First thoughts about the blog platform for Parranda.org, and a reflection on the meaning of town squares.
As you know, we are launching Parranda.org – a new project devoted to the economic, civic, and cultural development of a “Greater Puerto Rico – this Christmas season. And as you also already know, the name of our organization was inspired by the Puerto Rican parranda, a Christmas tradition where people roam the neighborhood, knock on their neighbors doors, and take their neighbors with them to continue the party well into the night. In the new world of virtual communication and collaboration, the opportunity is to roam the virtual neighborhood, to knock on virtual doors, and to take people with us on any number of journeys that virtual communities can allow. So for us, the parranda is a metaphor for something that Puerto Ricans need to do but already know how to do. Technology might enhance our ability to come together across borders, but the desire and ability are already there.
In the midst of our launch preparations, we realized that there was an opportunity to speak of another virtual/physical metaphor. During a visit to Puerto Rico last winter, a friend of mine took me to La Placita de Santurce. I had not visited Puerto Rico in many years, but remember visiting it often with my uncle Israel whenever he took me to the island to visit my grandmother. To me, La Placita is a memory from a timewhen most people at least had a connection to a town square, a place where people of all kinds can get together and feel if not actually act on a sense of community. But today, the reality is that town squares are disappearing everywhere – the result of decades of suburbanization, automobile culture, and, yes, virtual communications. But just as technology has contributed the loss of our sense of place, it recently has begun to enable people to come together. Social networks, likeFacebook, have helped leaders to get elected, dictators to be deposed. And with new networks like Parranda, the opportunity is to work on specific issues that matter to all people with a connection to a physical place, the place we call Puerto Rico.
If Parranda is the movement that helps bring us together — and that enables many different conversations and connections to happen — the Placita blog is the general place where we hope we call all meet to discuss issues that matter to us. The fact is, there are many placitas – both physical and virtual – that will bring us together. But if there could be a single place for Puerto Ricans everywhere to stand up, make their voices heard, and hear back from their neighbors (their fellow parranderos), we’d like to offer this little piece of virtual real estate.
We will begin opening the doors to the Parranda network in the next few days – we’re still installing the windows, and sweeping the floors – and our first focus will be on mapping the Greater Puerto Rico. And there will be future projects. Like entrepreneurship, mentoring, and helping friends and family connect more effectively — and meaningfully — around the world, online and offline. In the meantime, if you have an idea to share with parranderos in La Placita — our virtual town square — let us know. As with everything we’re planning for the Parranda network, La Placita belongs to its members. Hope to hear from you soon.
This post is also available in: Spanish