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In January 2020, I started working as a communication advisor for the Department of Health, Caring and Aging of Barcelona weeks before Spain became one of the first countries to be slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Communicating amid this crisis to a city of more than 1.6 million people and working with our team to steer resources to Barcelona’s most vulnerable residents has been an all-consuming challenge. Looking back, I don’t think I would be where I am now without the more than three years I spent working on The Indypendent.
Writing articles, distributing the paper, making YouTube videos, handling social media channels and trouble-shooting new challenges that cropped up from one day to the next allowed me to develop new skills and confidence while gaining a deeper understanding of how independent media is created. The guidance and support of Editor-in-Chief John Tarleton and so many other people in the extended Indy family allowed me, a Spanish correspondent journalist living in New York, to step out of my comfort zone and into the social movements and independent media spectrum of the city.
I wasn’t sure where I fit in, but I sensed this was a space where you had the freedom and the support to make your own path.
It all began in the Spring of 2015 when I returned from a two-week trip to Madrid and Barcelona with a group of activists from the United States. The journey’s objective was to share and exchange experiences with Spanish social movements while celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Indignado movement which had been one of the inspirations for Occupy Wall Street. We also had front-row seats to municipal elections where former housing rights activist Ada Colau was elected mayor of Barcelona.
Upon our return, we held a number of public events including one at CUNY’s Murphy Institute, where John handed me a copy of the paper and invited me to my first Indy editorial meeting. I had heard of the paper from one of my colleagues from the trip, photographer Robert Pluma, who was preparing a two-page photo essay for the subsequent issue.
At my first editorial meeting, people were packed in the back of a Middle Eastern restaurant across the street from The Indy’s tiny office at the Brooklyn Commons. There were rich political discussions punctuated by outbursts of laughter as we skewered the latest follies and misdeeds of the rich and the powerful. A new issue was slowly emerging in front of me. I wasn’t sure where I fit in, but I sensed this was a space where you had the freedom and the support to make your own path.
I started helping John in the office with small tasks like updating the subscriber list and helping with outreach. As the months passed, I took on more tasks and wanted to help even more people access The Indy. I organized an initiative to record the authors of articles in the paper reading their creations, introduced The Indy to new social media platforms and was tapped to be the co-host of a new weekly Indy news program on WBAI-99.5 FM along with Lydia McMullen-Laird. The show continues to this day.
One unforgettable Indy moment was covering Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s historic 2018 run for Congress. It was a sunny spring morning when John asked me to accompany him to Queens to take photos of the candidate at her campaign office’s opening. At that time, I didn’t know who she was or everything she was capable of. Yet, just by the energy she gave off and the way she held the whole room full of supporters, I was mesmerized. In the new issue that came out a few days later, my photo of AOC speaking to a crowd outside the 90th Street-Elmhurst Avenue subway station in Queens made the cover. Before the New Yorker, Time, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, et al would put her on their cover, we did. We spent the next month relentlessly distributing the paper, especially in Queens subway stations. And then AOC rocked the Democratic Party, defeating 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in their primary. It was a great feeling. We had been there, and we had called it.
Even though my growth and learning in the Indy seemed to have no limit, I decided to return home to Barcelona and get more involved in the political movement that had put Ada Colau into office.
My current position has allowed me to put all the skills I learned into practice. Looking back at those first chaotic months at the beginning of the pandemic reminds me of what I felt during my first Indy editorial meeting — excitement, uncertainty but a lot of clarity and sense of commitment. When I try to understand how we got through the first waves of the pandemic staying level-headed and helping so many people, I remind myself where I am now and where the journey began; seven years ago when Ada was just starting in office and John invited me to join my first of many Indy meetings.
I donate to The Indy every year during its winter fund drive so it will be there for those following after me. I hope you will also give.
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