A lot has happened

since Brazil beat Italy in the 1994 World Cup Final. The past two decades have marked major shifts in the Latin American landscape; economic, cultural, structural, and political. Heck, Brazil will host both the World Cup in 2014, and the Summer Olympics in 2016!) It’s no secret that several countries in the region face major challenges, and that most are still confronting the forces of non-inclusive growth, inequality, and corruption. But (and this is a big but) there is a rather more important transformation taking shape right in front of our eyes. These are changes that could signify a positive shift in national narratives – a move towards a homegrown vision of a bright future. A number of countries in Central and South America are discussing, for the first time in their histories, the possibility of jumping into that category we call “developed nations”. Inequality indexes throughout the region clearly indicate that Latin America is not quite there yet, but even a cursory look at other indicators reveal that decisive steps to remedy this are now within grasp for many. But what has been remarkable about this transformation is not simply a story about economic evolution, but rather, about the power of culture and narrative in this process of growth. Our personal experiences, collective work, and the research (and many interviews) we conducted in the development of this project, corroborate this change of cultural self-perception.

While each case is different, all of the projects presented in this short volume have their individual “aha!” moments. Marginalized popular graphics in Bogotá are appreciated with new eyes. Contemporary art in Peru finds an outlet, even in precarious times, in an itinerant venue. Mexico blooms into a technological center, and Chile invests in the future. All these projects, in small or large ways, create new narratives for countries in a region that has known its share of tragedy. These changes – visions of a feasible future – circulate generously within Latin American countries and their regional media outlets, but often fail to reach our global counterparts. Also, for better or for worse, the news-making and social media dynamics of the XXI century are becoming a major actor in the non-stop re-shaping of the identities in the region: while some countries see themselves as the up-and-coming wine exporters to the world, eco-tourism democ-

racies, or innovation hubs, others are faced with a narrative of violence and political division that often perpetuate and worsen the realities of their day to day lives. With this book we present one of our most beloved aspects of Latin American life: how everyday acts of creativity can veer our lives closer to that future we dream about. Because if there is a place where “no” is never non-negotiable, it is definitely in the area that stretches between Mexico and the South Pole. This cultural re-fashioning is achieved by gestures of varying scale; whether it is creating complete libraries out of cardboard and crayons, or by defying violence with music and fireworks, they each contribute to the bigger picture. Imagination and syncretism, so essential to the Latin American ethos, must be part of these newly-imagined identities that are being built right now in each countries’ imagination.

From left to right: Michelle Benaim Steiner & Lope Gutiérrez-Ruiz (Gopher), Gabriella Gómez-Mont (Tóxico) and Alexander Wright (In-House Int’l).

The Gopher Illustrated emerges from the desire to consume hefty, satisfying cultural content that is worth keeping. Born as a publication with print and web platforms, The Gopher Illustrated magazine was presented as a “collectible in motion” – an object of record, earning a place in your shelves not because it is static, but rather because it represents only the beginning of an ongoing journey. We wanted to bring together extraordinary work – visual art, fiction, journalism – to inspire and delight, but most of all, to extend an invitation to engage. Unsurprisingly, this cultural content we sought to offer has quickly spilled beyond its pages. The Gopher has evolved into a conversation, a collective exploration, and an ever-expanding network of projects and collaborations. Today, the Gopher projects promote dialogue by providing inclusive and high quality platforms for emerging talents in the arts. The magazine builds a living record of archival quality, which is carefully curated and aimed for a general readership. The

Gopher’s programs compile breakthrough creators and projects, exhibitions, series of books, bilingual readings, performances, pop-up spaces, lectures, special publications (such as the one you hold in your hands), and the stuff that simply eludes definition. This includes visual arts, design, journalism, literature – still the core components of the magazine – but also, increasingly, audiovisual and live content. A key element in our vision as a cultural initiative is that each of the projects is not developed only for the professionals in the arts, but rather with a general audience in mind. So, you might ask yourself, why the arts? What we’ve chosen to call “the arts” is simply the expression of knowledge, experience, culture, belief, and emotion. The arts encompass our communicable universes, without setting universal guidelines for that communication. In their full expression, then, the Gopher hopes to lay bare invisible universes, sparking dialogues that include the premise of humanity. In this sense, the arts are an ideal point of departure for the kinds of conversations that will inevitably shape the future.

Mexico City. An (im)possible city. A city recreating itself constantly, built with layer upon layer of history: from the pre-Hispanic to the contemporary perfectly at home. It is not an easy city, no; it never fits obediently inside the structures of easy definitions. It holds more people and topographies than some countries. And its size and complexity also make it the perfect space for endless diversity, for many worlds living in one: a veritable breeding ground for ideas. It holds more museums than Paris, has the largest university in the continent, has one of the highest GDPs of any city, and it made gay marriage legal before New York did. It is endless in its creative combinational potential, and it is just now becoming aware of this. Mexico City is also our playground. Tóxico Cultura: a hybrid of multidisciplinary platform, creative think-tank, cultural salon and an independent cultural agency. Created as a roving catalyst, to inspire, to further creative excellence, and to build a network of information, intellectual resources and connections around important conversations and ideas in Mexico City. Our relevance is in being a catalyst and a bridge and having a flexible structure so we can quickly spark urgent conversations with

the right people at the right time, and move on when each of those conversations catches fire. Our relevance then, paradoxically, is our desire to become irrelevant, one issue at a time. Because of this, we have come to believe that imagination should not have a fixed subject. It can gravitate around certain areas of strong interest, around certain compelling territories – like strange attractors in chaos theory – but the moment it stands still it becomes heavy, like concrete. And in the realm of the mind, what does not move is dead. So we move constantly, regroup, change spaces, and make more and more allies, depending on the project at hand. In addition to hosting international workshops and lectures with amazing minds, we have a local mentorship program and an international internship system for young artists. We also create our own content: art, editorial projects, film projects, and we curate exhibitions. We collaborate across disciplines with many of Mexico’s most talented creative people. And even though Tóxico’s projects change constantly, they do have certain points in common: the relentless belief that imagination is not a luxury. That excellence is contagious. That intoxicating ideas are the best fuel for the creative mind.


Described by its founders as “an unfinished, never-ending, empirical and mutating project dedicated to everyday Bogotá”, Popular De Lujo is the brainchild of three graphic design students frustrated by their coursework. The year was 2001. “At the time, in the department, they would teach you about U.S. and British design, European design, the great sacred cows of design, Bauhaus, Swiss design and so on – great forms of design that we have great respect for and that we’ve made use of in our own design work, sure. But it was very obvious very quickly that these types of design did not reflect what was right there in the visual landscape of our everyday lives, in the way the buses and cafeterias are decorated – what we call popular graphics”, says Popular De Lujo co-founder Esteban Ucrós. There was an institutional denial of the visual world surrounding them, including the occasional affront “Professors at college would not refer to [popular graphics] unless it was to make fun. For them, all this stuff was exactly what we, enlightened people of good taste, were supposed to correct when we were finally out working in the real world. We were the ones called upon to civilize the awful graphic panorama of our cities.” What do visual landscapes in our cities say about their citizens? One could argue that the imagery on city surfaces amounts only to a matter of taste, of style. But the omission bothered Esteban, Juan Esteban, and

