Is the Umbrella Revolution over? An update on Hong Kong’s 51-day ‘occupation’ parallel to APEC


It all started one day, almost two months ago, when listening to the radio. Hong Kong, a very far away region from my side of the hemisphere, had been literally taken by young students, acording to a Peruvian correspondent in China. What did they want? Apparently, democracy. I asked myself what Rafael, a friend from Hong Kong I met last year, would be doing in his home country.

What the city of Mong Kok looks like currently (South China Morning Post)

What the city of Mong Kok looks like currently (South China Morning Post)

Fifty one days have passed since that day, September 27th, and the ‘occupation’ of Hong Kong’s main cities is now a landscape of new communities with its own means of communication and supplies, filled with young protesters defying three High Court injuctions requiring them to leave the streets. Recently, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum gathered world leaders and representatives from not-so-strong economies, like Peru’s President. Of course, it was expected for the agenda to include only economic issues and completly ignore the so-called Umbrella Revolution. Not that the protesters really cared, according to The Wall Street Journal, although a group of pro-democracy leaders did announce planning a trip to Beijing during the APEC forum.

What has happened so far? Tons of students got detained, hundreds got injured from clashes with the police, corruption behind the protesters attacks was unveiled, the dialogue between the government and protest leaders failed, but most importantly, a long-standing pro-democracy movement has proved to be possible in Chinese soil. And it has probably reshaped the laison between political discontent and economic loss in Asia. I bet that idea never even crossed the minds of protesters’ parents. Asking myself about Rafael led to get in touch with him and to (virtually) meet several of his friends supporting the movement. They were kind enough to share some of their time, while going to school, work and protesting, to help me understand why the Umbrella Revolution —although not yet a real revolution— is historically important.

Thanks to Skype and Facebook, a story with their testimony was made possible. I originally posted this story in Spanish on October 20th, after almost two weeks of interviews. Currently, there’s a lot of critique in the Web about what this movement has left for Hong Kong and China, and the conclusions seem to point out the lack of strategy for its success, even though they praise its endurance.

I’ll keep one of my interviewees lines in response to that: “The movement needs to scalate to China. Now we have the occupation, but what is the next action? So far it seems the occupation is the most we can do,  so it will take time and failures to make people understand this.” (Pa Sha, 26-year old translator) Occupy Central hasn’t accomplished anything it set out for (yet): nothing guarantees democratic elections for 2017. But failing at it might the very first step to achieve victory. Here’s the translation of the exclusive testimony from three protesters who have contributed to taking that step. Sigue leyendo

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Eurotrip (I): World Business Dialogue in Köln


First trip out of South America. I don’t speak any German, but Cologne didn’t care about it 🙂

16th WBD-Universität zu Köln

There I was in a weather that was probably near -2 degrees Celsius, after having stayed one day in Madrid, where it was definitely warmer. Cologne (or Köln for the Germans) said “Hi” to me on March 11th, and I just couldn’t wait to get to my hostel, unpack some stuff and get to know this city a little bit better.

The 16th World Business Dialogue is the largest student-run business convention that aims to connect 300 international students to 60 high-profile personalities and industry leaders. It met my expectations, yes Sir.

For four days, Cologne was just the perfect city to me. It snowed (first time I had ever seen it) and my feet maybe got frostbitten at some point (just kidding), but it was still awesome.

University of Cologne

New business strategies

It was somewhat interesting to be in the strongest European economy, discussing how to come up with new ways to prevent the world from going on financial crisis again. Some people might say that’s even a little mean, given Cyprus’s situation and all the many issues still unsolved in the euro zone.

I can’t really say if the 300 students that were there will change the world, but they were all so outstanding and incredibly committed to their own organizations and professional fields that I felt there was still hope for whatever is left of our current economy and business models.

But the thing that surprised me the most was the way we all got along so well. Take Pakistan, for example. Where in earth, if it wasn’t in Cologne, was I going to meet people from that country? Because believe me, my chances of ever going to Pakistan are just as small as ever seeing snow in Lima (where that will never happen because it’s a coast-based territory).

Don’t take me wrong. I would love to travel that far, but it is so unlikely to ever find the time and money to do so. Then again, I met all these cool people –from around 20 different countries– that I have now reconsidered what “far” means and how worth it is to reach it. But I’ll go back to this in a few lines later.

Going back to the subtitle of this post, what are the new business strategies about? Here’s my conclusion:

Yes, things are not right. Do we change it all in one day? No. What’s the right pace, then? Understanding new realities and becoming aware of what is working and what is not in business will probably give us a hint of where to start changing our behavior, to strive for that “better world”.

