July 2010 Update: Puerto Rico, Cuba, and a New Website in the Works

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo

It’s true, we’ve posted nothing since April. Let’s skip the usual excuses and apologies, shall we, and just say that it’s been so long that we even forgot our own password.

It’s been a busy, fun time.

“Fun Slide,” Aibonito, Puerto Rico, June 2010

Though we never would have expected it when we high-tailed it out of Puerto Rico with all engines thrusting, the island we called home for more than 2.5 years has become one of our writing and photography niches. Fodor’s Puerto Rico, 6th Edition will be hitting bookstore shelves in August. Julie wrote several features for the book, including “History You Can See,” “State of the Arts in Puerto Rico,” “Salsa,” “A Guide to Puerto Rico’s Carved Saints,” and a 14 page itinerary for the Ruta Panoramica, the first time the Ruta’s been featured in the Fodor’s guide. Several of Francisco’s photos illustrate these and other features.

Yes, the guide book has mistakes. And yes, parts of it are already out of date. That’s why you’ll need to supplement it with the iPhone app we’re (slowly but surely) producing. More on that later.

Julie also has a feature article about Puerto Rico’s Ruta Panoramica (Panoramic Route) that will be published in the September issue of Latina Magazine, and several of Francisco’s photos will accompany this piece as well.

A mid-June trip to Puerto Rico and a return trip planned for September will see other writing and photography projects come to fruition. In the meantime, you can read about violence on the island and the problem with lionfish on PR’s Southern coast over at Matador, and take a look at photos from Yauco (one of PR’s coffee-producing towns), Aibonito (home of the annual flower festival), and other cities and towns we visited in June.

Between now and our next Puerto Rico visit, Julie will be headed to Cuba to visit Francisco’s family and to work on a few stories, including several pieces about Havana’s Chinese Cuban population, a subject that she’s been working on for the past couple years.

And other projects abound- a photo essay about scientific research at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for Discover Magazine and the conversion of CollazoProjects from a blog into a full-blown website.

What are you up to these days? Fill us in by leaving a comment below!

A Little Comic Relief/Alivio Comico

Text & Video: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos & Translation: Francisco Collazo

[vease abajo para la version en espanol]

For the past few months I’ve been gathering material for long-term project that has the working title, “Buscando Un Guiso,” or “Looking for Work.” The premise of the project is simple: a photojournalistic essay about people who pick up odd jobs for a living.

I’ve collected photos of clowns who dance their way around cars stopped at red lights in Mexico City, itinerant vendors, shoeshine men, and all other kinds of hustlers and buskers.

But yesterday, while doing some shopping at Wal-Mart in Mexico City, I came across a new one: part-time temp dancer for the Alpura milk company. The dancers go from store to store, dressed in their Alpura-gear, and dance for hours in an effort to get customers to buy Alpura instead of, say, Lala.

Good thing we had the camera… those waxed Wal-Mart floors are great for splits:
En los ultimos meses, he estado colocando material para un proyecto de plazo largo que lleva el titulo tentativo, “Buscando Un Guiso.” El proposito del proyecto es sencillo: un ensayo fotografico sobre las personas que yo encuentro que trabajan de manera improvisada.

He tomado fotos de payasos bailando en el trafico en la Ciudad de Mexico, de vendedores ambulantes, limpiabotas, y todos tipos de jineteros.

Pero ayer, mientras hicimos compras en Wal-Mart en la Ciudad de Mexico, encontre un guiso nuevo: bailarin tiempo-parcial y temporareo para la lechera Alpura. Los bailarines pasan de una tienda a otra, vestidos en su ropa que lleva la marca Alpura, bailando horas para convencer la gente a comprar Alpura en vez de Lala.

Que bueno que llevabaos la camara con nosotros… los pisos resbalosos de Wal-Mart son buenisimos para los “splits”:

“Let Me Get Back to You About That”: Some Advice from a People Pleaser in Recovery

The subtitle is misleading, actually.

I’ve been a lifelong people pleaser and probably always will be.

Don’t get me wrong: I know who I am and am not remotely reserved when it comes to expressing my opinion, but I love for people to be happy and to live their dreams and will do almost anything to make that possible.

My people-pleasing, though, has become selective. Back in the old days–before I quit the 9-to-5–I was more than happy to give my right arm if you asked, regardless of the reason.

Shortly after I was promoted to the assistant director of a mental health agency at the tender age of 23, I found myself going home angrier than ever at the end of every day.

How was it, exactly, that I’d gone from a therapist with a full caseload to an intake coordinator with a full caseload, to an intake coordinator with a full caseload and marketing responsibilities, to a middle manager with no clear job description AND all the foregoing responsibilities? (Oh, by the way, the increase in responsibilities did not result in an equivalent increase in cold hard cash). Didn’t becoming a manager mean you could begin to slough off the slop work to some line level employee?

My boss didn’t bat an eye as she told me the reason: “You always say yes.”

Note this as a “Eureka!” moment in the book of Julie’s days.

Or a “Duh” moment. Call it what you like.

As I sat in the typically unproductive weekly meeting with my boss known as “supervision,” I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life: “Eight words,” she said. “Let me get back to you about that.”

Velda went on to explain that almost no one needs–or even expects–an immediate answer to a question that involves a serious reworking of responsibilities and plans. “In fact,” she said in one of those hard-to-listen-to moments, “people kind of lose respect for you when you always say yes. Especially when you do so right away.”

I was still turning that one over in my mind as she stared at me for 20 seconds with a long, searching, and–can I say, self-satisfied?– look that said “I’ve been using you this whole time!”

Since that day, I’ve become much more thoughtful about saying “Yes,” “No,” and “Let me think about it and get back to you.” I try to say “Yes” only when I know immediately and completely that what I’m being offered or asked truly resonates within me. I try to reserve “No” for those moments when I know, instinctively, that an offer or request doesn’t at all fit with who I am. And the magic words… they’ve come in handy. A lot.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Share your experience in the Comments below.

Photo: Brayan Collazo Alonso