Roxana. They began documenting what they saw to compensate for the lack of formal instruction. “We found that there was this immense body of work everywhere that was not only not documented, but threatened in a way, because it would just be gone and there was no record of it. It was pictures at first, a project dedicated to compiling and preserving the popular imagery in the streets of Bogotá, which we tried to turn into a book. We saw that the book was not viable for many reasons, so in 2003, we launched a website instead”. Over ten years have passed since the project was first conceived. In that time, it has expanded its mission has grown, changed, and contracted multiple times to accommodate a single, powerful, insight: popular graphics can spark an important conversation. The website reached people around the world, and got people talking about hand-painted signs, posting photos. Other websites started to spring up. Change and mutation are themes that Ucrós returns to often. The mutation of Popular de Lujo mirrors, in many ways, the founders’ evolving relationship with the subject. Yes, it was about including what they saw around them, but it was bigger than that. The founders began to think about the meaning of this project, its next steps. Popular graphics were, after all, a visual vernacular of a great majority of Bogotanos, yet one that was

Interview and text by Michu Benaim S. Popular de Lujo / Bogotá, Colombia / populardelujo.com / info@populardelujo.com

shunned not only by the academic halls of their university, but by middle and upper class citizens, the media, and the entirety of the “cultural sector”. This is when they began to see the bigger picture. “We saw that by recovering and showing what’s behind popular graphics, what its values are, we were helping to compensate for the lack of representation that working class citizens have in Colombia”. Fieldwork followed. They began to talk to people in popular neighborhoods, finding out about their everyday realities. Eventually they got in touch with some of the painters responsible for these works. The painters, says Ucrós, “revolutionized what Popular de Lujo became”. They spent time with them, learned their life stories. Graphics became an excuse to talk about the social chasms that exist in what he calls “our Latin American societies.” The encounters hit a nerve. The imagery created by the working class was, much like the working class, neglected and looked over. “Beyond the inequity in access to opportunities and material goods, in Colombia there is a rampant form of inequity that I would say is the parent of the rest: the way people treat other people. Colombian society is profoundly classist: expressions of the working class are systematically devalued both by ignoring them or by insulting them when people make fun of them or treat them in condescending and patronizing ways.”

Meeting the painters galvanized the expansion of the project in many ways. There was power in recognizing not only the skill and aesthetic value of the work, but that there were authors behind the work. When I asked Ucrós about his proudest accomplishment he talked about the public programs from a recent exhibition titled 4 Fieras: La Gráfica de Jorge, Herrada, R.A.M., Barreto featuring workshops by the four painters in an important arts institution in Bogotá. “With Popular de Lujo, we have done books, exhibits, websites and so on. But honestly what I like the most of everything we have put together are these demonstrations, talks and workshops where the painters are the main stars. I would hate to sound grandiose but I think that at their tiny level these activities have helped bridge the gap that separates classes in Colombia: we have managed to gather in the same room people that otherwise would hardly talk to each other, and that’s a lot more than what a coffee-table-book can do” On the grander scale, though, the act of looking is still at the heart of their project. “As long as people don’t show the experiences of others the respect they want for their own I don’t think society has a promising future. So if we are really committed to a more equal society, things as ordinary as gráfica popular acquire an unexpected importance. They are a large, concrete, sustained and consistent means of expression of populations our societies have failed to represent properly” says Esteban. The busy collective is still a labor of love for the threesome, but they are looking into becoming a nonprofit that will ensure continuity. After more than a decade, Roxana, Esteban, and Juan Esteban make time after work and on weekends for the project. This is surprising to many: Popular de Lujo is very prolific. They travel extensively around the world to speak about popular graphics, and have produced maps, a number of books, and amassed a collection of over 300 works that Popular de Lujo has commissioned from the artists over ten years (probably the greatest collection of its kind in Colombia, he adds proudly.) “We never haggle” says Estéban “they’re artists, and we pay what they think is fair”.

There have always been lots of cartoneros – cardboard pickers – in Argentina. But after the 2001 crisis, the one that became infamous because the President fled on a helicopter, cardboard pickers seemed to multiply at the time. Everyone was suddenly out of a job. All kinds of people went out to pick cardboard because they had no other source of income. Washington Cucurto and Javier Barilaro – the founders of Eloísa Cartonera – were making these little poetry books bound in colorful card-stock at the time. They were incredibly pretty and had these tropical images of naked ladies by Javier, who is an artist. Cucurto’s first name is Washington, which is obviously an alias. He was born Santiago Vega, but that doesn’t matter because fame was already tied to his pseudonym: “Zelarayán”, a book he wrote under the pen name, won a poetry award and was distributed in public libraries around the country until someone in Rosario decided that these poems were vulgar and pornographic. This person in Rosario turned to “cleansing”, burning every copy he could find. This episode, of course, gave Cucurto a certain cachet. There were public debates. And lots of press. After 2001, paper became more expensive. There wasn’t any money. They could either stop making books, or make them with what was available.

They came up with a very simple publishing system to make books that anyone could manufacture using few resources, which are also very inexpensive to sell. Remember the corrugated cardboard pickers? That’s how Eloísa Cartonera, the publisherslash-organization was born. -We’re not cardboard purists, as in “I’m wild about cardboard”; that’s not the idea says María Gómez, who has been working at Eloísa Cartonera since 2004. It’s cardboard, see, just imagine you live in a country where people can’t read books and you have to make them with discarded cardboard. That sets the standard, you see? And it’s all good, its a fine thing that we do, but we don’t buy this vision of art, all these erudite theories, which I think are nefarious. - What theories? - Like the one about aestheticizing poverty, all those musings of boring intellectuals. It’s not that we make covers out of cardboard because poverty is cute. It’s a good thing because we make it with what we have on hand, because the books are inexpensive and accessible, and for a bunch of reasons that also have to do with the socio-political realities of Latin America. But we don’t defend cardboard itself. In addition to Cucurto and Javier, there was a woman named Fernanda Laguna. At first there wasn’t a physical space for Eloísa Cartonera, everything was made around


Interview by Leo Felipe Campos / Translation and edits by The Gopher Illustrated Eloísa Cartonera / Buenos Aires, Argentina / eloisacartonera.com.ar / bellezacartonera@hotmail.com

town, at the library where Cucurto worked, at the “Casa de la Poesía”… After a while, Fernanda got some cash and rented a space where they set up a fruit stand, the bookbinding workshop and an art gallery. By the time María arrived, the books and the gallery had pushed the fruits and vegetables out. Fernanda left soon thereafter because she was also running an art gallery. In the meantime, three workers joined Javier and Cucurto to manufacture books. - In the beginning, we photocopied. It was kind of expensive, but they were short books. You spent one peso on the copy, another on the cardboard and sold the book for four pesos. And we did very small editions, five to ten copies. If a bookshop asked for more, we made more. Later, the Embassy of Switzerland donated some funding and they bought a used printing press. The project inevitably grew. Cucurto, an expert on Latin American literature began to put together a catalogue of titles. Soon, they were publishing renowned writers from around the continent, most of them born in the seventies. They have a roster that can be qualified with adjectives such as “star”, “young”, “brilliant”, and “genius”. A roster that could – and does – elicit the envy of any publisher: Ricardo Zelarayán, Dani Umpi, Fabian Casas, Daniel Link, Rodolfo Walsh, Alan Pauls, Mario Bellatin, César Aira, Gabriela Bejerman… They, of course, donate the rights to their work.