The strategies for a more efficient, fulfilling and fair business model entail not only the minds of the experienced, but the guts of the young. Sometimes the experienced forget that fresh ideas –especially coming from a generation exposed to the greatest amount of knowledge history has ever seen– can lead us to take a small step that may scale to a larger effect.

Well, I know what you might be thinking: so, no secret recipe here? No, and there will never be.

World Business Dialogue showed me that it is impossible to come up with one “right way” to do things, but if we could find the common spots in our personalities, world perspectives and cultures, then we can transfer all that to our impossible “right way” and turn in into multiple good ways to do things.

World’s huge

One last thing. “Far away” has gotten so relative to me now. Switzerland, Germany, Hong Kong, Russia, Taiwan, China, Japan, South Africa, Belarus, United States, Canada, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Austria, Indonesia… I’ve met absolutely inspiring people from these countries that you just can’t help wanting to visit them. Of course, I have to mention I also met other unique Peruvians that have now become my friends.

I always thought that “culture shock” experience I had read in books was a little bit exaggerated (very close to a BS category). It is so not. It changes you. This time, at least I believe it changed all of us at Universität zu Köln in a good way.

P.S.: Upcoming post, Eurotrip II, will describe and compare Cologne, Madrid, Paris and Lima. Don’t miss it out! In the meantime, you check my pics of 16th WBD in Cologne on my Flickr account  🙂

Friendship in a “connected” world


I never got to think about the friends I’ve made, let go and kept in my life until a couple of days ago. Here’s a glimpse of what making friends and keeping them means with all those things we’ve been led to believe are able to fill geographical distance. 

Foto: sadmuffin.net

sadmuffin.net

First things first. Truth is  this phrase is almost always a lie. It is cute when you are nine years old and say that to probably 10 people you think are your best friends. Now, 15 years later, there is only one person from that time I talk to (on her birthday and some other special occasions).

Some people say friendship is stronger than romantic love, the kind you feel for your significant other. My theory is that it depends on how you want to measure it:

Can you stop loving a friend like you can stop loving your boyfriend/girlfriend? Can friendship endure time and distance better than romantic relationships?

1. Digital era

If there’s something I’ll admit is that the Internet makes it easier to stay in touch with friends. Of course, it’s not like without Facebook friendship wouldn’t have survived the 21st century. I imagine My Space wouldn’t have gone bankruptcy, that’s it. But do social networks actually help strengthen friendship?

marketingeasy.net

A very good friend of mine left for the United States on Friday (to sort of settle there). Today I went on Facebook and realized I’ve talked to him more in two years (when I met him) than to other people I’ve met longer.

I saw a pattern in the group of people I stopped talking to on Facebook: I stopped talking to them/seeing them in real life. 

However, has it happened to you that one day, out of the blue, you start chatting with someone you haven’t seen nor talked to in years, but you end up having the most awesome conversation?

It breaks the closeness rule. Then you think, “why did we ever stopped talking?” Here, two things can happen: you either regain that friendship out of the chat window or just get excited for a moment and stop talking again.

So far, it all sounds normal, right? Yes, becoming friends with someone may be easy, but keeping them is a little harder, and neither Facebook or any other social networks may seem to make a difference if you just stop liking one person or having things in common.

I thought of one more question, though: how much has online communication changed our concept of friendship?

2. Real versus virtual

Let’s say you met someone and shared a significant amount of experiences that build friendship between you two. When either one of you have to leave the same geographical space, sure, you won’t see each other as much, but you will stay in touch through phone calls, WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook, Twitter, Gtalk, whatsoever… and you will continue to think of each other as “friends”.

I definitely don’t think “friendship” means the same now that it did years ago, especially when you don’t need a recollection of experiences to continue calling people “friends”. Not even telephones have had that much of an effect on people’s relationships as the Internet has. Even if you meet someone online, things get better when you become friends in real life (just like what happened with this person I mentioned at the beginning).

But then again, friendships do end even if you stay within the same geographical space. Actually, friendship is most likely to end when you don’t give each other enough space. Try moving out with a friend and see what happens. Putting an end to friendship can be even worse than breaking up with your boyfriend/girlfriend.

3. No conclusion

I really have nothing to conclude out of this. Friendship is more unstable than the majority of people believe. Just think about it. You can have a romantic relationship, a very intense one, for six months, one or two years. But how many friends do you make, leave or keep during that time?

When friends are away, online communication lets us be part of each other’s experiences, maybe a 10% of them. To keep friends, there has to be something that makes us think they’re worth it, and that “something” goes beyond any Internet connection. (Okay, I realized this is a conclusion. Let’s just leave it there).

