Overcoming Transgenerational Trauma in Colombia: Are Telenovelas the Answer?

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Credit: Canal RCN

Armed conflict, child soldiers, drug mules, and Pablo Escobar are not just topics on the nightly news anymore, but the subjects of some of Colombia’s most popular telenovelas. Each night, millions of Colombians tune in to see some of the most traumatic parts of their history serialized for primetime television. Over the past decade, Colombian studios have revamped the popular telenovela format to bear witness to some of Colombia’s darkest moments while playing an important role in preserving the historical memory of a country engaged in civil war for the past 60 years.

For generations, telenovelas have delighted and intrigued audiences worldwide with their convoluted story lines featuring unrequited love, revenge, and Cinderella stories. Colombian telenovelas like “Yo Soy Betty La Fea” (“I Am Ugly Betty”) and “Café Con Aroma de Mujer” (“Coffee with the Scent of a Woman”) were watched by millions of people across the world, bringing Colombian culture to Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and Africa. However, instead of love stories and revenge deals, today’s Colombian telenovelas are tackling some of the most pressing issues facing the country.

It’s no secret that Colombia’s modern history is complicated. Since the 1960s, a bloody armed conflict has devastated the country, resulting in over 220,000 deaths and millions of internally displaced people. While left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, and government forces battled in the rural areas of the country, the urban centers experienced the horrors of Colombia’s notorious drug wars. Notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel terrorized Colombia’s urban residents with assassinations of high-profile public servants and journalists, car bombings, and mass murder.

Over the past ten years, Colombian telenovelas began to reflect these painful events in the nation’s history, and have become conversation starters that have forced many Colombians to confront the demons of the past. “Sin Tetas No Hay Paraiso” (“Without Breasts There is No Paradise”) is widely credited as one of the first telenovelas to tackle the country’s drug trafficking history. The story follows a young girl named Catalina who leaves school and becomes a prostitute for local drug dealers to pay for a breast implant surgery that she believes will help her leave poverty.

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Andres Parra as Pablo Escobar in “El Patrón del Mal” Photo Credit: Flickr

In 2013, one of Colombia’s most controversial and successful telenovelas delved straight into the complicated history of Pablo Escobar. The telenovela, “Pablo Escobar, El Patrón del Mal” (“Pablo Escobar, the Boss of Evil”) graphically detailed the rise and fall of the notorious drug lord and showed its effect on the Colombian government, media institutions, and society. The show was a ratings hit in Colombia, the United States, and other parts of Latin America, but did not escape its fair share of controversy. Some felt that the telenovela glamorized the life of one of Colombia’s most notorious killers. Others questioned the ethics of the Caracol network, one of Colombia’s largest media institutions, to capitalize on Colombia’s pain for higher ratings. Despite the controversy, millions tuned in each night and relived the assassinations, bombings, and terror that Escobar inflicted on the country just three decades ago.

Much has changed in Colombia since the times of Escobar. Just this year, the Colombian government signed a peace deal with the country’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and ended the western hemisphere’s longest running conflict. In its aftermath, Colombia faces deeply entrenched wounds that may take generations to heal.

To help facilitate the reconciliation process, Colombia is turning to its most popular medium to bridge a deeply divided public. The new series, “No Olvidarás Mi Nombre” (“You Won’t Forget My Name”), premiered in June 2017 and focused on the Colombian Armed Conflict featuring characters of different classes, backgrounds, political affiliations, and regions of the country. The U.S. government took note of its potential and USAID gave $1 million to the project.

Telenovelas are more than dramatic catfights, copious amounts of tears, and melodramatic love stories. They can be agents of social change and help their viewers come to terms with important historical and social events in a more effective way than the traditional news media. In Colombia, the plotlines have transcended the drama and have provided Colombians with an important mirror in which they can see their history, access their trauma, and look forward to building a better tomorrow.

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#WeNeedToTalk about Egypt

A campaign by the Egyptian government for The World Youth forum backfires with a trending hashtag #WeNeedToTalk to criticize human rights situation in Egypt.