- Our catalogue was put together by readers, for readers. We all do our part, but Cucurto is the expert. It’s possible that I have more experience managing the workload, but Cucurto is literary expert, and Javier used to be the design expert. That’s how it works. The person who knows the most about something is in charge of it. - Tell me about the “Nuevo Sudaca Border” prize. - It’s a contest we invented back in the day. The first time we had it, we received over 200 manuscripts and we published six. The jury was filled with important folks: Ricardo Piglia, César Aira, a few journalists, us. It coincided with the “Premio Clarín de la Novela” – the longstanding literary prize given out by the largest daily newspaper in Argentina – our submission period opened and closed on the same days as theirs. - And which of you chose better? You, or Clarín? - I don’t even remember what Clarín put out, but they only chose one, and we published six. - It looks like a definitive victory - We work a lot. - What is a lot? - All day. - 24 hours a day? - No, but eighteen hours, absolutely. Every day.

- Why would you work so hard? - Because it needs to be done. And we also like it. We are a cooperative and we give it our all. The work demands it, and it will always demand it, because that’s how things that are created with sweat and little money get done. By 2007, there were seven of us. Now there’s, well, we’re a rapidly growing family. - What’s distribution like? - Distribution is always less than we’d like it to be. The books are sold at the workshop – we moved to a new space at Aristóbulo del Valle 666 – and at a few shops. We also go to a ton of book fairs, and we take mail orders. The profit margin is invariably small, and even that we split among the workers. - How much do the workers at Eloísa Cartonera earn? - Sometimes it’s very little and sometimes we make more. But we work ourselves to death because we feel that there are more important things than money. This is ours, even with the ton of work and its limitations. In a good week we’ll sell hundreds of copies, and on a bad week we won’t sell any. And sometimes, on those bad weeks, you have to pay for the rent and utilities. Those are the weeks that make you want to go crazy. - What’s next for Eloísa Cartonera? - We had wanted to do workshops in the community and that sort of thing, open the door to the community more explicitly. Which we

have been doing – we just had a science fiction book club. And we bought an acre of land and we’re building a community garden. So I guess we kind of went back to that fruit stand in a way. - Don’t you think community-based, social projects in Latin America are kind of trendy right now? - Well, in Argentina, people barely have a right to education. Who, then, generates culture? The State doesn’t do it for us. In a way, this project was created because of the social realities at the time; it’s not something I just came up with because I’m Eva Perón or something. Yes, there are quite a lot of community-based projects, but I don’t think that it’s a fad, I think they sort of spring up through necessity, and I think that it’s a good thing that people get organized to do things that address these needs. We’re an example of this too, but we’re a strange example, sure, people that do something that’s a bit delusional. We say we’re, like, losers, but we say it in jest. As you can see, what we do here is a job, its our job. We’re not some artistic project, nor are we just going to give afternoon snacks to the children of the cardboard pickers. What we do generates jobs. - Delusional? - Well, we used to say that there wasn’t anything like this anywhere else in Latin America, but our little shop has been replicated. There’s one in Chile, Peru, Brazil, and there are two in Bolivia, and Paraguay and México.

Listening to Gustavo Buntinx speak – or reading anything he has ever written, for that matter – is a transformational experience. An incredibly articulate man, Buntinx is the much-admired so-called driver of Micromuseo, a “roving museum of contemporary art” that travels throughout the country of Peru on a microbús (a large van or a small bus, depending on whom you ask). A project without a space, Micromuseo believes in promiscuous museality and in the ephemeral quality of mass production. Carved out of contradictions, and shaped by a rich and complex mass of twentieth-century pressures, Micromuseo is both fiercely endogenous and inevitably global, a thirty-year-old idea that has developed the gravitas of institutionalism without the gravity of a building. Micromuseo is the consequence of a perfect storm of circumstances surrounding the cultural definition of Peru. The list of pressures and competing factors – an economic disadvantage throughout the 20th Century, mass migration to urban centers, a millennial heritage, a European influence – is vertiginous. It may simply boil down to the fact that, as Buntinx says, “where there is a void, there is a need”. Until just last year, Lima was among the few Latin American capitals lacking a contemporary art museum. For decades, efforts to form such an institution were frustrated. An Institute of Contemporary Art was in-

corporated privately in 1955, and organized exhibitions in its own gallery, or, in several occasions, in the galleries of established public institutions like the Italian Art Museum. In the 80’s, as the Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo finally seemed to secure its Museo, but its investment fell through because of an economic crisis. Around the same time, another museum project – the purportedly more active Museo Alternativo – also faltered and came to an end. The failed museums left a mark, palpable in the acute awareness of a void and a need. By 1995, three years after President Alberto Fujimori dissolved the Congress of Peru, the idea of filling this cultural void with an “alternative museality” gathered momentum, and a few initiatives materialized. In 1997, these initiatives found a name: Micromuseo. For Buntinx, Micromuseo is pure wish fulfillment. “We set out to satisfy this desire by taking an opposing approach, shunning this fixation with real estate by affirming: a museum is not a building, it is a critical project.” Fittingly, the activities and goals of Micromuseo are anchored only by the semantic possibilities of wordplay. Micro: meaning tiny, small, and denoting by extension, efficient, nimble, easy to transport. Micro also refers to the microbús, privately owned public transport, a reference that is reinforced in the Micromuseo motto: “there’s room in


Text by Michu Benaim S. Micromuseo / Lima, Peru / micromuseo.org.pe / habla@micromuseo.org.pe

the back”. Their motto was proudly lifted from the drivers of the micros, who shout this phrase endlessly into the streets, both to pick up passengers and as a justification for picking up more passengers than they are allowed to. The implication for culture, though, is quite literal. In Peru, there is quite a bit of room in the back – a backlog of unfilled voids. So much so that the projects, exhibitions, travels, and collaborations that Micromuseo participates in are almost too numerous, and their focus too broad, to define. What is certain, at least in the eyes of Micromuseo driver Gustavo Buntinx, (who, it

may be good to add, is an Argentine-born art historian and the director of the Cultural Centre of the National University of San Marcos in Lima) is that this is a project that has succeeded in addressing this void. The proof is in the collection. Some years ago, Buntinx described it in an essay published in English: “With few exceptions, the most important portion of Peruvian alternative art in the last twenty five years is to be found not in the collections connected to the establishment, but rather in those constructed by [the Micromuseo] and some intellectuals and artists whose open-mindedness somehow made up for their lack of economic resources.”

The image of the micro also proves a useful image to its “drivers” – organizers, invited curators and so on – in terms of Micromuseo’s function. Writes Buntinx “To be truly operative, [the Micromuseo] must be ductile and mobile, willing to sustain its autonomy on an elementary but sufficient economy – such as that of an urban microbús.” In addition, the microbús defines its ideology of operations: the museum’s task is to collect, certainly, but mainly to act as a medium. It investigates and passes on knowledge about work, its importance, and its context. In short, it circulates and transports. In 2011, the long-enduring Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo got its site and its building,

becoming the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC) at last. Transformed through this real estate and the generous contribution of civil society, it intends to give Peruvian contemporary art a permanent home in Lima. However it fares, its clear that it owes a great deal to the work of Micromuseo – in fact, an essay by Gustavo Buntinx was circulated by advocates of the new MAC as evidence of the need for the museum. Upon its opening, the MAC invited Buntinx to curate one of its first exhibitions. As proud as many people are of the new building, Micromuseo has built, in its view, a museum that does what museums are meant to do. And none of these things have anything to do with a building.

