Amazing illustrations by Colombian artist, Paola Escobar

Paola Escobar
Paola Escobar

 

Paola Escobar is a graphic artist who lives and works at an advertising agency in Bogotá, Colombia.

My friends over at Colombian art and culture site, Bacánika, turned me onto Escobar and conducted a Q & A with the young artist. When asked about her style, she gave a non-answer that made perfect sense:

How would you describe your style?

“I do not know, I could not describe it, I can hardly do it because in general those who are dedicated to this we are in a constant struggle to find the style, and you will probably never find it. But I always try to leave my essence in all illustrations, through details, as both my childhood and my life were always marked by them. I like to communicate a story and always try to fill my artwork with them. My style has no name.”

See more of Escobar’s work over at Bacánika and at Behance.

Paola Escobar
Paola Escobar

El Freaky to open for One Direction

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My friends from El Freaky Colectivo are no strangers to playing big concerts. Last October, they served as the only Colombian performers to open for Justin Bieber at the Nemesio Camacho stadium in Bogotá.

Tonight, they are set to play their signature blend of Colombia-centric global bass (cumbia, champeta, EDM, and more) for more screaming teens at El Campín stadium for the big One Direction concert. Check out the picture below, where the Engilsh/Irish boy band sport Colombia National Futbol Team jerseys. Aww. Aren’t they cute?

Will One Direction root for Colombia in World Cup 2014? Ha.
Will One Direction root for Colombia in World Cup 2014? Ha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And click here to see footage of them soundchecking in Bogotá. Who knew this kind of thing was documented on the Internet? 🙂

Storify: Barranquilla, Colombia’s Carnival

I recently wrote a piece for Sounds and Colours in hopes of transporting readers to the Carnival in Barranquilla, Colombia. It contains great music, so check it out here!

I’m also compiling a Storify piece all weekend long. I’ll be scouring social media for the best images, tweets, and videos, of Carnival and share them accordingly. You can start with the pre-festivities stuff below.

[View the story “Carnaval de Barranquilla” on Storify]

New TV obsession: ‘La Viuda Negra’

Screen shot 2014-02-27 at 10.20.21 PMSo… I’m of Colombian descent (first generation American), and the whole Pablo Escobar-the-drug-lord thing has always been fascinating to me. That’s fascinating, as in I find it interesting; not that I’m a fan and want to visit his grave (a tourist destination, I’m told.)

Yes, he's really smiling in this mugshot.
Yes, he’s really smiling in this mugshot.

Look, the guy may have played a Robin Hood-type role in the way he used his massive drug empire earnings to build schools, hospitals, and soccer parks in poor Medellin ‘hoods, but he still killed, or was responsible for the deaths of, a boat load of people. Moreover, his empire contributed to an era that was an embarrassment for the country my parents came from. Consider that it was the world’s murder capital with 25,100 violent deaths in 1991 and 27,100 in 1992. Today, its tourism is on the rise

I realize there is more to the story about the ‘war on drugs’ policy and what role the United States played in this all. It seems like drugs, and the money that comes with them, make the world go round and aren’t going away. Still, it doesn’t make me a fan of Escobar.

A few years ago, I watched a documentary called Cocaine Cowboys, about the rise of cocaine and resulting crime epidemic that swept the American city of Miami, Florida in the 1970s and 1980s. Those interviewed in the film argued that Griselda Blanco, an infamous crime family matriarch, played a major role in the history of the drug trade in Miami and other cities across America. Per the film, it was the lawless and corrupt atmosphere, primarily from Blanco’s operations, that led to the gangsters being dubbed the “Cocaine Cowboys.”

More about Griselda Blanco here: http://bit.ly/1ce8FIz
What the real black widow looked like. Read more about Griselda Blanco here: http://bit.ly/1ce8FIz

I was blown away. A female drug lord was behind all this? (And by this, I mean the woman invented drive-by motorcycle assassinations and tried to KIDNAP JFK, JR.) Again, I wasn’t a fan in the way one “roots” for Tony Montana while watching Scarface, but I always thought her story would make a killer movie. Well, there’s now a telenovela (Spanish for soap opera.)

La Viuda Negra (the black widow) is playing on UniMás (a newer Univision channel). Read a synopsis here via We Love Soaps.

