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September 14 2011

Puerto Rico: Tuning In to a New Voice For Political Satire

Really?! Yes - there is a political satire show aimed at young people, and it’s not Los Rayos Gamma™ 2.0. En Serio is broadcast on channel 30 (Play TV) in Puerto Rico, Sundays at 6pm, and through their website.

It’s inspired mainly by successful American political satire shows - blending Stephen Colbert’s irreverence, Jon Stewart’s social commentary and Bill Maher’s panel discussions, and adapting those influences for a young Puerto Rican audience with topics of interest and local guests. To date, En Serio’s studio has hosted a healthy mix of politicians, bloggers, analysts, musicians and activists.

With the show's first season officially over, we sent some questions to En Serio’s anchorman, Alejandro Díaz, in order to learn more about his experience with the show and its production process. The resulting interview is a great way to familiarize yourselves with the show before the start of its second season, scheduled to begin during this month (September 2011).

Global Voices (GV): For those who haven’t tuned in yet, what is ¿¡En Serio!?, and where can you catch the show?

Alejandro Díaz (AD): En Serio is a political satire show produced with the intention of reporting the weekly news in a humorous way, thus setting us apart from traditional media and their manner of reporting, which never breaks the surface. You can tune in on Sundays at 6pm, on channel 30 (on local Puerto Rican television station Play TV). You can also watch us on Mondays from 6pm through our website [es], where all of our episodes are uploaded.

GV: How did this project come into being? Was it always meant to be broadcast through both TV and the Internet?

AD: It was our producer’s (Juan Marrero) idea. Juan came to me with the concept more than two years ago, but it wasn’t anything tangible. None of us thought it would materialize. Last summer, we attempted to start working on the show, made exclusively for the Internet. But our lack of discipline kept us from even writing a script. Last February, Juan calls me up and tells me that the owner of local channel 30 (Play TV) was interested in the show - that he wouldn’t censor us, and that he would allow us to put all the episodes online. It was very important for us to be able to upload all episodes to the Internet because our target audience spends more time online than in front of the TV set. Besides, there aren’t that many shows that do that sort of thing in Puerto Rico.

Image credit:

GV: Do you have any academic background on media production? Who or what inspired you to make a show about political commentary, discussion, and satire?

AD: I have no academic background on production, but I’ve worked in many production projects. My father was a publicist for years, and I used to help him out in the sets for his ads. I also worked with my brother in some short films he made. I never expected to work in production, and I wasn’t interested in being in front of the cameras either, but Juan’s idea got me really motivated. I’m a fan of politics, but I’ve never been fond of how they treat political topics on our island. I used to get embarrassed when my friends turned on my car’s stereo and it happened to be tuned to AM radio.

GV: How many people are involved in the show’s production? How long does it take to make an episode?

AD: Right now, there’s 5 of us, and it takes us 5 days to make a complete episode. On Wednesdays we meet up to discuss the most relevant topics and to decide which of those have the most potential for comedy. This meeting is very important because it is where we decide the angle from which we will report each news piece, and we are at disadvantage because we’re the last show to discuss any topic on a typical news cycle since we air on Sundays. On Thursdays and Friday mornings, I write the script. We record the monologue and panel discussion on Friday nights. On Saturdays, our art director (Alfredo Bermúdez) works on all the required images and edits the recordings from his home. By 6pm on Sunday, Alfredo has a finished show, and we do the interview live.

GV: How do you decide whom to invite to the show, either for an interview or a discussion panel?

AD: We try to have young people that ascribe to different societal and economical ideologies (conservatives vs. liberals) for the discussion panel. We’re not interested in partisan debates because they’ve proved to be of no use at all as a solution to anything. Besides, there’s WKAQ [es] and RadioIsla [es] for that. In the next few months we’re going to try new things with the panel. We want political discussions to be more humorous without losing substance. We also have a discussion panel about films, plus other pending panels about sports and music. Some of the guests are friends of ours, others have been referred to us. We’ve even met some of them through Twitter.

I have to admit I don’t have a set system when it comes to choosing guests. Usually, Juan comes up with a name, then I come up with another, until we come to an agreement. The difficulty in getting a hold of them factors into our decision.

GV: Which is the most difficult: the monologue, the interview or the discussion panel? Which part of your job is your favorite, and why?