In the final months of 2002, Venezuela was submerged in chaos. The government of Hugo Chávez faced revolts by his political opposition. The country was now on the umpteenth-day of a paralyzing national strike. All business activities were shut down, fuel was scarce, and schools and universities were closed. Potentially momentous, historic, and retrospectively analyzed to death, the “Paro Nacional” was also long. Very long. For most young Venezuelans, these were the most boring months of their lives. The “Paro Nacional” was the culmination of years of clashes between two opposed national projects: the government’s socialist-bolivarian revolution versus the opposition’s social-democratic anti-revolution. The dormant conflict had left the county in tatters, with an infrastructure crippled by years of political warfare and intestine fights. The culture sector was especially affected: museums were adrift, events cancelled, after-school programs closed. This is the setting in which the Plátanoverde project was born. Plátanoverde is a magazine conceived by these bored youths (myself included), out of frustration for a languishing cultural platform. We put together a magazine that showed the best new visual arts, design, and writing in the country. It was escapism at its finest, providing an 80-page long window into a parallel dimension, showing that a

vibrant country still survived under the blanket of stagnation that the political landscape had produced. For most readers, it meant rediscovering a sense of pride for something Venezuelan-made. How could this much talent have flourished in a place like Venezuela? The magazine quickly grew, expanding its activities through a series of partnerships - with institutions like the Goethe-Institut, l’Alliance Française, and The British Council. After a while the Plátano, as we called it, became notorious for its events, especially its parties. Each new edition was released with celebrations that presented brave new concepts: hiphop MC’s in a long-forgotten punk bar, live painting and reggae in one of Caracas most respected art museums, and so on. By 2006, Plátano was a massive player on the national scene. Brands wanted to partner with the magazine and companies wanted to sponsor events. For the first time Plátanoverde had a chance to become a successful commercial venture, free of economic concerns for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the city of Caracas had taken a definitive turn for the worse. By official estimates, over forty citizens of Caracas were killed each weekend, victims of violent crime. Kidnappings, assaults, political assassinations, and organized crime became increasingly embedded in the everyday narrative of the city.


Text by Lope Gutiérrez-Ruiz Por el Medio de la Calle / Caracas, Venezuela / platanoverde.com / platanius@gmail.com

At Plátanoverde, it was time to make a decision between becoming a financially stable institution, or becoming an agent of change and addressing some of the city’s most urgent problems (and likely continue the starving-artist tradition for a while). For us, the opportunity was too great; challenging violence and helping to improve the situation in Caracas was worth our fiscal uncertainty. Our first project had a straightforward goal. Given that crime is so widespread that people are afraid to walk the streets at night, we noticed that the city after dark was a foreign place to most of us. We thought “let’s get as many people as possible together and celebrate the city at night, as it could be, even if it only lasts for a few of hours.” The solution was simple: power through numbers, numbers through attractive programs. We named it Por el Medio de la Calle. The possibility of disaster for an event like this made it unappealing for commercial partners. Bureaucracy and liabilities made it impossible to process permits. So the ethos of the festival, a mix of camaraderie with a do-it-yourself attitude, marked the event from the very beginning. The plan was to put together a circuit of pop-up spaces, urban landmarks, bars, artist interventions, and performances. The festival required people to actually walk from one venue to the other, at night, spanning several blocks.

A date was set and an invitation was sent out to the public. Nobody knew what to expect from this all-or-nothing gamble. The results were borderline-disastrous. The attendance numbers tripled our estimates, and bars and venues were at capacity an hour into the event. People were spilling out into the streets, quickly joined by more curious attendees. For the first time in years, people sat down on sidewalks after the sun had set and talked about how the city could be much more than it was. The neighbors, used to widespread violence, were not amused. That is how we learned our first two lessons in festival-planning: don’t hold an event for 2,000 people on a Wednesday night, and always make sure to invite the vecinos. A third lesson: communities can organize fast. A few hours into the first Por el Medio de la Calle, eggs, chilled water, and trash began pouring from the residents’ windows. We all ran to the only place that was safe from the deluge - a wide public plaza surrounded by trees. There, in a crowd christened by wet debris, we realized that not a single shot had been fired, and that after all the fun we had, the yelling-a-la-Pamplona spectacle was probably just as amusing to the neighbors of Chacao. The festival and its many partnership projects have only grown since. Artists and

attendees quickly spread word about that city that only exists for one night and the day after the festival dozens of e-mails arrived asking what we were planning for the next edition. The Municipality of Chacao, where the event takes place every year, became an invaluable ally in the organization of the event and great supporter of the entire project. Working together, the festival has kept growing. On its second edition, close to 8,000 people attended the event. In 2008, we broke the 12,000-person mark, and in 2009 20,000 showed up. By 2011, over 45,000 people were out on the streets of the city center, not only claiming them back from crime and fear, but also from motor transit.

This year we expect 60,000 people at the festival, many of whom will travel from other parts of the country to attend. Recently, hotels and transit hubs have started to make provisions, and many stores in Chacao have started to create their own art interventions. That very same feeling of pride that the magazine elicited in the young readership of 2002, has morphed into the pride of participation. To finish, one bit of data: Caracas continues to be “the most dangerous city in the world”, the capital of a country with more violent deaths per year than countries like Afghanistan or Iraq, but even after 100,000+ people have walked the streets of the city at night at Por el Medio de la Calle, the rate of violent crimes during the festival remains steady: zero.


“Fonts are ubiquitous and mainly invisible so their importance tends to be overlooked. But they are actually extremely important. Fonts have personalities. Fonts can anchor a city to a certain identity, or to an era. And even beyond the content silently stored inside the guts of aesthetic values, they also have a pragmatic and social function. For example: some fonts make learning easier than others, and so they have an important place in how knowledge slips into the eyes and is transmitted; they can make reading a book less enjoyable or more so. There have even been studies that correlate the use of bad fonts in school textbooks to indexes of school dropouts. So, often, the best-designed fonts are inconspicuous. In fact, they say you should never become a type designer if you want to be famous. I guess I don’t care about becoming famous. I love type design. I love focusing on what the shape and surface of words say subliminally, while the words themselves might be saying something else. And I find Latin American font design absolutely fascinating. Spanish is a quirky language, with characters all of its own – the opening question mark (¿) or the ñ, for example – that don’t exist in any other language. I like to believe that these extra spaces and needs have made us more flexible in Latin America, have forced us to invent, to go our own way, to propose from within, even though it is still a very new profession here.

Typography in Latin America was born with the digital era. Before that – when we were using mobile types for example – all Latin American design was done with foreign typography. The advent of computers, added to the creation of graphic design programs in universities, finally permitted designers to become interested in creating unique typefaces in this region, filled with our own voices. But when 2001 hit we still were not all that familiarized with what was happening in our neighboring countries, or even inside our own cities. So here in Argentina we decided to launch a call for proposals, create an exhibition and catalogue, a survey if you will, just to get an idea of what was happening elsewhere in Latin America. It was very successful. We got hundreds of responses, and suddenly designers who had been working in isolation were able to get in touch, to start collaborating and exchanging ideas. A website was put up soon after that to showcase Latin American work; it had no commercial intent; it was just used as a showcase. Then, in 2004, we created the first Tipos Latinos Biennale, which traveled to several countries. Now, in the 2012 edition, thirty cities and thirteen countries were involved – we have a growing and horizontal network, and we work both together and independently. In fact, because of the number cities and visitors it is probably already one of the most important design events in the world. It has