The pilot episode, which begins with Blanco awaiting trial in a prison cell, nearly scared me off. It seemed the acting was overdone and the writing was pretty bad. But by episode two, things got interesting, thankfully. The show transitions to Blanco’s hard knock life upbringing and suddenly, I’m no longer wondering how  a woman become such a ruthless drug queen.

The acting by those who play a young Blanco and her posse in Medellin is great, and the dialogue is superb. Best part? The soap is available on Hulu Plus.

Unexpected pairing: Colombian carnival & Ronzo’s street art

Ronzo & a police officer in Bogotà. Pic via his Instagram.
Ronzo & a police officer in Bogotà. Pic via his Instagram.

Colombia’s carnival, held in my parents’ hometown of Barranquilla, is upon us. For what to expect, check out these posts I wrote for Sounds and Colours.

Though I couldn’t fit a trip to “carnavales” in this year’s schedule, I keep up with the news via barranquilladecarnaval.com. This latest bit of news is worth sharing as it brings one of Europe’s most graffiti artists to Barranquilla. A mix of folkloric tradition with a specialist in guerilla urban street art? Unexpected, but very cool.

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Barranquilla, Colombia — Well-known London-based urban artist, Ronzo, will exchange knowledge with a group of artists from the port city of Barranquilla, Colombia.

Sponsored by beer-brand Club Colombia, the event will bring Ronzo together with more than 30 artisans working with the Carnival of Barranquilla — the number two most popular carnival in South America. 

The aim of the exchange is for folk artists learn more about the diverse cultural expressions of graffiti, in aspects such as creativity, colors, languages ​​and textures. Thereafter, the learning acquired by craftsmen is to serve as inspiration for the design and construction of the Club Colombia float, which will be used in the annual carnival’s biggest event — La Battala de Flores parade on March 1.

Ronzo, who refers to himself as ‘vandal extraordinaire,’ will also share his knowledge and skills with students of the Universidad del Atlántico.

Ronzo is contemplating painting a mural donated to the city of Barranquilla.

Ronzo born in Munich, Germany, and settled in London in 2000 after completing his studies in design at the School of Art in Hamburg.

It was in London where he cemented his style and became popular worldwide, leaving his creations on paper, streets, and buildings. His work is not immune to underlying social and political messages. In 2009, he installed “Crunchy, the official mascot of the global financial meltdown” in London.

Crunchy, the mascot for the global financial meltdown. (2009)
Crunchy, the mascot for the global financial meltdown. (2009)

Ronzo’s creations include illustrations, murals, outdoor installations, and sculptures. His work, in constant evolution, has been positioned in the streets, video games, galleries and cinematography.

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I’m excited to see this float! I’ll have my cousins snap a photo for me. And even though it never tastes the same here in the States, I’ll buy a six-pack of Club Colombia to celebrate.

I wonder if it’s Ronzo’s first time at Carnival. If so, he will most definitely have fun. That’s a given! Extranjeros are always received with open arms in mi bella Barranquilla. I hope he gets to visit Santa Marta, Taganga, and Cartagena, where I remember seeing cool street art.

Follow news about the carnival at the Carnival site. Learn more about Ronzo at his site or on Twitter.

Video: ‘La Peligrosa’ by Martina La Peligrosa

Martina La Peligrosa
Martina La Peligrosa

Story by me via Sounds and Colours:

You never know what you’re going to find when conducting a random search on social media. Case in point: I recently typed #champeta into Instagram’s search bar and stumbled upon an interesting champeta-inspired track by, what seemed to be, a pop star from Colombia. What’s this? Is champeta going mainstream?

Turns out, the artist is Martina La Peligrosa, (real name Martina López) a native of Córdoba, on the Northern part of Colombia’s Caribbean coast…

Read the rest and watch the music video here.

A word about demographics and missed opportunities

Screen shot by me.
Screen shot of the sad and lonely Spanish-language option by me.

I don’t purport to know very much about running a business. Aside from deciding whether I want to take on public relations work on a by-project basis, I’ve never run my own shop.

But I can safely say that Great American Opportunities, a fundraising corporation, has dropped the ball on an additional “opportunity” for their constituents to make more money.

Back in my day, for grammar schools to raise funds, students had to sell chocolates or Christmas wrapping paper. Today, with the power of the Internet, you can imagine those opportunities have become more diverse.

My cousin’s son’s school in Florida is raising funds by using Great American Opportunities to sell magazine subscriptions. It’s much simpler now. Parents forward a link and we help raise funds by shopping.