AD: The most difficult is the monologue. Preparing it takes the most time in the production stage, and it’s an emotional investment. That’s why I think it’s my favorite part as well. Seeing the final product and hearing the audience’s reactions and laughter is very gratifying.

GV: Who would you like to interview in the future? Is there anyone you wouldn’t interview?

AD: I’d like to interview Alejandro García Padilla, since he conveyed interest in coming to the show before announcing his candidacy [for local governor], but we don’t exist for him anymore. Apparently, channel 30 is below his level now. I confess that I’d also like to interview Ruben Sánchez [a local TV and radio personality] and spend the entire interview interrupting him [as he does frequently on his interviews].

GV: Who constitutes the show’s audience? What are you doing to make the numbers grow?

AD: Our audience is composed of young people - students and professionals interested in local and global politics. We’ve worked to make our audience grow by handing out flyers in places where they gather. We’ve also been reviewed by local newspapers, and our press releases have been published. Another medium that has covered the show is the Puerto Rican blogosphere.

GV: I imagine you watch shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher… Do you have a favorite? Who has the best monologue, in your opinion?

AD: Of course I watch them! They were the inspiration for this project. My favorite, even though I know some of my colleagues think otherwise, is Jon Stewart. Stewart has achieved what I aspire to: a balance between comedy and information. Stewart is the happy medium between Colbert and Maher. He’s not as serious as Maher, nor as silly as Colbert. For most young people, these shows - along with the Internet and social networks - are their main news sources. That is what we aspire to be.

We want to be one of the primary news sources for Puerto Rico's youth. Behind our cynicism and satire are actual facts that help keep our audience informed.

Interview originally published in Spanish at Translation for Global Voices by Diana Campo (Twitter: @dianadhevi).

September 12 2011

Barbados: Pirating Scandal via Wikileaks

Barbados Free Press draws attention to another Wikileaks cable which suggests that two years prior to a police sergeant being “arrested and charged with taking bribes to allow a counterfeit DVD ‘pirate' to operate, a US Embassy cable lamented the fact that he and the Barbados Police were unsuccessful in stopping the blatant copying of intellectual property like movie and music DVDs.”

Philippines: The President's Zero Love Life

The bachelor Philippine President Noynoy Aquino's comparison of his love life to a soft drink in a five-day state visit to China not only drew laughter but also criticism online.

“May nagtanong ho kasi sa akin, sabi niya, ‘kamusta love life mo?' Eh ang sabi ko po sa kanya, parang Coca-Cola. Noong araw, ‘regular.' Naging ‘light.' Ngayon, ‘zero,'” said the president.

Someone asked me, ‘how's your love life?” I answered, its like Coca-Cola. The other day, ‘regular.' It became ‘light.' Now, ‘zero,'” said Aquino.

The president has been reported in the media to be dating several women since his break up with his girlfriend Soledad Shalani last year. His state visit was intended to draw Chinese investments to the Philippines.

The President' comment immediately drew amusement and speculation on who the president would fall for next.

If he’s love life is ZERO now, the question is, who is next? And when will his countrymen witness a grand wedding at the Palace?

But some are not very amused with these comments. Not Offline blogs about why the bachelor president's lovelife has become a national issue.

I remember him being pissed off of the media breaching his privacy borders about his lovelife that the media shouldn’t bother with it. Then the next day, he goes on to talk about it himself.

Zero for Human Rights

Human rights advocates meanwhile compared the president's zero love life to a lackluster commitment to uphold human rights:

The Mokong Perspective longs for the day when there will be no more human rights violations in the country.

Sana someday when asked “Kamusta human rights violations sa inyo?” Pinoys would say “parang Coca-Cola. Nung araw regular, naging light, ngayon zero.”

Hopefully someday when asked “how's human rights violations in your country?” Filipinos would say “it's like Coca-Cola. The other day regular, then light, and now zero.”

International and local human rights groups have noted that the Aquino administration has done little to curb human rights violations and to dismantle private armies by regional warlords.

A Philippine-based human rights advocacy alliance has documented 48 extrajudicial killings, 5 enforced disappearances, 29 torture cases, 151 illegal arrests and 3,010 victims of forcible evacuation from rural villages.