Interview by Gabriella Gómez-Mont Tipos Latinos / Over 12 locations in Latin America / tiposlatinos.com / info@tiposlatinos.com

become a great way of letting people see for themselves the huge amount of talent to be found in Latin Types. There is a certain advantage in typography being such a new thing on this side of the world, to not having a shadow-heritage confining us, and nobody to pay homage to. Sometimes history can bind you. Europe has more than 500 years of experience in this field, whereas Latin America has less than 30. I believe this has made us freer, more irreverent and more willing to play and be rebellious. But simultaneously there is also a search for perfection… So on one hand you can find really experimental types for titles, and on the other you can also find very rigorous text types that seem to have been built by an obsessive engineer, and could compete with any other type from any other country. There is so much variety. And we have an interesting, unique, cultural baggage to be inspired by: from the vernacular letterings and colors used in the stores of small towns, to a more meticulous calligraphic style of days past. I hate repeating clichés, but its true that there is a lot of passion and spirit in Latin America, so much vitality, quality and diversity: all of this gets absorbed into its fonts. Mexican type for example is very much energized by its layered history; Argentina is specializing in creating more formal, very modern and functional text types families, and is very prolific as a country. Chile and Brazil are also two of the other front-

runners in the region. And non-withstanding the newness of this profession our good typefaces are on par with any good European type. Which is a good thing because designers are also becoming more demanding. Its great to see our fonts being used more and more in other countries and continents. For example Dave Crossland – one of the most renowned designers of the world – while creating a portfolio of great types for Google Fonts*, traveled throughout Latin America and was astonished with all the things he found here; he included many of them in his project. So it excites me to imagine the future of Latin American design. We are finally starting to assume our own identity, our own personality, our own talent. We are starting to look inside the region instead of just being dazzled by Europe and the United States. That does not necessarily mean that we will or we should ignore international influences, but it does mean that we are suddenly becoming more and more stimulated by the thought of leaving 500 or even 50 year-old recipes behind, and starting to find our own paths as well. And then leading others down them.” - César Mordacci, coordinator of Tipos Latinos in Argentina, as told to Gabriella Gómez-Mont.
* google.com/webfonts ** If you have used a Latin American font, you can submit your work to the Tipos Latinos Biennale in the Category of Best use of Latin American Fonts, and international section.


“The city that promotes art is art too; a city that creates theater is in itself a play. We have understood it all wrong if we believe that a city’s function is to organize communities and social structures with pragmatism and velocity: the principal function of a city is to convert power into form, energy into culture, inert materials into living symbols of art, reproduction into social creativity” - Lewis Mumford, Urbanist

Several months ago El País – Spain’s leading newspaper – published an article whose headline cried in black bold letters: Crisis brings about a cultural hemorrhage. “The hemorrhage is constant and it appears unstoppable,” it went on to say. “The patient, the Spanish cultural infrastructure, loses blood. Too much blood. Every day, a festival or a cinema closes…” Culture and blood; culture as blood. It is an interesting analogy, one that beckons debate. Because in the midst of this recent international crisis, in the middle of an invariably complex political and social reality, there are two choices: to think of culture as superfluous – nice to have, a pretty face, the cherry on the cake, so to speak – or to think of it as a basic need and a medullar part of a nation’s identity. And of course, underneath this uneasy and polemic question lies another, one that is just as convoluted: who exactly should be responsible for funding the arts anyway?

It is an important question nowadays, because important decisions are being made. Spain is not the only country that has decided that, in times of economic difficulty, culture should be the first thing to be sacrificed. At the end of last year, The New York Times ran a half-page ad warning readers “Do not enter the Netherlands. Cultural meltdown in progress.” The ad was placed by Dutch Artists 2011 (a group of artists’ and sympathizers) as a protest to the drastic cuts in funding for culture that the political far-right was proposing. Despite objections, the culture budget for the Netherlands will be cut by about $265 million, and taxes on tickets to cultural events will go up to 19 percent, beginning in 2013. Other countries with governments that are led by conservatives or technocrats – like Italy, Hungary, and Britain, as another recent article explains – have also had their culture budgets slashed. Culture as luxury seems to be a worldwide trend; inevitable. That is, until you look further south and come upon the case of Brazil. Look to Brazil, and you find another way of thinking around culture. You find Danilo Miranda, director of the leading arts financing entity in Brazil, the SESC: a Portuguese acronym for Social Service of Commerce. “Our fundamental guiding principle is to use culture as a tool for education and

Text by Gabriella Gómez-Mont SESC / Over 35 locations in Brazil / sescsp.org.br

transformation, to improve people’s lives, and we’re in a position to fulfill that mission, thank God,” Mr. Miranda said in a recent interview. He says he faces a very different type of difficult, enviable, question: how to spend all of the $600 million-a-year budget, and more to come— at an annual growth rate of 10 percent or more, if the trends of the last 6 years continue. The New York Times explains: “SESC owes its enviable position largely to a financing model that its leaders believe is unique in the world. A private, nonprofit entity whose role is enshrined in the national Constitution, the organization derives its budget from a 1.5 percent payroll tax imposed on and collected by Brazilian companies, so as the workforce in this nation of nearly 200 million people expands, so does the organization’s budget. The Brazilian economy, now the world’s sixth largest, is surging, having grown 7.5 percent in 2010 and just under 3 percent last year.” The heads of both culture and politics in Brazil are certain that workers and citizens are not only entitled to health and sports facilities, but also to art, music, and other cultural activities. They are certain that cultural vitality integrated into daily life is an important process of social inclusion; as well as a means of creating a Brazilian community locally – and a Brazilian Identity abroad – that will benefit the country in

both direct and indirect ways. “Part of the payback is social, in the sense that it’s important to us as businessmen that society see that we are participating,” said Mr. Szajman, the São Paulo chamber of commerce president. “But there’s a practical return too: Our workers go to their jobs as betterinformed citizens, with better training, and happier, which makes them more productive.” And Brazil furthers its soft power by exporting and Brazil giving its country visibility through its arts and culture. They are putting their money where their mouth is: SESC is active in all 27 Brazilian states, and just the city of São Paulo receives almost as much for cultural programs as the United States of America as a whole gets from its National Endowment for the Arts. SESC has its own record label and cable television channel, a book-publishing arm, art galleries, theaters, cinemas, concert halls, cultural centers that house restaurants and sports facilities, and even hotels. They aim to make culture part of everyday life, and are succeeding: most of their cultural centers are housed in imaginatively renovated abandoned buildings or in fascinating new constructions that have become architectural landmarks. SESC events are very reasonably priced, or even free; just in São Paulo over 300,000 people visit their spaces each week to see performances by both renowned international artists and also the up-andcoming local talent.

Thanks to this unique model, artists do not have to comply with commercial demands, and cultural centers do not have to bow to the tastes of corporate sponsors; in this way, SESC encourages experimental work, creativity and risk taking. The SESC model is “focused on community involvement in arts and culture,” improving quality of life in general, and granting more freedom to countless multidisciplinary voices. Brazil still faces many challenges, as we all know. These social experiments, which put arts and culture at the very marrow of a nation’s policy instead of at its surface, may very well yield some interesting answers, as

well as produce more fascinating questions. How can we create city and citizenship through culture? And how, in turn, is culture incubated in the structures and spaces that surround the human body – giving shape and fueling the fires of the human minds that inhabit them? How can one identify convoluted city nodes and transfigure them into something more creative? How do we harness existing power and metamorphose it? Can social transformation come about by using the power of curiosity and imagination? Should the city be art? Should the city be play, and not just GDPs and numbers? Keep your eyes and your ears on Brazil.