 

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Omar Nohann, a young Egyptian lawyer is spending three years in prison after a military trial because of posting this picture of Facebook

 

The forum is to be launched on November 4, in the touristic city of Sharm El Sheikh hosting young people from different countries. “The forum is a chance for you to engage with top policy-makers in the region and network with promising youth from the region and the world that are determined to create change in the world we live in today,” according to the official website.

 

The government proposed the hashtag #WeNeedToTalk as a way for people to communicate and share ideas to be discussed in the forum. This comes in a time where the Egyptian government is heavily criticized by several international organizations for its constant rising violation of human rights.

Human Rights Watch published its annual report about human rights status in Egypt which showed the crackdown on political dissent in the year of 2016. In September 2017, another report was published called “We Do Unreasonable things here” which documents torture and national security state under the ruling of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The report discussed in detail with an animated video the horrific ways in which the police and secret services use to torture prisoners. “Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s regular police and National Security officers routinely torture political detainees with techniques including beatings, electric shocks, stress positions, and sometimes rape,” stated in the report.

HRW also took part in the counter-campaign condemning the Egyptian government.

 

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Human Rights Watch official Twitter account joining the #WeNeedToTalk counter-campaign

 

 

Egyptians used the #WeNeedToTalk to highlight the violations under the presidency of al-Sisi. “#WeNeedToTalk about the 7 months I spent in prison without trial. We need to talk about the laws you broke to keep me on this unjustified and prolonged detention. We need to talk about the mental issues I’m suffering because of you,” posted one user.

 

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Photo Credit: Amir Eid

 

Several online users called out the irony in the campaign’s advertisement “Join us in the World Youth Conference in Egypt, where the conversation begins”

According to a monthly report by Elnadeem Against Violence and Torture, using the same hashtag, in the month of October:

57 extrajudicial killings, including two during the forced disappearance

10 deaths in detention

23 reported cases of individual torture

18 reported cases of collective torture or maltreatment

51 complaints of medical negligence in detention resulting in the death of two detainees

132 reports of forced disappearance

195 reports of reappearance in prosecution offices after various periods of disappearance

34 incidents of state violence outside places of detention

 

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Post by the activist Mona Saif mocking the call to talk, showing a picture of police and special forces violence against protesters

 

Mona Seif, human rights activist posted “26 workers facing military trials for organizing a strike demanding their rights, but sure #WeNeedtoTalk.”

Seif comes from a family of activists as he father spent five years in prison under the ousted Mohamed Hosni Mubarak and her brother Alaa Abdelfattah is currently in prison for their activism.

Online users also used the hashtag to call out abuses done to the LGBTQ community in Egypt. According to a report by The Tahrir Institute to Middle East Policy, at least 65 people arrested in September after raising a rainbow flag in a concert. The police arrested people based on their sexuality or their support to the LGBTQ community. Ahmed Alaa and Sarah Hijazi are still in prison pending trial.

 

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Sarah Hijazi and Ahmed Alaa are currently in prison pending trial for raising a rainbow flag in a concert in September. 

 

The forum calls for youth participation to discuss issues in five main categories:

  1. Youth Global Issues which focuses on “terrorism, climate change, irregular migration, the refugee crisis, peace in conflict zones, development,” as posted on the official website.
  2. Sustainable Development, Technology, and Entrepreneurship
  3. Civilizations and Culture
  4. Creating Future Leaders
  5. Model United Nations

One of the topics to be discussed is the role of women in building the future. This comes less than a month of the Thomson Reuters report naming Cairo as “most dangerous megacity for women

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Sexual Harassment and assault are being used by the government to deter women from participation. The Egyptian army arrested female protestors and forced them to undergo virginity tests.“When army officers violently cleared Tahrir Square on 9 March – the day after International Women’s Day – 18 women were detained, beaten, given electric shocks, of which 17 were then subjected to strip searches, forced to submit to ‘virginity tests’ and threatened with prostitution charges,” stated in an article by Amnesty International.