Zero for State Universities and Colleges

Not to be outdone, students protesting drastic budget cuts for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) have also joined the fray, this time comparing Aquino's zero love life with his decreasing spending for public schools.

The capital outlay is used for the construction of new facilities and acquisition of new equipment. Fifty schools will have budget cuts of as much as P569.8 million in the proposed 2012 national budget. The cuts have been blamed for the Philippine universities' fall in ranking among top world universities.

September 16 has been set as Blog Action Day for Education. Filipino students are gearing for a September 21-23 nationwide campus strikes against budget cuts for education and social services.

September 11 2011

Azerbaijan: Caspian Dreaming…

Aaron in Azerbaijan posts a well-produced music video by two of his fellow Peace Corps Volunteers in the country, singing under the name of the Caspian Dreamers, ahead of next year's Eurovision Song Contest to be held in the capital, Baku. The blog says that while Azerbaijan faces some serious problems in its transition from a former Soviet republic, the video showcases some of what the city also has to offer foreign tourists.

September 08 2011

Israel: Stop Motion Inside Stop Motion

Eran Amir produced a stop motion video showing 500 people around Israel holding up more than 1500 developed pictures. You'll have to see it twice, once to focus on the story told through the black and white pictures the people hold, and the other to enjoy watching the people and scenery of Israel.

September 06 2011

Chile: Netizens Pay Tribute to Plane Crash Victims

On the afternoon of Friday, September 2 Chileans received worrisome news: the disappearance [es] of the CASA 212 airplane from FACH, the Chilean Airforce [es], headed for the Juan Fernandez archipelago.

Among the 21 passengers [es] was a team from the NGO Desafío Levantemos Chile [es](Mission Lift Chile) which aims to continue efforts to reconstruct the archipelago, one of the places most affected by the tsunami caused by the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Chile on February 27, 2010. In view of this, five employees of TVN [es] (Chile National Television) were travelling to support this initiative, including the well-known TV presenter Felipe Camiroaga.

Felipe Camiroaga, presenter for Buenos Días a Todos. Photo by Felipe Araos on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Felipe Cubillos (@felipenavegante), leader of Levantemos Chile and a passenger on the plane, tweeted enthusiastically before disappearing:

Viajando ahora a la isla de Juan Fernandez con el apoyo de nuestra Fuerza Aerea. Seguimos trabajando en ayudar a gente de la Isla

Now travelling to the Island of Juan Fernandez with the support of our Airforce. We continue to work in helping the people of the island

Newspaper La Tercera uploaded a video of TVN's report [es] of the accident –the video was immediately shared by netizens on Twitter.

Publicist and blogger Roberto Arancibia (@robertoa) informed:

Avioneta caída en Juan Fernández, personal de TVN: Camiroaga, Bruce y más, dice @ADNRAdioChile [es]. Informará Allamand, atentos!

Plane crash in Juan Fernández, TVN personnel aboard: Camiroaga, Bruce and others, says @ADNRAdioChile. [Minister of Defense] Allamand will be giving more information, pay attention!

Sigrid (@sigridps) confirmed:

es verdad lo del avión de juan fernández y lo del equipo de buenos días a todos, no han confirmado muertes, sólo desaparecidos.

[the news] about the plane in Juan Fernandez and the ‘Buenos Días a Todos' team are true, no deaths confirmed, just missing persons.

Soon, netizens started reporting on the story and hoping for good news. The hashtag #Camiroaga and Juan Ferández became worldwide trending topics on Twitter.

Twitter user José Duarte (@_josesita_) expressed hope:

Los 33 también se dieron por muertos… Los milagros existen, no perder la FE #juanfernandez#camiroaga#TVN

The 33 [miners] were expected to be dead… Miracles do happen, don't lose FAITH #juanfernandez#camiroaga#TVN

Poet and student Gisella Uribe R. (@Tengo_Frio) pointed out:

Espero que los encuentren con vida, que dejen de hacer chistes, que los hipócritas dejen de rezar, y que ni un político se aproveche de esto

I hope that they find survivors, that they stop making jokes, that the hypocrites stop praying, and that not one politician take advantage of this

Sigrid (@sigridps) commented:

lancha de armada de chile se encuentra en operativo de búsqueda, condiciones climáticas adversas, alcalde está pesimista.

the Chilean coast guard is on a search and rescue mission, in adverse climate conditions, the mayor is pessimistic.