The year is 2012, and if there is one thing we know about this young century of ours is this: the paradigms of the global economy are changing. For the most part, these economic changes have been far from painless. We have all heard about billions of dollars vaporizing from retirement systems, read reports about seemingly stable countries in which unemployment has proliferated well into the double-digit percentages. The animus, at least on a governmental level, seems focused on damage control; there is, after all, considerable damage. It is nonetheless surprising that there seem to be few examples of governments implementing novel policies that take the realities of the uncharted (economic) waters into account, even as it becomes clear that the old models no longer make countries prosper. This, however, does not mean governments taking this approach don’t exist (they do). What’s more, even a cursory glance at these forward-looking governments reveals that there is a common thread, a variation on an idea that strikes me as tremendously powerful; that innovation and creativity will be central to turning the economy around. This was the very idea that the government of Chile was pondering early on this decade. With an economy based on mining, agricultural, and industrial exports, Chile’s GDP is among the highest in the region, but was quickly losing ground to Brazil’s ever-strengthening economy. This gave Chile

a bit of a jolt: to keep its economy’s regional dominance, it had to find new, significant sources of income. The answer from Chile was unlikely from a country that, one could say, has a long tradition of dramatic wealth inequality. That is, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Ministry of Economy and its Corporation for Production Development (CORFO), created a government-backed program involving generous financial, structural, and logistical backing for startups – without asking for equity in return. The central idea: to bring entrepreneurs from all over the world to Chile, to grow and disseminate their work and foster a culture of entrepreneurship. Start-Up Chile was born. Start-Up Chile launched its program in 2010 with two central aims: to make Chile a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation in Latin America, and to encourage an “entrepreneurial spirit” in Chileans. Its pilot run in 2010 brought 22 companies from 14 different countries to Chile. Since 2011, Start-Up Chile has chosen 300 start-ups from around the world every year, and provided each of them with investment and a “soft landing” package. This investment is fixed at $40,000 per company, from which the start-up founders can pay themselves a salary of up to $5,000. The conditions, it must be said, are hard to beat: founders don’t have any obligation to return the money or forfeit any equity, and their


Text and Interview by Lope Gutiérrez-Ruiz and Michu Benaim Steiner Start-Up Chile / Santiago, Chile / startupchile.org / info@startupchile.org

costs of living, as well as their workspaces, are provided. “We give entrepreneurs $40,000, they work on their ideas for six months here in Chile and they don’t have to return a single peso. What we get is social return of investment: they associate with local universities, hire Chileans, give talks, become participants in meet-ups, visit local industries, provide insights about processes, and much more” explains Felipe Costabal, Creative Director at Start-Up Chile. Along with this seed investment, Start-Up Chile provides accommodations. By cutting governmental red tape, chosen projects quickly gain access to work visas, which in turn makes it easier for start-ups to hire local talent in their start-up phase. Giving entrepreneurs facilities in which to work and live has proven to be one of the most important features of the program - modern spaces for co-working were incorporated early on. Lastly, networking is never more essential than when one is in an unfamiliar place, so Start-Up Chile developed a series of bilingual technology meet-ups, informal interviews with VC’s, and get-togethers with local researchers, developing a rich network that facilitates exchanges between participants and local citizens. The result of this coworking and networking experience? About 40% of the first generation of participating projects decided to stay in the country past the 6-month mark, and many continue to conduct their businesses from there.

Start-Up Chile’s first class only had 22 projects chosen by a panel of Chilean and Silicon Valley experts. These days, the pace of new projects is relentless: the program has three rounds of applications every year, welcoming 100 new projects in each round. Applicants are chosen based on the scalability of their projects, as well as where they are in their development, taking into account the merits of a given proposal, and its team members. Past participants include a national network listing housing opportunities for university students in Portugal, a student loan management platform in the United States, a Chilean-made app for adding multi-media annotations to files, a Sri Lankan project that “injects fun into learning medicine”, and even a “place for cat lovers to share, discover and enjoy cat pictures and videos” from Malaysia. Over 1,600 applications from 70 countries have been submitted to Start-Up Chile thus far. Teams from over 30 countries have participated. These teams of adventurous entrepreneurs are at the core of the initiative. By constantly meeting people, exchanging know-how, transferring skills, the participants of Start-Up Chile potentiate innovation in each other. This is the fertile creative energy that the country is looking to harvest – the organization has stated that it wants Chile to become the entrepreneurial and innovation hub of Latin America by 2014. It seems almost

incidental, but the program is changing a story, and helping create a new global narrative about Latin America and its future that is based on innovation and creativity. Reports of this change in Chile’s economic outlook, and the effective re-branding of the country as a business hub, abound. While governments keep playing catchup with shifting economic realities, Chile plans to continue supporting this trailblazing program based on the conviction that entrepreneurship, investing in people, and soft power lead to sustainability and growth. While the economies of many world powers continue to focus on repairing the damage, Chile has taken a further leap:

the government of Chile declared 2012 the “Year of Entrepreneurship”, and 2013 the “Year of Innovation”. Startup Chile’s results are heartening: after a mere two years since it welcomed its first class of 14 companies, it has exceeded its own expectations. It has raised its own goal and aims to have supported over 1,000 start-ups by 2014. And, of course, there’s this: the Ministry of Economy has declared that one of its most urgent goals for the 2012-2018 period is to have the first Chilean company listed in the NASDAQ index. What does that have to do with anything, you ask? Well, the Ministry of Economy has stated that it estimates Chile will become a Developed Country by 2018. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us.


They are calling it the Mexican Spring. Presidential elections are coming in Mexico, and it is safe to say the country has never quite experienced a campaign like this one. The same old parties and many of the same old politics are still here, but now there is a new player in town: social media. It is rightly being called “the fifth power”, and it has made the often-arid world of political rhetoric entertaining and unpredictable; not that the candidates or their PR teams are too happy about how it is changing the rules of engagement. The rest of us, however, are thrilled. Many of these new probing voices come from the civic side, with healthy participation by students and young people. They are pushing candidates to go beyond an easy mirage of empty promises, to go beyond those strange little food packets that are given out to sway votes in rural areas. Digital projects like “Arena Electoral” are keeping track of all the candidates’ proposals and submitting their ideas to a committee of non-partisan experts for review, and informing the public about their true feasibility. Candidates are being pushed to attend Q&As with specialized organizations – in the matter of health for example – with a public that demands specific proposals. Meanwhile, peaceful protests around issues like the war on drugs are frequent. And even though all this might not yet be enough to determine the outcome of an election, it is definitely one of the palpable signs of a society that increasingly digitally

vocal. It seems we have finally started to find our democratic voice. In fact, César Salazar, the unstoppable 28 year-old co-founder of Mexican.VC, believes that if trends in Internet usage continue, this is the last election that won’t be fought and defined on a digital arena. And he also believes that politics are not the only thing in Mexico being transformed by technology. He should know: Salazar is a key figure in the attempt to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico among younger generations. When asked about his visions for the future, his eyes catch fire. “I am excited with all that is happening in Mexico. We are entering a stage with electrifying potential; all the necessary ingredients for digital innovation and startups to explode are finally converging. First of all, the size of the market is now what it needs to be: we are already 40 million people connected through the internet, and it is officially estimated that in 2015 Mexico will have 60 million Internet users. That, added to the often-forgotten fact that Mexico is already the 11th largest economy of the world, has huge implications”he adds, “A culture of hard work, intense collaboration, and skill sharing is expanding, as well as the idea that you can start something from scratch. So there is a market, there is talent, creative multigenerational ecosystems are being formed, and the investment is now