Similar to this post:

El mundo smart

Breaking Up With A Friend Is Harder Than Breaking Up With A Significant Other (thoughtcatalog.com)

September: dead woman in Lima, dead man in Huaraz


I’m not in Lima today. To get you entertained while I’m gone, I picked two ‘random’ news that give a perfect example of how an unworthy debate keeps us from the actual social issues in Peru.

Lima’s news coverage got interesting in September. Let’s see… I guess the most random thing that caused a major deployment of critics, debates in social media and tons of printed news was the assassination of Ruth Thalía Sayas.

Ruth Thalía Sayas

Ruth Thalía Sayas and her check for US$ 5,800, when she was alive.

She participated in this bizarre show called “El Valor de la Verdad” (The Value of Truth) that mainly tries to expose all your “dirty secrets” in exchange of around US$ 5,800. Thing is she was in the show, told everyone that she had cheated on her boyfriend, worked in a night club [meaning specifically she was a prostitute] and felt embarrassed of her parents rural background.

A few weeks later… She was found dead in a deserted land somewhere in Jicamarca (Lima).

Then things got real crazy. Some people started calling it a “TV-slaughter” case, which implies that TV is at fault for this horrible crime instead of the actual murderer: her ex-boyfriend, who [allegedly] strangled her because he found out he had been cheated on and didn’t get his share out of the US$5,800 she had won.

Truth is no one knows what’s going to happen now aside from the fact that everybody has paid more attention to whether this crappy show should remain on the air or not. It’s funny how some people think that taking it off the air would make things “better”… As if the rate of murdered women in Lima were to decrease as a result.

Does anyone know where water comes from?

Of course, very few people paid attention to what happened in Huaraz, a city located in the highlands of Peru. Turns out there were some riots against mining company Barrick Misquichilca, where residents of a location surrounding  a mining area  were protesting due to water shortage that was thought to had been caused by the company.

Protests against Barrick Misquichilca

Protestas contra Barrick Misquichilca, Huaráz, en Áncash (Foto: Perú21)

One man was killed during the clashes held between police and protesters, and at least four people were reportedly injured, according to BBC News. Weird thing is I heard on the radio the victim’s name was Nemesio Pomabut some others say it’s Demetrio Poma… It seems like it’s not that important, right?

This protest is, apparently, not a fully environmental-related issue. On the radio [RPP Noticias], one of Barrick’s spokespeople said the protesters had been cut off from water service eight days prior to the riots. Since the mining company provides the trucks to deliver water in that area, the spokesman said that the residents “probably thought the company supplies the water as well”.

The fact is that water is not supplied by Barrick. The company in charge of it EPS Chavin S.A. Now, who supervises this and all the other 50 water suppliers in Peru?

The answer is Sunass. This government entity was also responsible for the water shortage that villagers of the Jangas district had to go through for eight freaking days. Absolutely no media coverage wondered why this happened. No one wondered why protests were against the mining company instead of Chavin S.A. or even Sunass from the very begining (they were… after a few days).

Lots of questions, zero answers

No one has claimed anything about how Sunass is currently managing water supply if ever found that water is polluted by bacteria or whatsoever. How did the protesters get any proof that water was being contaminated by Barrick? If getting water back is clearly impossible, since Sunass found it was not being properly treated by Chavin S.A., why did the villagers reject water provided by Barrick’s plant, considering its own staff consumes it?

Should a government agency, responsible for making sure that everybody gets water service, go ahead and eliminate access to it with no prior notice or alternative solutions? My guess is that, really, no one cares where water comes from, how it is or could be more effectively managed. Otherwise, we would have already tried to address these questions.

So yeah, in terms of news coverage, September left two dead people remarkably different due to the most ridiculous thing: one of them is highly relevant for having appeared on TV and, the other just died as a result of a completely avoidable situation. Who’s name do you think will be remembered the most?

23rd Father’s Day Celebration


Imagen: @porliniers

When I was born, 23 years ago, my dad’s father passed away. Yes, Francisco, my grandfather whom I never got to know, passed away the very same day I was born. Rumor has it that he forgot to take his pill for the heart and he had some sort of cardiac arrest that, well, he couldn’t overcome.

I’ve never really asked my dad how he felt that day. I’m pretty sure I’ll never ask him that either, what’s the point, right? My mom never knew her father-in-law, so I guess she didn’t feel much either. My dad’s mom passed away when he was 16. She died of cervix cancer, in times when cancer wasn’t even such a familiar disease to the people in Peru. “Now cancer is an every-day thing”, my dad said once.

