The “Lord of Books” is making sure children have access to books.
José Alberto Gutiérrez has been collecting books for 20 years as a garbage collector in Bogotá, Colombia. Gutiérrez might only have a second-grade education but that hasn’t stopped him from recognizing the importance of literacy for the future of Bogota’s disadvantaged youths. According to AP, Bogotá, a city of more than 8 million people has 19 public libraries but they are all located far away from the poorer neighborhoods in the city. The lack of access for children’s books in Gutiérrez’s own neighborhood in south Bogotá convinced him to open his own library from the rescued books he has collected. Gutiérrez credits his love and interest in books to his mother reading to him even though she was not able to afford to keep him in school.
“The first book that I found was ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy,” Gutiérrez told AJ+. “And that little book set the flame and this snowball that has never stopped rolling.”
This man is legit the Robin Hood of books in Bogotá.
Since finding that first book, Gutiérrez has collected more than 20,000 books.
AJ+ / Facebook
These books were turned into a library filling every room in his house, according to AJ+. The name of the library, The Strength Of Words, of course.
The children in Gutiérrez’s neighborhood are allowed in every weekend to browse, read, and open their minds to new worlds.
AJ+ / Facebook
“This should be in all neighborhoods, on each corner of every neighborhood, in all the towns, in all departments, and all the rural areas,” Gutierrez told AP. “Books are our salvation and that is what Colombia needs.”
Gutiérrez doesn’t see himself as a savior. Instead, he sees himself as a bridge for children in poor neighborhoods in Colombia.
The gender disparity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) jobs remains wide in Colombia. As of 2019, Colombian women hold 32.9 percent of all STEM jobs in the country.
Nicole Chapaval, the VP of education at Platzi, wants to get more women into STEM. As someone who found herself in tech, Chapaval understands what it takes for women to break into the industry.
Chapaval’s own passion for computer science started in her youth. Despite wanting her parents’ reservations about her career choice, she went to school to study software engineering.
“I learned how to code with Platzi. I was a student back in 2012 before I worked here,” she told mitú.
Platzi is a professional learning app targeting people ages 22 and older.
Instructors for the app are teaching livestream courses on programming, marketing, design, and business. The classes are available in English and Spanish.
Chapaval took an interest in content optimization practicing her coding on a personal blog while taking online courses. Starting out as a student advocate, the two founders of Platzi noticed her dedication and started to involve her more in the team.
As Platzi expanded, so did Chapaval’s job description.
Chapaval has been successful in her career. Yet, despite the success, she has seen the gender disparity firsthand. It has only further inspired Chavapal to work to get more women in their tech careers.
“One of my first jobs was in a company that was doing mobile applications and in this company there were 15 male developers and myself,” she says.
Wanting to engage with her male colleagues, Chapaval admitted to feeling weird when her enthusiasm was not reciprocated.
“I was always very extroverted and wanted to meet everyone [but] they didn’t want to talk with me,” she says.
Chapaval teaches 60 percent of computer sciences courses hoping to attract more women to the field.
“I think that representation is very important. So I try to be very vocal and very present with everything that we do in social media and in content creation,” she says.
Whether it be attending company livestreams or podcasts, it is imperative for Chapaval to have women witness others in the field to show the possibilities they can achieve.
Prideful, she also amplifies the achievements of other Latinas in STEM, like that of Diana Trujillo. Yet, she still expresses a need for more women to get managerial roles.
“I am very proud of Trujillo,” she says. “She’s from my hometown and she was in the NASA project that launched the Perseverance Rover. These kinds of things are great!”
Thirty-six percent of Platzi‘s more than 1 millionstudents are women and it is growing.
“That’s very low,” she says, “but we doubled that percentage from 2018 so we still have a long way to go.”
A key step needed to attract more students is accessibility, both financially and in content. Platzi, Chapaval mentions, offers free programming courses that aim to be accessible to those with low internet connection in all parts of Colombia and Latin America.
“It’s not just about what you are learning as an individual, but also as a team or a group,” she says. “That also adds to the working ecosystem of Latin America.”
Regardless of gender, age, or background, Chapaval believes “education is very important if we want to break these blockers.”
In fact, two crucial skills she believes everyone should know is programming and English. “I like to say that both skills have to do with communications; communication with machines and with other people in the world,” she says.
In a time when remote jobs are pertinent due to the pandemic, having communication skills is a valuable asset for STEM careers in any country.
“Programming should be a basic skill that schools teach as well because it’s not only [beneficial] to be a developer,” Chapaval says. “It helps you understand how to solve problems in a logical way.”
Chapaval is grateful for her personal growth in STEM and hopes that Platzi can help others grow.
“I hope [students] can create what they dream of with the coding skills that they can get with us and can show it to the world,” she says.
“Latin America is a lovely region and a lot is happening here,” she says. “I hope that if this community can get to know each other and create the next big companies and big solutions for problems that we have right now, I would [be] fulfilled.”
As the gender disparity in STEM slowly expands, Chapaval continues to vouch for women to speak up and push through in the field.
Proudly Chapaval says, “Latinas are very extroverted, and the tech and software engineering world needs more extroverted people [like us] to add to their ecosystem.”
The App Store featured Platzi for Women’s History Month.
March is a busy month for Isabel Allende. The most successful Spanish-language author of all time released a new memoir, “The Soul of a Woman”, on March 2nd. On March 12th, HBO released a mini-series based on her life entitled “ISABEL: The Intimate Story of Isabel Allende”.
Both of these projects focus on the unifying themes of Isabel Allende’s life. How she has defied the patriarchy, bucked expectations, and pursued her dreams while the odds were against her.
The HBO mini-series, entitled “ISABEL: The Intimate Story of Isabel Allende”, covers a lot of ground. From Allende’s childhood in Chile, to the chaotic years of her uncle’s assassination (who happened to be Chile’s president), and her subsequent flight to Venezuela.
The series will also touch on different phases of her life. Her career as a journalist for a progressive feminist magazine. Dealing with her all-consuming grief when her daughter died in 1992. Publishing her first novel–“House of Spirits”–in 1982.
A scene from the trailer of “ISABEL” sums up the hurtles that Allende had to overcome to create a career for herself in the male-dominated world of publishing. “They are going to raise the bar because you’re a woman,” her agent tells her bluntly. “You’ll have to work twice as hard as a man in order to obtain half the prestige.”
Allende’s memoir, “The Soul of a Woman“, on the other hand, reflects on her life through a distinctly feminist lens.
Her publisher describes it as “a passionate and inspiring mediation on what it means to be a woman.” And it doesn’t appear that Allende is shying away from the label of “feminist”. One of the first sentences of her book states: “When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, even before the concept was known in my family, I am not exaggerating.”
Despite being 78-years-young, Allende’s beliefs–about feminism, freedom and intersectionality–are incredibly modern. Throughout her lengthy press tour, Allende has been candid about the life experiences that have shaped her beliefs–mainly how witnessing her mother’s suffering at the hands of her father contributed to her “rage against chauvinism.”
Today, Allende remains incredibly in touch with the progressive issues of the moment, like the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements.
“In patriarchy, we are all left out: women, poor people, Black people, people with disabilities, people with different sexual orientations,” she recently told PopSugar. “We are all left out! Because it divides us into small groups to control us.”
Above all, Allende believes that we all–especially women–should recognize that we have many of the same goals and dreams. And we’re stronger when we’re united. “Talk to each other — women alone are vulnerable, women together are invincible,” she says.