Text by Gabriella Gómez-Mont

starting to flow. No piece of the puzzle is missing anymore. It is just a matter of time. This is going to get really good.” Foreign investors seem to agree with Salazar: Mexican.VC is Silicon Valley’s first discovery fund for Mexican startups. Founded in 2011, it invests in 20 early startups a year, combining Silicon Valley’s best practices with local cultural advantages, including mentoring to those selected. César is not alone in working towards a talented and connected startup community. Carlos Mondragón, founder of an online gaming company, hosts free, informal, get-togethers every month on his rooftop. There, successful young entrepreneurs share their stories over beer and chips, and then the newbies have a chance to pitch their ideas and get feedback, advice, and even, occasionally, funding from the more experienced attendees. “You can’t really learn the necessary skills in school,” Mondragón explained, “you need to learn on the go, have others to go to for advice, others to push you to take risks, to iterate quickly and fail forward, as they say. So it is very important for all of us to share information, skills and contacts, to build a community and bring new people in. We all need to work together to put Mexico irrevocably and unquestionably on the international map.” They seem to be on the right track. Nowadays there is widespread interest in this

new possibility of creative self-employment. StartUp Weekends has decided to open an office in Mexico City, partly because Mexico now boasts more Startup Weekend events than any other country. The digital thirst in Mexico only seems to grow. Within the wider world of technology, Mexico has caught the attention of MIT. The university recently hosted the TR35 Awards in Mexico City, with the goal of scouting for local talent under 35 who will “create new capabilities that revolutionize the world of technology and business in the near future.” The projects selected in Mexico included Wowzer, a digital platform that offers an innovative recruitment service. Created by 29 year-old Rodrigo Martinez, it has already raised over $2.5 million from Silicon Valley investors, and is already in use by companies like Intel, BMW, Manpower, Deloitte, Walmart, and Adidas. Juan Pablo Esquivel – another award recipient – presented miniaturized power sources for medical diagnosis devices. José Manuel Aguilar introduced a biotechnological platform that will facilitate the creation of safe and cost-effective vaccines, faster; Ana Laborde is working on technologies that will produce sustainable bioplastics made with the residues of Tequila. (Yes, Tequila. It’s Mexico, no?) Pedro Moneo is the editor of the Spanish version of MIT’s Technology Review. As he explained in an to Celeste North, a young

Mexican entrepreneur interviewing him for emprend.la, there is increasing interest in Latin America, and Mexico in particular: “Emerging markets are where things will be happening in the near future. Latin America, specifically, is starting to be an interesting protagonist. If the region knows how to take advantage of their demographics they will have a huge advantage over ‘aging’ countries. Think about it: a huge chunk of their population was born directly into a digital world and has had a mobile culture from the very start; add to this the fact that it is an incredibly social society – it has more users on Facebook and Twitter than the United States – and you start getting the picture. Language is also an important component: the entire region except Brazil speaks Spanish, and 75% of the population prefers their products in their native tongue. This natural barrier will allow them both to create a common market as well as defend it from others.” And the “common-language market” is sizable indeed: with 329 million native speakers, Spanish ranks second among the world’s mother tongues, behind Mandarin, and, yes, ahead of English. Ricardo Álvarez – director of Innovation at ProMexico – has an unshakable conviction that Mexico is The Latin American country that companies should be investing in. “México is already a powerful player in the Industries of Communication and Technology.” Citing some impressive figures, he adds that

Mexico has an advantage in “the quantity and quality of available talent, plus the prognosis is that it is only going to get better. Just to state on example, nowadays Mexico has one of the largest talent pools, and is educating over 90,000 system engineers and other ICT-related professions annually.” Mexico likes to study, but it also likes to play. Álvarez points out that the relevance of Mexico as a fascinating market is very clear in the Creative Industries sector. “We consume more than 50% of all the videogames bought in Latin America, and 200 million movie tickets are sold a year, making Mexico the 5th largest cinema-going country in the world. This shows that we are capable of creating our own contents for export – already consumed by over 1 billion people worldwide – and of creating important local scale economies nurtured by a vital internal market.” Fortunately, it seems that Mexico’s policymakers are also beginning to understand the potential of the ICT sector, and how important it is to help create the proper ecosystems. A government plan for ICT, Mexico National Digital Agenda, was released recently. Alongside data, document defines goals and strategies designed to give Mexico a digital boost over the next few years. It supports Salazar’s statement: things seem to be lining up. Or as one student, among thousands protesting TV monopoly in Mexico, said recently: “Young people have been

criticized in the past for being apathetic and apolitical. But maybe we students have always had strong opinions, our own voices and our own ideas. Maybe what we did not have was the internet and social media.” Guadalajara Digital City ProMexico, a public body responsible for promoting foreign investment to Mexico, is attempting to redesign the city of Guadalajara into Latin America’s media technology capital (with lots of help from the MIT’s SENSEeable City Lab). Selected to host the federal government’s Ciudad Creativa Digital program, Guadalajara will see a ten billion dollar investment over 5-10 years, uniting efforts by industry, government, and universities, to create a cluster of technology companies devoted to developing video games, movies, multimedia and mobile applications. Designed to attract high-level investment in the information and communications technologies sector, it aims to position Mexico among leading creative economies worldwide. It is being designed from within and without as an international digital hub and creative ecosystem that bleeds into the city’s historical center. Rural Mexico emerges as robotics hub Students in Chiapas – a predominantly indigenous state in Mexico, and also one of the poorest – have been winning interna-

tional robotics competitions lately, subverting stereotypes along the way. Led by David Jímenez, the group of adolescents from the robotics lab of Chiapas’ Universidad de la Selva just took home first prize this past April at the Gateway Worldwide University Robotics competition. Meanwhile the Mexican Academy of Sciences and several municipal governments in Chiapas have begun teaching grade-school kids from indigenous communities basics of computer/robot programming, while learning to translate terms in English into Tzotzil, their native tongue. They are then taught how sensors, simple motors and circuits work by using recycled materials to make simple robots. The program is now operating in 15 states and has benefitted over 690,000 children to date. DIY drones Five years ago, a 21-year old Jordi Muñoz began toying around with Arduino and code. Around the same time, he came across DIY Drones, a forum of hobbyists, which inspired him to keep experimenting. Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson saw Muñoz’s video of a flying autonomous helicopter, and decided to fund 40 more. They sold out the same day. This is how 3D Robotics was born, with Muñoz as executive director of a team of 20. The young company is expected to generate a $4.8 million profit by the end of the year. Muñoz is committed

to sharing the details of the hardware and software his company sells to accelerate innovation. “If the nature of my business was not open-source, I would just open an assembly line in Mexico and the workers would simply put together parts; there would not be a transfer of knowledge,” he explained in a recent interview. Art at the crossroad with technology Mexico has several renowned institutions that specialize in Digital Art, such as the wonderful Laboratorio Arte Alameda Museum, and the CENART’s multimedia program. So it comes as no surprise that Mexico boasts a community of artists working with technology. Among our favorites is Gilberto Esparza, whose latest project is a legion of solar-powered “Nomad Plants”, which he calls a “metaphor for the alienated human condition and the impact that our activity has on nature,” that move autonomously along riverbanks in search of resources for their survival. Each “plant” uses a microbial fuel cell to convert contaminants in polluted rivers into energy, in turn using that energy to clean more water. Cultural Policy is going digital CONACULTA – the national funding organism for arts and culture in Mexico – recently unveiled plans to create a “Digital Brain” that will store Mexico’s audio and

visual memory: films, photographs, music, etc. “[…] by making it all digital you are creating a sea of public data, the possibility of creating an intelligent system that can be asked different questions and be put together in different ways,” says Ernesto Miranda, in charge of CONACULTA’s digital department. “That will help us bring things back into the bloodstream.” He believes technology could very well be the way to save humanities and make them relevant again by giving it new social outputs. Tacos, Tweets, and the body as interface. In Mexico City, you can be notified that earthquake is a minute away from hitting via twitter. Marcelo Ebrard, the mayor of Mexico City, will personally tweet replies to disgruntled drivers stuck in traffic, which often make the social media rounds. Quirky – sometimes serious, sometimes fun and irreverent – many of these projects are tiny reflections of the Mexican soul. Taco Tacos, for example, is an app that lets you rate tacos the world-over and share recipes, you will find everything from the tastiest organic prime rib, to the best eye-ball crammed tortillas in town. And design collective Machina has just released a new line of clothing with integrated technology (wi-fi, bluetooth, etc) that will bring us a little closer to cyborgdom. Nowadays, it seems one of the quickest paths to a Mexican heart is digital.

