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Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012, 9:56 am

Bilingual OWS: An Interview with IndigNación

By Bhaskar Sunkara

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One of the primary criticisms levied against the Occupy movement has been a perceived lack of diversity among the activists at its core. Images of "spoiled white kids" fit into a neat media narrative, but it is certainly true that the movement could be doing a better job politicizing among a wider audience. Building these new coalitions has been a major point of emphasis over the past few months. As the start of a series on Occupy outreach to Spanish speakers in particular, I spoke to Sofía Gallisá Muriente, an editorial board member of the publication IndigNación, a new Spanish-language paper. 

Who you are and what's your role at the publication?

My name is Sofía Gallisá Muriente, and I'm originally from Puerto Rico but have been living here in NY for the past 8 years, since I came to study film. I'm in the editorial board of IndigNación, together with a group of other Latinos that have been participating in OWS since last September. We all met and came to work together through our involvement in OWS en español, a working group that was started in the first weeks of OWS. A couple of us were later involved in the translation and distribution of the Occupied Wall Street Journal, the first newspaper of OWS. When that paper started coming out it was clear to us and to the OWSJ team that it was important to have original content in Spanish in the future that spoke directly to Latino issues and perspectives, and so we started working to create a new publication that did just that. We're based in New York but have no official location or anything of the kind. We work in people's apartments and borrowed office spaces.


Was IndigNación a response to problems Occupy was having reaching out to the Spanish-speaking community?

IndigNación is both a response to OWS' limitations in reaching out to the Spanish-speaking community and to the underwhelming job that mainstream media in Spanish has done covering OWS. The community we're reaching out to through IndigNación is diverse, but the bulk of it is the underserved immigrant community that is Spanish dominant, typically not connected to the internet, usually recently emigrated, often undocumented and is mostly not participating in OWS because they're too busy working multiple jobs to try to support their families. OWS is commonly accused of having little Latino representation, and I strongly disagree with that. Latinos have been a part of this movement from day one, but people have to come to terms with the fact that we are diverse, nuanced communities; Latino is not one thing. So when you talk about Latinos in the occupation, you're talking about everything from day laborers to PhD students, from only Spanish-speaking to only English-speaking and from recently emigrated to second or third generation.
When we talk about the readership that IndigNación aims to reach, we're talking about probably one of the hardest to reach and mobilize in our community, both because of their busy schedules and because of legitimate fears of deportation and others. But we're also talking about the clearest example of the 99% which our movement aims to organize and unify. In everything from foreclosures, layoffs and budget cuts to education, criminalization and economic inequality, the Latino immigrant community has been bearing the brunt of our current political and economic models for decades. It's in fact what brought a lot of them here in the first place. Neoliberal policiesmany times pushed by the US governmentin their countries of origin displaced them, and they come to the US to find themselves completely marginalized by the system again, sometimes even worse off. 
So, it's definitely a big challenge but we think it's essential to take on it. 
"Who's behind it?" Does IndigNación have any institutional support or is it an upstart effort?
There is not a lot of mystery behind the project; we're a group of Latino occupiers who have been brought together in this particularly strange moment in space and time and have taken on this challenge. We have been working closely with the Occupied Media team behind the Occupied Wall Street Journal, Tidal and other OWS publications, and they have helped with consulting and logistics, as well as sponsoring our non-profit status but the project isn't tied to any institutions or particular organizations. 

Have you had any success soliciting donors so far? 
We have been fundraising through many different means and will continue to do so because we are committed to making this a long-term project. We recently had a big fundraising party here in Brooklyn, as well as launching an Indiegogo campaign and looking for donations everywhere we could think of. It's a 100% volunteer project, so any money we get is going to printing costs and the few production and distribution expenses we have. If anyone reading this is as excited as we are about IndigNación and wants to contribute, they can do so at and any contribution is tax-deductable because of our 501(c)3 status.

How would you describe the political background of those involved in the project?
We all come from very different political backgrounds, but from a general common dislike of -isms, political parties and tribal politics. I personally grew up in a very political family and have been engaged and active to some extent all my life, but have never belonged to an organization or adopted a particular political philosophy, which is something that I think connects us. We all share a deep dissatisfaction with our current models of governance and the structures on which our society is built, and are concerned with raising awareness and indignation at all the ways in which we've been disenfranchised and stepped on. OWS has provided a space for us to discuss these issues and try to come up with new solutions, and IndigNación is just a tool for exploring these possibilities.

What do you see as the goals of the publication?
We are taking things slowly and seeing how the project grows and where it takes us. Right now we're in the midst of printing 25,000 copies of our first issue, which is already a dream come true and a crazy thing to say out loud and believe to be true. Now we'll be moving on to distribution, which is going to be an epic undertaking because we want to try to distribute as many papers as possible within Latino hubs around the city before May 1st, so we don't have a lot of time. Then we'll have to catch our breath, see what's resulted from our efforts, how it's been received, how it's been useful or productive to the movement and what is the best way to go about things moving forward. As I said, this is definitely a long-term project and we are committed to printing more editions of the paper, but we're not rushing. 
Now, that being said, we would love for IndigNación to become an alternative space of conversation for Latino occupiers, grassroots organizations, people that have yet to join OWS, others involved in social movements around Latin America and as wide a variety as possible of Spanish speakers as we can find through our printed and online versions. We are the fastest growing population in this country, regarded as a driving force in the upcoming election and with clear political power and presence, yet our potential for unity and mobilization is being undermined by mediocre corporate media outlets and a generally idiotic entertainment industry. Our highest ambition at IndigNación would be to somehow alter that paradigm and create new conversations within our communities.

What role do you expect IndigNación to play in relation to broader outreach attempts within Occupy? 
First and foremost, IndigNación is an outreach tool for OWS, in the same way that Occupied Wall Street Journal is. It's conceived and designed with this purpose in mind, and our first edition is specifically an outreach tool for May 1st. We are hoping for a large turnout on this big day of action, and OWS will be mobilizing with immigrant organizations and unions, so it's the perfect opportunity for our communities to come out en masse and interact with OWS and for all of us to recognize common causes that afflict us and find ways of moving forward together.  

Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor of Jacobin magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @sunraysunray.

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