Twitter user Macuer (@franciscomacuer) said:

Felipe Paredes, Jefe Torre, de Juan Fernandez, señala que el viento impidio aterrizar avion y luego los dejo de ver #camiroaga

Felipe Paredes, tower controller from Juan Fernandez, highlights that the wind impeded the plane from landing and that he stopped seeing them #camiroaga

Immediately search parties spread out, led by the armed forces and the inhabitants of the island themselves, as graphic design student Miguel Rosas pointed out (@Matehuas):



Exposition of Felipe Cubillos, founder of the project "Desafío Levantemos Chile". Photo on Flickr by JóvenesxChile (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Many people turned up at TVN's facilities with candles and prayers, hoping for a miracle.

However, bad news arrived on the night of September 3, when Andrés Allamand, Minister of Defence and brother in law to Felipe Cubillos, confirmed [es] that there were no survivors.

Condolences flooded cyberspace.

Paths Chile wrote on Facebook:

Con un inmenso dolor anhelamos que descansen en eterna paz los 21 integrantes que viajaban a Juan Fernández… entre ellos Felipe Camiroaga… tremendo hombre, inmensamente humano y noble

With deepest sympathy, we wish the 21 members that were travelling to Juan Fernandez eternal peace… among them Felipe Camiroaga… wonderful man, extremely humane and noble

Ketty C (@ketty_dic31) lamented:

Mis condolencias sinceras y de todo corazón a las familia de #los21 [es]Q.E.P.D. … esto es demasiado doloroso :(

My sincere condolences from all my heart to the families #los21 [the 21] R.I.P. … this is too painful:-(

Mexican singer Lucero also mentioned her grief about the news from her Twitter account (@LuceroMexico) with reference to her friend Felipe Camiroaga:

Amigo mío.Que tu vuelo cruce los cielos y nos derrame el amor, la pasión con la que viviste siempre.Vivirás en mi recuerdo PERMANENTEMENTE.

My friend. May your flight cross the heavens and spread your love upon us, with the passion that you lived your life with, always. You will live in my memory FOREVER.

Besides the fame of the victims, the humanitarian effort and their strong community ties made the tragedy even more significant for the entire country. As journalist Miguel Ortiz (@ortizmiguel) wrote:

Mi papá me solía decir: “¿Cómo ganarse el Cielo? Que la muerte nos pille haciendo el bien”. ¿En qué estaban #Los21?[es] Levantando CHILE!

My father always used to say: “How do you get to heaven? Let death catch us doing good.” What were #Los21 doing? Lifting CHILE!

September 05 2011

Azerbaijan: Eurovision and visas

Aaron in Azerbaijan comments on a request from the management of the Eurovision Song Contest to the Azerbaijani authorities to simplify visa procedures ahead of next year's competition to be held in the capital, Baku. While such a move would be a boost for the country's tourism industry as well, the blog wonders whether the Azerbaijani government will respond to the request at all.

September 02 2011

Lebanon: “Live For The Moment” Attitude?

“The only thing that came to my mind is how can we be labelled as people who live for the moment, while at the age of 22-23, the young Lebanese is compelled to think about buying an overly expensive house which he/she has to pay in installments for, for 20 or 30 years, and that is in order to secure their future with a future partner,” writes Liliane as she questions the conclusions of this video by CNN which highlights Lebanese nightlife and claims a Lebanese ”live for the moment” attitude.

August 28 2011

South Korea: Pop Music Censorship Meets with Strong Opposition

South Korean society is buzzing with anger over the government’s ban on numerous popular songs. More than 2,600 songs have been banned in the past two years after being flagged for ‘hazardous media content' by the South Korean Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.

Most singers had no options other than to accept the decision and adjust their lyrics to meet the government's standards. One entertainment agency, however, filed a lawsuit against the government that deemed its singer’s album as “inappropriate for youths” and won the case on August 24, 2011. The decision was widely welcomed by South Koreans who have expressed frustration over the government's regulation of their favorite songs.

“Inappropriate content”

Image of censorship. Created by user tefan-Xp, Wikipedia Commons (CC BY NC 3.0).