Or so I thought.

I’m in media relations. I don’t want for many magazine or newspaper subscriptions. I have plenty and they are all digital. So I figure, I’ll shop for my parents.

My folks are Colombian immigrants and American citizens who have been living in this country for more than 40 years. Yet Spanish is still their first and preferred [reading] language. They’re senior citizens, why wouldn’t they enjoy a subscription?

Sadly, the only Spanish-language magazine Great American Opportunities offers is People en Español. No offense to the celebrity magazine industry, but my parents have no interest in who J-Lo is dating. (Well, maybe if she finally moves UP in age of the person she’s dating. Just kidding!)

Has Great American Opportunities not looked into changing demographics of this country, especially in Florida? There are a TON of Hispanics/Latinos in the United States and they are a huge buying power. The more Latino-friendly products a business offers to the Latino community, the more they will buy. (Take a hint from the many corporations that advertise and offer circulars in Spanish.)

And that, mi amigos, in my opinion, is a missed opportunity for Great American Opportunities.

In case you’re wondering, I *did* buy a subscription to help my cousin’s son’s grammar school. I bought an interesting-looking health/neuroscience magazine, but certainly would have purchased much more had there been more than one entertainment-based, Spanish-language option.

Perhaps this is something Great American Opportunities can consider in the future. After all, many of Spanish-language readers and speakers are shopping in America!

 

My latest on ‘Sounds and Colours’

I wanted to share a couple of recent posts I wrote for the London, England,-based Sounds and Colours, a music and culture magazine that focuses on Latin America.

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SOAP OPERA RELIVES COLOMBIAN SOCCER HISTORY

One cannot discuss Colombian history of the 1990s without a mention of the national soccer teams of the era. After all, the squads of that decade made Colombian history, qualifying for three World Cups in a row—Italy ’90, USA ’94 and France ’98.

Now, those moments in futbol history are being played out in a telenovela by Caracol Television that has millions of Colombians hooked. The soap opera, “La Selección,” is also playing in the United States.

The series focuses on four of the country’s best-known players, Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama, Rene Higuita, Freddy Rincon, and Faustino Aspirilla.

Read more here.

BARRANQUILLA IS ARTIST’S CONSTANT INFLUENCE

Carnaval-de-Barranquilla.Ngra-Puloi-ToritoMarimondaGarabatoFarotaOleo-120-x-80-cms.-2012-copia-630x300

If there is one thing I equate with Colombia and its people, flag, music, Carnival, Feria de las Flores, and several other festivals, it is bright, exuberant colors. So I wasn’t surprised when I stumbled upon works by Colombian artist Jorge Luis Rosenvaig.

I was searching for an image for a Chibcha (my parents had a couple of Chibcha wall ornaments when I was a kid) for a possible tattoo when I came across Rosenvaig’s “Chibchacum” on a site called Saatchi Online, a site whose tagline is “Discover Art. Get Discovered.”

Discover I did, and once I started clicking through to his other works, I immediately set out to find out more about the artist. Rosenvaig obliged with the following email interview.

Read the Q & A here.

The connection between Tampa, Fl., and Barranquilla, Colombia

Barranquilla Mayor Elsa Noguera De La Espriella and Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn. (Image courtesy of the city of Tampa.)

I keep up on general news (especially music-related) coming out of Barranquilla, Colombia, because it’s where my parents are from. I love going there for the annual carnival, which I wrote about for Sounds and Colours. It’s QUITE the party.

So you can imagine my surprise when I received a press release today about Barranquilla’s sister city in the United States. Because that city is Tampa. Tampa? Yes, Tampa.

Apparently, Barranquilla and Tampa have been sister cities since 1966. The two cities agreed to collaborate through the “Sister Cities” program “for the mutual benefit of their citizens and communities by exploring educational, economic and cultural opportunities.” (By the way, for you random trivia buffs, Tampa is also the Sister City of: LeHavre, France, Oviedo, Spain, Vera Cruz/Boca del Rio, Mexico, Izmir, Turkey, Agrigento, Italy, and Ashdod, Israel.)

Apparently the “Sister Cities” thing isn’t a permanent affair because on Dec. 6, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn joined Barranquilla Mayor Elsa Noguera De La Espriella to reaffirm the Sister Cities partnership. Buckhorn presented Noguera De La Espriella with a painting of Old City Hall by local artist Arnold Martinez as a gift.