My dad and I never really talk that much. He hasn’t been able to economically support any academic-related activities in my life, never gave me any monthly allowance -like the rest of my friends back in highschool-, never asked me if I wanted a sweet fifteen party (which of course, I didn’t even want anyway), never asked me if I dated any guys or gave me the “sex talk” that you see parents doing on TV. He has no idea whether or not I’ll finish school this year or the following. Actually, when I didn’t get into university the first time I took the entrance exam, he told to me to try a state-funded university. I hated him that day.

But when I was a kid, he drew (because he used to be an expert at technical drawing) Adam and Eve for me as part of my homework, and taught me that men and women are different just like them. He would pick me up from school every freaking day in his car to make sure I wasn’t going to be smoking pot or engaging into any gang’s fight (yup, that was my highschool).

He would buy a newspaper -sometimes two or three, good and bad- every freaking day and let it laying in our dinner table so everybody would read it. That’s how I learned about “the news”. He gave me his Marxist books from the 70s when I was 15, which opened my mind to a leftist world that I sill admire and criticize so much.

When I was nine, he enrolled in a computer class which he used to take me to. He didn’t learn shit (he can’t even turn on a desktop), but I did, and I’ve developed that knowledge to the point that I actually get paid for it now.

Last Christmas, we all got into an awful fight about something stupid, which was mainly my fault. At the table, when we calmed down, he thanked the Lord for having given him a child like me. Yup, that Lord that he once told me it was a merely human creation to fulfill the eternal void of its existence. Today, while we’re still together, we will celebrate one more of this traditional Father’s Day thing, even though he’s in bed recovering from a surgery.

I guess this is my way of saying that even though he hasn’t and doesn’t give me much, I learned how to take advantage of the little things I did get, which ended up leading me to greater things. That has become my philosophy of life.

Obama’s gay marriage support explained on 9GAG


With more than 1 billion search results on Google, this gay-marriage-support thing may be the hottest topic in US politics these days.

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Photo: newyorker.com

There I was last night, trying to recover from an ugly cold that dragged me to bed with a pretty bad fever, until I went on Facebook for a little while and discovered that the user Kenan Ogan had posted an interesting image on 9GAG about gay marriage under the following title:

10 REASONS TO BAN GAY MARRIAGE

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Of course, it would have never occurred to me that the title would be referring exactly to the opposite thing: 10 reasons to ban gay marriage [under invalid arguments that actually make gay marriage the most normal thing in our society]. This 9GAG post got more than 15K shares and 19K ‘likes’ on FB, and it was only published yesterday. The title is definitely one of the oldest marketing strategies, but the content is innovating enough to make it go viral.

Political stands

Nevertheless, promoting your support for gay marriage, being the President of the US and running for a reelection isn’t as easy as posting some ironic references on 9GAG. Although I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm on the Internet coming from the LGBT community, some newspapers reports show that, in fact, this movement may not be as positive for Obama’s political gamble.

The Telegraph:

Consider the fact that just the previous day the citizens of North Carolina voted to ban gay marriage and all forms of civil unions by a 20-point margin, enshrining unequal treatment in their state constitution.

This is not an unusual result when gay marriage has gone to the voters in the past – more than 30 states have taken the same step, while in the half dozen states where marriage equality is legal it has been achieved via state legislatures or judicial decision.

[…] Liberal enthusiasm may be blind to the serious political risks this move might create. If the president loses the Southern and Midwestern swing states he won last time – possibly losing the White House in the process – this decision will be an important reason why.

The Washington Post:

Pastors in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and other swing states are readying Sunday sermons inveighing against same-sex unions, while activist groups have begun laying plans for social media campaigns, leaflet drives and other get-out-the-vote efforts centered on the same-sex marriage issue. Romney could benefit from a strong turnout among evangelicals and other social conservatives, many of whom remain skeptical of his commitment to their causes.

Los Angeles Times:

Franklin Graham — son and legatee of Billy Graham, the traditional spiritual advisor to the nation’s presidents — is lashing out at President Obama for his support of gay marriage, saying that Obama has “shaken his fist” at God, and lamenting “a sad day for America.”

Graham, the president and chief executive of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn., criticized the president in a statement Thursday, a day after the president told ABC News that his personal belief was that “same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

I guess one my biggest questions is if this social issue –as well as many others that might arise from this civil rights-related one– will end up being the center of the debate instead of the more traditional economy-debt-financial-crisis topic in 2008. By the way, with the great quantity of LGBT public manifestations I’ve seen on TV or online, one would think that the US is “ready” to accept that gays aren’t hated by God. Looking at this map, something tells me public opinion isn’t a portrait of what the media shows:

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From latimes.com-click to see the full article.

Good luck US citizens. This may be one of your final battles agaisnt useless fears and resentments.