Image of censorship. Created by user tefan-Xp, Wikipedia Commons (CC BY NC 3.0).

When a song is blacklisted it is banned from being aired at certain times, and being sold to children aged below 19 years. This month, 24 songs have been banned as a result of their references to alcohol - 160 for this year alone.

Examples of the problematic lyrics identified by the Ministry have included: “Drunk on alcohol so that I don’t miss you” and “If you fall asleep drunk, you dream” (lyrics from the Ballad's album), and “After I drank lots of Soju [Korean liquor] yesterday” (rock band, Jang Kiha and Faces' song).

After boy band B2st's lyrics “I must be drunk. I think I need to stop drinking” were banned, one member of the group tweeted [ko] “I may need to only sing children songs”.

Both South Korean musicians and the general public have strongly criticized the ban as a restriction on writers’ freedom of expression. The government has stressed that they need guidelines to protect young people from negative cultural influences.

Blogger Kwon Tae-woo points out [ko] that the banned song lyrics are nothing compared to other racy and violent media available online:

정말 한심하다. 인터넷 시대에 무슨 가사에 술이 들어 갔다고 노래를 금지시키나? 컴퓨터만 켜면 그보다 더한 내용과 장면들을 얼마든지 접할 수 있는 것을… 왜 아예 인터넷을 ‘19금' 으로 하지? […] 겨우 가요가사나 심의하려고 1년에 2194억원(2011년 기준)의 예산을 쓴단 말인가?[…]노래 가사에 술이 들어가면 청소년들이 음주를 한다? 진정 대한민국 청소년들을 단순한 존재로 보고 있구만. 차라리 가출 청소년들에게나 신경을 써라!

This is pitiful. We are living in the internet era and they forbid songs due to their references to liquor? One can easily access to more hard-core stuff online… Why dont you just block the internet, deeming it inappropriate for kids below age 19. […] They spent about 21 billion 940 million Korean Won (approximately USD 200 million) of government money this year in censoring these songs! [This refers to the Ministry's yearly budget, not the total amount of money spent on the censorship alone] Will songs about liquor (exclusively) prompt kids to drink alcohol? The kids are not that simple. Why don't you, the Ministry, focus on taking care of runaway kids rather than doing this?

A Korean language instructor in Canada, Jin Choi (@dragoncj) tweeted [ko]:

술이란 단어가 들어가 유해물 판정을 내릴거면 그냥 술 생산과 판매를 중지해야지 왜 애먼 좋은 노래들만 잡나? 그거 들으면 애들이 취하나? 참 알 수없는 잣대와 논리로세.

[If the ministry were really serious about the underage drinking issues] They could just halt the overall liquor production and distribution (for kids), rather than cracking down on benign songs. Will kids get drunk just because they listened to those songs? Their logic and evaluation process is ridiculous.

Lack of guidelines

The Korean public have also blamed the Ministry's unclear standards and inconsistency in censoring music. While the aforementioned songs were categorized as “hazardous” due to references to drinking, Nam-jin’s “Empty Glass” and Lim Chang-jung's “A Glass of Soju”, whose major themes are alcohol, escaped the regulation [ko].

These inconsistencies prompted citizens to post complaints on the Ministry's website, to the extent that the homepage crashed for several hours on August 25, 2011, due to heavy traffic.

Numerous net users, mimicking how the Ministry place bans on cultural contents, have posted funny messages requesting it to ban random objects. Some examples read [ko]: “Ban ice creams, since the process of eating/licking it evokes a rather erotic image”, “Ban Apple (the electronics company), since its logo reminds people of a woman’s buttocks”, and “Ban USBs [ko], since sticking it into the computer reminds me of sexual intercourse.”

Choi Ji-wong, after detailing the appearance of alcohol in highly esteemed Korean literary works, requested [ko] the Ministry to treat pop songs as similar pieces of art:

[…]문학 작품 속에 등장하는 술입니다. 중고등학생들이 깊이있게 감상하는 작품들이지요. 묻겠습니다. ‘유해’합니까? 부탁합니다. 예술은 예술로 봐 주십시오.

[…] These are the appearances of alcohol in Korean literature. These literary works are being studied and thoroughly viewed by junior high and high school kids. I ask you: Are these ‘hazardous’? I beg you, please dont read any other things from the artistic work other than the art itself.

