Latin American journalists chronicle life on the continent in 200-word profiles as part of Somos Nosotros project

In little more than 200 words, journalists from across Latin America are telling the stories of their neighbors in highly descriptive snapshots rarely seen in traditional news stories. This is the project called Somos Nosotros.

Journalists Jordy Meléndez Yúdico of Mexico and Javier Sinay of Argentina conceived of the project, roughly translated to “We are us,” in April 2016 during a journalism workshop in Mexico. The two are director and journalistic advisor, respectively, of digital news and analysis platform Distintas Latitudes, which is hosting the project.

The idea is simple, but symbolic: to write profiles that speak of ourselves, Latin Americans. Profiles to read at breakfast, on the subway or on the bus. On the way to work, to a job; resting on a beach in the Caribbean or in the Sierra Nevada,” the project site explains.

In about 200-word profiles accompanied by a photo, first name, age and location, the journalists tell the stories of people who are “anonymous or famous, inspiring or controversial, liberal or conservative, rich or poor.”

When the site launched on June 27, there were 20 stories in Spanish of people from across Latin America. As the quote from Distintas Latitudes above says, some of the subjects are well known in their communities or countries, others because their triumphs or alleged failures have been written about in the daily newspapers. Some are not famous, but carry out important work for society.

There is Faustino, a 45-year-old gravedigger from Asunción, Paraguay. Mirian, the Garifuna human rights defender in Atlántida, Honduras. Mara, a Brazilian legislator. Miguel, a 22-year-old accused of murder in El Salvador.

“We want to portray the variety of Latin America, the people that are famous, rich, controversial but also those without recognition, money or controversy,” Meléndez and Sinay, the project's coordinators, wrote in an email to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. “The politician, but also the peasant. The astronaut, but also the homeless. So, the more different the people to profile, the better. At the end, this is what we are: people and societies full of contradictions.”

At the bottom of each story, there is a map placing each person in the region and a note about the author of the post. The notes, including the journalist’s name, birthplace, birthdate and details about their career, is like a mini-story in itself. The site’s coordinators said they are finding the Latin American journalists from among colleagues, co-workers, friends and journalists whose work they admire.

As the Somos Nosotros site says, these are stories from Latin Americans about Latin Americans.

Meléndez and Sinay said the site also aims to “act as an information site, profiling individuals involved in relevant news.”

Upcoming profiles include that of a teacher in Oaxaca, Mexico, the current site of violent confrontations between the state and teachers protesting against education reform, and a guerrilla member from Colombia, a country that just saw a cease-fire agreement to end the longest armed conflict on the continent.

The journalists plan to keep up the site for at least one year, probably longer, and to experiment with different tools and technologies. They also have plans to translate the stories into other languages.

“We want to build a network of journalists and writers from all over the continent, to help us understand each other better. Who we are. Where we live. What are our dreams and concerns,” Meléndez and Sinay wrote. “In times where racism, xenophobia and nationalism are growing, it is time to stop and look at us, recognize us, and understand that Latin America and the Caribbean are different countries, peoples and cultures, but also one big region that shares some values. And that we are better and stronger if we support each other.”

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.