About the Authors: Suzanne Hall, Public Diplomacy Advisor for Canada and Mexico in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and Tina Huang, U.S. Department of State Intern, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Office of Public Diplomacy.
Picture this: a thriving community arts center in the heart one of Mexico City’s at-risk neighborhoods; a peaceful, neutral space for young people to heal, learn and grow; and arts and communication classes inviting students to connect, express and rebuild. In Iztapalapa, Mexico City—a working-class borough home to over 1.8 million Mexicans—this is not merely a vision, but a nine-year-old reality. Since 2000, Fabric de Artes de Oriente (FARO de Oriente) has become a grand-scale community center offering youth of all ages creative alternatives in the form of visual arts, dance, theater, music and radio. On October 14, 2009, representatives from U.S. new media and telecommunications firms as well as the policy making and academic communities took an in-depth look at FARO de Oriente as a model for how arts and technology can equip Mexican citizens, and especially youth, with a better awareness for the positive, constructive alternatives that exist amidst their struggle against narco-violence. This team of leaders and scholars are part of the second State-sponsored “Tech.Del” to dialogue about the role of new media and technology in helping Mexican citizens more effectively engage against drug cartels.
Kicking off the October “Tech.Del,” Ambassador Pascual welcomed the delegation and honored guests yesterday evening at his Mexico City residence. Throughout the evening, media and telecommunications pioneers and student leaders across Mexico joined the “Tech.Del” in conversations about citizen and youth engagement via new media innovations. Roberta Jacobson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Mexico and Canada remarked, "We are excited and grateful to be partners with a group of young American entrepreneurs who have offered their time and expertise to Mexican citizens and groups peacefully challenging organized crime to connect and amplify their voices and reject of drug violence."
Early this morning, the “Tech.Del” continued their discussions on media and technology with a series of high level meetings with Rafael Fernandez de Castro, Presidential Advisor to President Calderon on International Affairs and Competitiveness along with key Mexican officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of Government, Office of the Presidency, Mexican Institute of Youth, and General Secretary of the Center for Investigation and National Security. The focus of the discussions was on ways in which media innovations can enhance citizen awareness and build cultural peace. Jason Liebman, CEO of Howcast and member of “Tech.Del” commented about the challenges of social media adoption, “It has been surprising to learn how prohibitive access to the internet and SMS is for Mexican citizens. The costs on the ground in Mexico are three to five times more than in the U.S.” Another member, James Eberhard, CEO of Mobil Accord said, "We're seeing lots of challenges. It's clear that we need to find a Mexican leader that can mobilize the youth who are hungry for direction."
The delegation’s visit to FARO de Oriente later in the day marked one of the major highlights of the trip. Meeting the staff and students of this busy community center, which serves over 150,000 youth annually, the “Tech.Del” listened to the stories of struggle and triumph that community members faced and how art and technology have been a part of their healing and empowerment as residents of Iztapalapa. Follow the “Tech.Del” visit on Twitter @farodeoriente.
After the visit to Iztapalapa, an afternoon of meetings followed with key industry leaders and stakeholders including a lunch meeting with founders of bourgeoning new media tools against crime and violence, directors of internet and telecommunications firms and Mexican scholars on human rights and civic engagement. Also, stay up-to-date with “Tech.Del” throughout the day on Twitter using the #mextech hashtag.
Following the day-long “Tech.Del” meetings, members of the delegation will join other world leaders and youth activists for the second annual Alliance for Youth Movement conference. Stay tuned for more updates.