Kim Jin-joo, a female student wrote [ko] in a local youth community site:

이에 대해 청소년 보호 위윈회측은 문제 된 단어나 표현 하나만 바꾸면 되지 않느냐는 입장이다. 그러나 미묘한 느낌이 생명인 노래에서 단어 하나를 바꾼다는 것은 결코 쉬운 일이 아니다.19금 판정을 피하고자 억지로 바꾼 가사는 앞뒤 문맥이 맞지 않을 뿐만 아니라  음악의 ‘feel’을 잃어버린다. […]한 고등학생은 무심히 들어왔던 가사에 대해 선정적 해석을 되려 조장하는 것 같다고 비판하기도 했다.

[Regarding opposition to the Ministry's censorship] The Commission on Youth Protection argues “You can just simply change controversial words or expressions, then the problem is solved. (No big deal)”. But changing a word in songs, which are one of the most delicate artistic works, is not a simple matter. Songs that begrudgingly alter lyrics just to escape from being judged ‘inappropriate for school kids’ often don't sound right. They are out of context and lose the unique emotions evoked through out the song. […] One high school student criticized the Ministry’s decision as actually inviting listeners to find and listen to the inappropriate versions of the songs. The songs would just sound normal if there was no such censorship.

August 23 2011

Azerbaijan: Tourism - from potential to realization

Having returned from an enjoyable vacation in Indonesia, Aaron in Azerbaijan compares the experience with what Azerbaijan has to offer and notes such problems as the quality of customer service as well as the infrastructure in place. While the blog notes that the country has much potential for tourism, it concludes that Azerbaijan has a long way to go before turning it into realization.

August 22 2011

Armenia: Artificial smiles and a beauty pageant

Unzipped comments on the closing ceremony of this year's Pan-Armenian Games, an irregular sporting competition intended to bring together young Armenians from all over the world. The blog criticizes what it says was “the most boring, pathetic and tasteless ceremonies I have ever seen in Yerevan.

August 20 2011

North Korea: Kim Jong-il's Yachting Holiday

Michael Madden from the North Korean Leadership Watch published a post on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's lavish lifestyle in the impoverished nation. It is believed Kim’s fancy life has not changed despite international sanctions banning the sale of yachts and other luxury goods to North Korea.

August 17 2011

Cuba: Pablo Milanés' Voice

Generation Y blogs about the upcoming Pablo Milanés concert in Miami, which some in the diaspora are agitating to boycott: “The troubadour who proposes to sing in Florida in a few days is a man who has grown and matured artistically and civically, conscious, as well, of the need for both shores of our nation to be reunited. Thus, to receive Pablo Milanés with shouts and insults could delay the necessary embrace between Cubans from here and from there… but it will not prevent it.”

August 05 2011

Russia: Vysotsky as Detective

War and Peace recalls the 1970s soviet television series with troubadour Vladimir Vysotsky as a tough-minded homicide detective.

August 02 2011

Trinidad & Tobago, Bahamas: True Freedom

Is Jamaican dancehall artist Vybz Kartel the “new face of freedom”? Trinidadian Attillah Springer contends that “blackness is the prison that black people fear the most”, while Bahamian Nicolette Bethel says: “For true emancipation, we need to believe in something bigger than ourselves…something like truth, or honour, or service, or community. Something that makes the enslavement of our ancestors and their subsequent freedom worth all the suffering they endured.”

July 25 2011

Jamaica: Reggae Sumfest

Tallawah blogs about the Top 10 performances at this year's Reggae Sumfest, here and here, while Active Voice posts photos.

July 24 2011

Philippines: Planking against Education Cuts

Thousands of students in the Philippines took to the streets last July 19 to demand a higher budget for education from President Noynoy Aquino just a few days before his State of the Nation Address. The protesting students also join the planking craze to register their grievances.

Planking is one of the latest craze to hit the Philippines. Described as “the practice of lying down flat with arms to the side, to mimic a wooden plank,” it involves posting photos of the participants on the net. They are usually photographed planking on unusual locations.