Activists are calling for the wide use of the hashtag #WeNeedToTalk in English to expose the reality of the government to the international community and to post more when the forum starts.

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The Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Commerce and Tourism strives to present Peru as an ideal travel destination for everyone. Through strategic marketing, Peru is depicted in the media as an international hotspot for tourists from across the globe.

Peru’s official tourism site offers a wide range of activities ranging from luxury travel to backpacking. The government sponsored website is also available in a variety of languages and dialects such as English US and English UK. The site is easy and interactive while being full of bright colors and gorgeous images of the country. There is even has a page specifically targeting millennial travelers, a population with ever increasing spending power and influence over social media.

Perceptions of Peru

Foreign news sites frequently depict modern Peru as a safe and fun travel destination – perfect for young adventurers as well as families and school groups. US News, The New York Times, CNN and many other news outlets offer articles specifically covering travel to Peru.

Incan Trail

Incan Trail – Photo By: Hunter B. Martin

The Peruvian government’s strong support for tourism comes from decades of political instability, which led to wide spread perceptions of safety concerns throughout the 1980s and 1990s. However, as the Peruvian commitment to tourism increased throughout the early 2000s, so too did the strength of marketing and promotions abroad. Tourism is also seen as beneficial because it increases the number of jobs both directly – tour guides and hotel staff – and indirectly through the increased demand for Peruvian goods and products.

Peru is now a force to be reckoned with in the field of international tourism.

Llama Sanctuary

Llama Sanctuary – Photo By: Hunter B. Martin

Why Travel to Peru?

Peru markets its country as a mecca for every type of traveler. For millennial travelers Peru is home to some of the best nightclubs in the word; for international foodies, Lima has been named one of the top gastronomic cities in Latin America; school groups can visit an endless amount of museums and cultural hubs; and the Incan Trail is regarded as a world-renowned backpacking destination.

Peru is also home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites:

The most famous of which, of course, is Machu Picchu. Not only is the Incan city on the UNESCO World Heritage list, it also holds the prestigious distinction as one of the seven modern wonders of the world.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu – Photo By: Hunter B. Martin

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Reporting of the English Premier League

Football… No, not that kind.

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Courtesy of stocksnap.io

The British kind, you know, the one that involves actual feet kicking a ball. Football reporting has changed drastically since its inception, and has become one of the most involving and heavily reported sports ever.

For a sport that annually generates over $4.2 billion dollars, there is clearly a lot of money involved in the sport. However, it has not always been this way.  In 1961 Queen Elizabeth II, lifted the cap on football players salary.  Since then profits have skyrocketed, as investors rushed in to stick their hands into the proverbial cookie jar.

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Liverpool in Anfield Stadium, Courtesy of SteHLiverpool

NBC currently owns the rights to broadcast the English Premier League games, by paying $1 billion dollars for a six-year contract. This billion dollar contract is a mere drop in the bucket, considering that the Premier League set another record by generating over $3.2 billion dollars in 2013, and continues to grow its revenue.

This influx of money has not gone unnoticed. Many would agree that it has inherently changed the sport.  30 years ago, sports coverage was quite low. Many football games went uncovered except for a paragraph or two in the newspaper. British news organizations, such as the Independent, claimed to dominate sports coverage and pioneered the way for others to follow.  “In those days, daily broadsheet sports pages were filled with match reports, previews, and news. Big features or interviews were rare” Paul Newman wrote.

Aside from the shift to focusing on the highest level of play. There had been a growing trend for news organizations to use their own reporters instead of farming it out to amateurs. This eventually led to the massive consumption and need for dedicated foot ball news that we we see today.

“It was far more cost-efficient to send a staff reporter to write 1,000 words on a Premier League match that to commission five freelancers to write 200 words on five different minor sports.”

