construct a new facility. For nearly 10 years, the prison, certainly the largest structure from the Art Deco era in Puerto Rico, sat unoccupied, its eventual fate a subject of unresolved debate.

But then, earlier this year that debate picked up steam and suddenly, everyone seemed to have an opinion about what should be done with the massive building. Architects and preservationists insisted Oso Blanco shouldn’t be demolished. Politicians and commercial developers insisted that the cost of rehabbing it was prohibitive and that simply letting it crumble into eventual oblivion on its own was a waste of perfectly viable commercial space.

And so, it was decided that Oso Blanco would be tumba’o.

I’ve been following the story for a while and wanted to look at an aspect of it that hadn’t really been covered in the media, especially in the United States, and so I’ve been researching for a few months. Today, I wrapped up that research with a couple of interviews and I’ll be filing the piece for Latin Correspondent in the morning. Hope you’ll head over there to read it.

Categories: Puerto Rico | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment