We recently sat down with Nestor “the Boss” Gomez, host of the storytelling podcast 80 Minutes Around the World and 40-time winner of the Moth Grand Slam.
Nestor, who used to stutter, hails from Guatemala and found his voice after migrating to Chicago, enrolling in high school, and learning to navigate a new culture. Currently, he uses his platform to encourage others to tell their stories.
“Every place, person and thing inspires a different story or poem,” he says.
This Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity.
The Journey North
My childhood was a very hard childhood. I was the second of four siblings. Actually, I’m the second of six. Two of my siblings died when they were very young. We were poor and my family made Guatemalan worry dolls [small cloth figures dressed in traditional Mayan clothing] that we sold at the airport and tourist shops.
By Christian M. Bills
The information in this article has no affiliation or association with the United States Government, the United States Military, or the Department of Defense. It is not to be misconstrued as the opinion or belief of the aforementioned parties.
For the last four decades, the War on Drugs has remained a constant in both the United States and Mexico. Since its official beginning in 1971, under the Nixon Administration, the meaning of the phrase “the War on Drugs” has varied depending on who is asked. In the United States, it is presented as an assault against drug abuse and addiction, while those who oppose the struggle claim it to be an attempt to diminish minority communities. In Mexico, the War on Drugs symbolizes the beginning of a long and bloody period full of corruption, violence, and pain. Regardless of which side of the border you live on, one component of the drug war remains a constant: the cartels who are responsible for initiating widespread violence and distributing millions of pounds of narcotics. However, despite the violence and pain felt in Mexico due to these criminal organizations, in 2018 the promises of reform and a new strategy were presented by recently elected Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador. This new breath of life was explained by presidential aid Olga Sanchez: “We will propose decriminalization, create truth commissions, we will attack the causes of poverty, we will give scholarships to the youth and we will work in the field to get them out of the drug situation.”
By Sergio Guzmán
The United States continues to be a global superpower. The US for the time being will continue to influence countries all across Latin America. However, recent events have suggested signs of decline. And as the decline grows more evident, how will the region’s political power rebalance? The election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) in Mexico, as well as the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil marks a radical departure from the current status quo. What does this mean for Colombia and Latin America at large?
By Madeline Asta
Two years ago, I sat in a classroom in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and listened as Brazilian university students analyzed the election of US President Donald Trump on an international scale. It was the day after Trump was elected and I was still trying to wrap my brain around the outcome. I felt isolated from my country both physically and emotionally. The students spoke about a right-wing shift the world was undergoing, basing their arguments on their own political atmosphere – which had just seen their leftist president impeached – and the trends they were studying in England, France, and their own region. They predicted that their own country would again shift to the right in their next election, foreshadowing the results of Brazil’s presidential election on October 28.
Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil’s presidential election last weekend with 55.1% of votes against the leftist Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad’s 44.8%. Bolsonaro garnered attention during his campaign for his firm stance on combating the nation’s violence and ridding the government of corruption, which has indicted many high-level politicians since 2014. However, Bolsonaro is also known for his blunt, homophobic, racist, and sexist statements and is referred to as the “Trump of the Tropics” for the similarities in the two politicians’ rhetoric and campaign tactics. Bolsonaro’s election represents the most dramatic political shift in Brazil since it restored democracy in 1988, but the nation is not alone in its turn away from the left. Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and the United States have all recently elected conservative leaders, and this trend sparks questions as to why this shift is occurring and what it could mean for the Western Hemisphere.
Congratulations to the winners of the first annual Open Americas photography contest! We received high-quality submissions from across the hemisphere, making it difficult to select winners.
Images were judged for their ability to capture the richness of the diverse landscapes and environments of the Americas. The beautiful photos below were taken in Mexico, Brazil, the U.S., Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.
First Place, Nathaniel Morris
Second Place, Gabrielle Rocha Rios
Third Place, Eduardo Perme
Honorable Mention, Gabrielle Rocha Rios
Honorable Mention, Camilo Andrés Avila Manjarres
Honorable Mention, Edelio Aviles
On Monday, February 12, the White House released its budget request for the 2019 fiscal year. The document, which proposes drastically cutting the budgets for U.S. aid to Latin America, simultaneously increases defense and domestic infrastructure spending.
Open Americas firmly believes that any budget reflects the political and personal values of its creators. The very same strong sentiments of nativism, militarism, and U.S. exceptionalism expressed in the FY2019 document are embedded in policy decisions that adversely affect people throughout the Americas.
As it pertains to the relationship that the United States shares with Latin America, President Trump has requested roughly $1.6 billion USD to build 65 miles’ worth of a wall along the Texas-Mexico border and approximately $990 million USD to hire 2,750 new ICE and Border Patrol agents. In the same proposal, the President advocates for a $1.9 billion USD reduction in aid to Latin America, diminishing the United States’ ability to achieve its own regional objectives.
By Shreyansh Budhia
While the clashes between white supremacist groups and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12th and August 13th 2017 prove that racism is still a widespread phenomenon in America that haunts racial minorities, it becomes more and more evident that our task as a society to uproot this evil and pull minorities from its grips is not complete. Truth be told, racism in both forms, extrinsic as well as intrinsic, affects minorities of all ethnicities and colors in the United States. Today, educational institutions all across the United States use racism and unfavorably impact the educational performance of black students. Courthouses and law-enforcement agencies are led by well-known white supremacists who rule out in favor of plaintiffs. Black men are unfairly suspected during police encounters, black inmates outnumber white inmates by incomprehensible proportions, and black professionals in the government and corporate world face subtle instances of prejudiced behavior due to their skin color and heritage. All of these examples suggest that racism is a social problem that acts as an obstacle to the socioeconomic development of the African American community.