Some critics have connected planking to the stowing of African slaves upon the planks of a slave ship's lower hold during the slave trade-era. The protesting students' riding on the popular craze puts a new dimension to the activity. From a form of slave oppression in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, planking has now evolved into a creative form of protest that involves occupying public space and contesting this space's original representation by the dominant social order.

The student protesters railed against the Aquino government's budget cuts for state universities and colleges and lack of decisive steps to curb tuition and other fee hikes by organizing the “Mass Planking for our Right to Education”. Below are the photos of the planking protest in the University of the Philippines which were uploaded on Facebook:

Tochipat of misguided adventures said that this is part of the students' efforts to strengthen their campaign for higher state subsidy for the education sector.

Creative forms of protests have been resorted to by students to broaden support to their advocacy.

Here are some reactions to the planking protest on Twitter:

planking is an exercise. It's a stupid way to protest, though I admit I've heard stranger things have happened.

Planking protest 4 education by students (personally i feel to old for this, but this was engaging).

UP students new way of protest is PLANKING! hahaha at least sumasabay sa panahon [at least they adapt with the times].

@lancekatigbak: Mass planking as a form of protest? Wtf.

@venzie: UP students to hold “planking” protest tomorrow. Yun daw yung makabagong “die-in” [it is said to be the new “die-in”].

Here is a video of the planking protest by the Pinoyweekly media

July 14 2011

Bolivia: Fighting Cholitas on the Spotlight

Female wrestling in El Alto, Bolivia has captured the attention of locals and visitors for more than 10 years.  These women add a bit of tradition to this popular sport: where else would you see colorful skirts with petticoats, fringed shawls, thick braids and bowler hats battling it out on a ring?
indigenous women in bolivia wrestling

cholita wrestling by funkz CCBy

Sara Shahriari and Tim Clayton collaborate on the following video about Yolanda the Amorous, a female wrestler in El Alto, who despite her mother's concerns, climbs the ring to fight for her right to be more than what society deems “appropriate” for women. From the video's description:

Yolanda la Amorosa is a member of the ‘Titans of the Ring' wrestling group who perform every Sunday at El Alto's Multifunctional Centre. Bolivia. The wrestling group includes the fighting Cholitas, a group of Indigenous Female Lucha Libra wrestlers who fight the men as well as each other for just a few dollars appearance money every weekend. Yolanda lives with her her two daughters Adriana and Carmen in the hills overlooking La Paz. Bolivia.

(version in Spanish available here)

Grace, who blogs on Pinay on the Move went to see the Cholitas in El Alto and wrote about it in Battle of the Skirts:

Then with one swift movement she turns away from the ring, places her hands on the top rope and climbs to the second rope. She proceeds to bounce on the rope until she began to throw her legs and body outwards. As this happens she releases her grip which sends her flying outwards and downwards on top of her opponent’s torso. The result was a puddle of petticoats and braids on the center of the ring.

I had just witnessed a corner slingshot splash from one of the Fighting Cholitas in Bolivia and I thought: “the battle of the petticoats is in full swing!”.

This following video shows a fighting cholita against male wrestler and winning:

Watching the female wrestlers in El Alto has become not only a pastime for locals but also a touristic attraction as can be perceived by the dozens of uploaded videos on YouTube featuring the cholitas. Mike Powell writes in Bolivia for 91 days about his reactions on receiving “special treatment” when going to the arena:

By the time we took our seats, I was fairly annoyed. We had been redirected to the “foreigners line”, where tickets were over three times the regular price. Still only about $7, so no big deal. But upon entering the arena, we were told to sit in a special “foreigners” section. No thanks! Jürgen and I slid off to the side and sat down in the “regular” section next a couple young Bolivian wrestling fans, who peppered us with questions in between fights.

Nevertheless, it didn't dampen his enjoyment:

The Lucha Libre is a quintessential Bolivian experience, and we can highly recommend it. Neither of us expected to be so entertained… my stomach hurt from laughing so much. Although it’s clearly fake, the sight of women getting slapped around by men can be a little shocking, so dour feminists might want to stay away. But if you don’t mind a little violence with your humor, definitely check it out.

July 13 2011

Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago: Fire Festival

Havana Times blogs about Santiago de Cuba's exciting Fire Festival, saying: “This year was the festival’s 31st edition and was dedicated to Trinidad and Tobago.”

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