– Paul Newman

While the nature of sports reporting has changed to suit this need. It unwittingly morphed into a sensationalist form of coverage. Now it is not enough to know how teams are doing, and what players teams might be looking to trade. Football supporters need to know intricate details about players and their lifestyles. The growing coverage of sex scandals and poor life choices has led to an increased level of scrutiny for players.

Wane Rooney, pictured right, was an example of this scrutiny. Rooney was caught drunk driving after being caught leaving a night club by some member of the paparazzi hoping to get a scoop. While not condoning the actions of the player, he is just one example of the magnifying glass placed upon footballers in the UK.

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Wane Rooney (left) during Man United vs Arsenal, Courtesy of Gordon Flood

It is troubling the trend reporting of football has taken over the last decade or so. But it is brought by the changes in technology that make access to this information all that easier.

While this trend in coverage could be increasing interest in the sport, some would argue that it is perverting it.  This adverse effect can only be reversed by the players themselves. They need to take a proactive approach in developing how the media and news consumers view football players. Actively participating in press conferences and interviews, gives them the chance to frame themselves. Instead of waiting for the media to do it for them. While it may be difficult to change how the world sees players, they undoubtedly have the ability to influence others and should do their best to be taken seriously on and off the pitch.

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France: Pioneers in Commercial Positive Body Image

Retouching the images of models to reduce waistlines and enhance busts and bottoms is nothing new to popular culture. It’s a practice spanning decades, but it’s 2017, and times are changing.

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1960’s Pepsi advertisement

 

France recently passed legislation that requires photographs that altered the body size of models used for commercial purposes to be stamped with a clear label: photographie retouchée, or edited photo. Effective this past Sunday, those failing to comply could face fines up to nearly $44 thousand or 30 percent of the cost spent on advertising.

The French government moves forward with this legislation in recognizing the advertising of retouched photos as a public health issue.

Over 600,000 people suffer from eating disorders in France. Negative self body image has been linked to developing an eating disorder.

The initiative comes after Marisol Touraine, former health minister of France, brought the issues surrounding the importance of positive body image to the forefront. “It is necessary to act on body image in society to avoid the promotion of inaccessible beauty ideals and prevent anorexia among young people,” Touraine says.

Getty Images, an American agency of stock photos, supports France in its new law and realigned its own content code this past week in response. According to the agency’s Creative Stills Submission Requirements, it will no longer accept photographs that have retouched the bodies of models to “make them look thinner or larger.” However, the agency will still accept retouches to hair, skin and blemishes. On another note, Getty’s decision opens a number of possibilities for journalists to use stock photos in their stories. Journalists cannot use doctored images, as edits can mislead audiences. This change could change storytelling altogether.

Most large media organizations worldwide have covered France’s recent legislation, but global French outlets provide the most insightful. In addition, fashion houses have adopted movements with similar goals. Christian Dior and Gucci will no longer feature underweight models in their shows. Models must also provide doctors’ notes that deem them healthy to participate in catwalks. Designers hope that other firms will follow.

France’s new law and the following changes in modeling will hopefully pioneer a future that promotes self-love of all body types and validates imperfections. While most misunderstand the severity of eating disorders, these movements will shape public opinion to recognize eating disorders and mental illnesses as pressing issues in our society.

Companies have tried implementing similar movements and press coverage ultimately hindered audiences. Target’s newest swimsuit campaign features models of all body types and sizes and published the advertisements without Photoshop or airbrushing. Headlines brought attention to Target’s campaign. While most of the narrative was positive, the first sentence pinpoints the “plenty of stretch marks” among the young women. This comes off as negative and frames the story in a way that make audiences believe advertising real bodies and imperfections is an outlandish act. Contrasting, Dove has led several campaigns promoting self-love that have garnered positive media coverage.

France has the ability to motivate other countries to adopt similar regulations. In order for this to happen, the media must make changes to its narratives. Media from all countries should be promoting this movement for positive social change to span worldwide. Media plays a huge role in shaping public opinion and needs to use its power for good.

 

 

 

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