…and Further to the South The full extension of Latin America is home to almost 600 million people. The diversity of the continent – topographically, culturally, economically, and in every possible way you can imagine – potentiates the incredible diversity of its creative responses to challenging problems. Each countries’ efforts in areas including, but not limited to, the arts, technology, and science, offer inspiring examples of the power of will, ingenuity and moral imagination to innovate, overcome, and push forth into a better future. El Sistema / Venezuela Founded in 1975, Venezuela’s National Youth Orchestra System, or El Sistema as it is affectionately called, is now a worldwide phenomenon. The social program is a means of providing education, civic values, and instilling perseverance for at-risk youth, emphasizing a demanding schedule of group practices. With musicians as young as four or five years of age, part of the magic of El Sistema is the ability to keep the joy of learning and the thrill of making music central through long practice sessions, even for the youngest members of the orchestra. One of the strengths of the program is its scalability and nimble curriculum, adaptable to the needs and capacity of each small orchestra. The Sistema currently manages 24 regional orchestras

and 285 youth symphonies, directly generating some 5,620 jobs. It provides services to some 350,000 kids each day. To date, the Sistema has provided an education to millions of kids, including many prominent figures in classical music, like L.A. Philharmonic’s conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Libertad I / Colombia In 2007 the Universidad Sergio Arboleda became the first university in Colombia to have its own satellite in orbit. In fact, not only is the Libertad 1 the first satellite launched and owned by a Colombian academic institution; it is Colombia’s only satellite. It was developed using a technology called Cubesat, which provides design and production standards to create satellites, built from widely available components, which can then be launched by taking up remaining cargo space in launch rockets. The satellite has allowed researchers in the country to conduct more ambitious studies in areas of climate change and telecommunications. Perhaps most importantly, it provided a Neil Amstrong moment to the citizens of Colombia, as they witnessed their first small steps in aerospace science but giant leap in terms of their access as a nation.

Points of Science / Brazil Points of Science - Brazil, is part of a global project that aims to connect people in a number of regions with opportunities for scientific exploration and learning. An initiative of The Science House Foundation in collaboration with Brazil’s Laboratorio Nacional de BioCiencias, a team travelled to the Brazilian Amazon hoping to spark the imagination of local youth about the excitement of science and cross-cultural collaboration, as well as address the issues of climate change. Its pilot program started in Acre, Brazil, in the Amazon, with the indigenous Ashaninka people and Brazil’s historic rubber tappers, the seringueiros. “The Ashaninka helped us navigate raging storms on our way into their village, where we brought microscopes intended for use by the local indigenous kids in exploration of their surroundings. They revealed their culture to us and shared stories about their ongoing effort to participate in the global culture and preserve the environment, together with the other non-indigenous forest inhabitants” says André Blas, a team member, anthropologist and documentarian on the trip. sciencehousefoundation.org/ points-of-science-brazil

Proyectos Ultravioleta / Guatemala Proyectos Ultravioleta, “Ultraviolet Projects,” is “a multifaceted platform for experimentation in contemporary art”. The no-frills art gallery and experimental space was founded in 2009 in Guatemala City and it is already internationally recognized as a point of reference for anyone that is interested in Latin American art – particularly, contemporary work from the Central American region. In addition to producing “art exhibitions, multidisciplinary projects, discussion forums, loud concerts, happenings, [and] public interventions,” the initiative has gained notoriety for its work with local and international projects. Noteworthy among them: the “Postpanamax” exhibiton, presented in collaboration with Diablo Rosso, an art space/café/concept store from Panama City.

A Project of Gopher Illustrated / Gopher Projects Michelle Benaim Steiner & Lope Gutiérrez-Ruiz info@gopherillustrated.org Special Thanks to (in alphabetical order): Alicia Wright, André Blas, Avelino Rodríguez, Beto Gutiérrez, César Mordacci, Daniel Benaim, Daniel Henández, Daniela Fernández, Desirée Mata, Ernesto Miranda, Esteban Úcros, Felipe Costabal, Greg Gage, Guillermo Rivero, Gustavo Buntinx, Hector Barboza Grau, José Scaglione & Veronika Burian, Juan Pablo Garza, Juliana Machado Ferreira, Leo Felipe Campos, Lili Steiner, María Antonia Rodríguez, María Gómez, Martín Castillo, Mauricio Dávila Farías, Myles Estey, Nelly Ruiz, Pablo Cosgaya, Pablo López Luz, Pedro Veneziano, Rodrigo Fuenzalida, Saul Lustgarten, Sergio Alcocer, Sheyla Tohme, Ulises Hadjis, and Walter Roberto Malta. The amazing TED / TEDFellows team: Tom Rielly, Logan McClure, Emeka Okafor, Samantha Kelly, Corey Mohr, Quinci Camazzola, Stephanie Kent. Billy Donley at CSI Printing. Meredith Powell and Max Rusell at Art Alliance Austin. Steve Hansen at Six Street Printing. Thao Votang and Brian Willey at Tiny Park. The Sandbox Network.

All title typefaces in this book proudly made in Latin America.

Intro Images: Robert Leslie / TED Conferences, Lope Gutiérrez-Ruiz, Sheyla Tohme Popular de Lujo Title: Design by Alexander Wright at InHouse International (weareinhouse.com). Image: Courtesy of Popular de Lujo. Eloísa Cartonera Title: “Line_A” typeface by Rodrigo Fuenzalida (rfuenzalida.com). Micromuseo Title: “Abril” typeface by José Scaglione & Veronika Burian (type-together.com). Image: Yory Frenklakh. Por el Medio de la Calle Title: “Rita Bold” typeface by Daniel Hernández (latinotype.com). Image: Courtesy of Fundación Plátanoverde. Tipos Latinos Title: “Alicia” typeface by Alexander Wright (modovisual.com). Images: Courtesy of Tipos Latinos.

SESC Title: “Good Intent” typeface by Pedro Veneziano (behance.net/pedroveneziano) Image: Daniel Benaim Meiler. Start-Up Chile Title: “Isosibilia” typeface by Rodrigo Fuenzalida (rfuenzalida.com). Image: Courtesy of Start-Up Chile. Digital Mexico Title: “Oh! Mai! Mai!” typeface by Jorge Artola (jorgeartola.com) Image: Popular de Lujo. Endpapers Page 01: Courtesy of Popular de Lujo. Page 48: Courtesy of Popular de Lujo. Design and Art Direction In-House International weareinhouse.com (Proudly) Printed by CSI Printing – Austin, TX capspec.com

Tóxico Gabriella Gómez-Mont gabriella@ toxicocultura.com

Design by In-House International Alexander Wright alex@weareinhouse.com

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