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Puerto Rico: An “Activated” Space for School Athletics

Much has been said in Puerto Rico about the fact that the key to creating a better society is investing in our youth, creating spaces and opportunities so that they can express themselves — whether it be in the arts or in sports — and so that they have a place to channel their energy in a beneficial way.

This is precisely what photojournalist José Jiménez is doing with his project, Activao [es] (slang for the Spanish term “activado,” which means “activated”). This website is the only space in Puerto Rico dedicated entirely to school athletics, where young people can get professional photos taken of their performances in sports, which include swimming, basketball, ball playing, volleyball, athleticism, and soccer, among others. In the company of his two faithful canine friends, Maximiliana and Mila, Jiménez spoke in detail about what exactly the Activao project is:

José Jiménez (JJ): Parte de una premisa que es una plataforma donde es un contenido puramente positivo, para tener como un espacio donde la juventud se coja un break de toda esta información negativa que, por la razón que sea, están siendo bombardeados constantemente por los medios tradicionales. Aquí siempre se ha hablado mucho de que las noticias positivas no venden y yo he probado que eso es falso. [...] No es que no se cubra la parte negativa. Yo lo que creo es que se le da demasiado protagonismo a la criminalidad en los medios. [...] Entonces, yo parto de esa parte, de crear un espacio que sea un proyecto social para la juventud. Ese es el fin del proyecto.

José Jiménez (JJ): [It's] part of a premise that it is a platform where there is purely positive content, to have a space where young people take a break from all of this negative information that, for whatever reason, traditional media is constantly bombarding them with. Here we have always talked about this idea that positive news does not sell, and I have proved that this is false. [...] It's not to ignore the negative part either. What I think is that the media gives too much prominence to criminality. [...] So I'm starting from that part, to create a space that is a social project for the youth. That is the goal of the project.

© José Jiménez. Used with permission.

Activao has existed since 2010, but José says that the project has really only been developing for closer to one year, not counting the months it was inactive.  Nevertheless, the project has truly caught the attention of much of the public:

JJ: Nosotros empezamos en octubre de 2010 […] Tenemos sobre 15,000 friends en Facebook. Sobre 85,000 personas han visto la página. El primer año […] toda la plataforma era en Facebook. Yo vine a abrir la web en abril del 2011. La web, de abril de 2011 hasta hoy, la han visto sobre 85,000 personas. Pero esa web estuvo bien inactiva de abril a octubre del año pasado, porque todo yo lo hacía en Facebook. De agosto 2011 hasta ahora, que es prácticamente un año, es que en verdad esa web ha estado activa. […] Así que el primer año fuimos una plataforma puramente Facebook y social media, y el segundo año estuvimos en la web y se posteaba en Facebook.

JJ: We started in October 2010 [...] We have around 15,000 friends on Facebook. Around 85,000 people have visited the page. The first year [...] the entire platform was on Facebook. I came to open the website in April 2011. The website, from April 2011 until today, has had over 85,000 visitors. But that website has been pretty inactive from April to October of last year, because I made it on Facebook. From August 2011 until now, which is practically one year, is when the website has actually been active. [...] So the first year we were a social media platform purely on Facebook, and the second year we had our own website in addition to posting on Facebook.

Interestingly enough, the project exists on different platforms online, each one as if a branch from the same tree, taking you to another branch:

JJ: Yo aproveché la plataforma de Facebook para crecer. […] Yo uso Twitter, pero es simplemente para anunciar que se posteó una nueva galería. Yo no pongo ningún tipo de mensaje. Es simplemente para los followers que tengo en Twitter que ellos se enteren que yo acabo de postear una galería y ellos pueden ver.

JJ: I took advantage of Facebook's platform to grow. [...] I use Twitter, but it's simply to announce when a new [photo] gallery has been posted. I don't post any messages there. It's just for the followers I have on Twitter to be aware of when I post a gallery so that they can see it.

Photo by José Jiménez (©). Used with permission.

With respect to the minimal presence that the coverage of school athletics has in traditional media, I commented that, after having seen his website and having been able to appreciate the large quantity of activity that there is in this field, it seemed strange to me that other forms of media did not pay as much attention to this as one might imagine:

José Jiménez (JJ): Parte de una premisa que es una plataforma donde es un contenido puramente positivo, para tener como un espacio donde la juventud se coja un break de toda esta información negativa que, por la razón que sea, están siendo bombardeados constantemente por los medios tradicionales. Aquí siempre se ha hablado mucho de que las noticias positivas no venden y yo he probado que eso es falso. [...] No es que no se cubra la parte negativa. Yo lo que creo es que se le da demasiado protagonismo a la criminalidad en los medios. [...] Entonces, yo parto de esa parte, de crear un espacio que sea un proyecto social para la juventud. Ese es el fin del proyecto.

JJ: You don't see it because it has become common [no to cover these sports]. I see it that way because here, people often talk about the three b's: basketball, baseball, and boxing. [...] One thing in particular is happening in the media: sports sections have lost their space and prominence quite a bit. Even though this is changing, because sports sections have gained traction online [...] but in print, over time, space has decreased. Therefore, they made their readers accustomed to the three b's. [...] All traditional media outlets cover school athletics, but on a very small scale. [...] At least once a week there is a small bit of news. And now with online spaces, well, they report a bit more.

With school athletics having such a small presence in other forms of the media, I ask him how they learn about events that can be covered for Activao:

JJ: Son tantos, que no es difícil enterarse. Yo no sabía que había tanto deporte escolar. […] Y ya la gente, pues me conoce y constantemente en el wall del Facebook los nenes están posteando […] y ellos piden que Activao los cubra.

JJ: There are so many, that it isn't difficult to find them. I did not know that there were so many school sports. [...] And now people already know me and kids are constantly posting on the Facebook wall [...] and they ask Activao to cover them.

Talking a bit about future plans for Activao, José reveals that he would like to expand what he does to go beyond solely photographing sports:

JJ: A la larga, me gustaría producir eventos para seguir creando plataformas positivas para la juventud. […] Yo me he dado cuenta que a la juventud, si tú no le haces algo diferente, no le va a llamar la atención. Ellos están tan y tan bombardeados de tanta información y mucha de esta información se le presenta de manera bastante repetitiva.

JJ: Eventually, I would like to produce events to continue creating positive platforms for the youth. [...] I have realized that, for young people, if you don't do something different it's not going to get their attention. They are bombarded with so much information, and so much of this information is presented to them in quite a repetitive manner.

José ends with his thoughts on social media networks, particularly Facebook:

JJ: Facebook es la plataforma más impresionante que hay ahora mismo para informar al público. No hay nada, nunca ha habido nada como Facebook. Y en Puerto Rico se va a mantener así por mucho tiempo. […] 50% de todos los jóvenes que tienen Internet que tienen una cuenta de Facebook en Estados Unidos […] ven noticias por Facebook, no van a las páginas. […] Los periódicos migran su gente de su Facebook al periódico. […] Para mí Facebook es sinónimo de pregonero; él te entrega la noticia. […] Eso no lo hace nadie. En términos de medios, es el pregonero más eficiente del mundo. […] Eso es lo increíble de Facebook. Nada en el mundo es tan eficiente como eso.

JJ: Facebook is the most impressive platform that is out there right now for keeping the public informed. There is nothing, nor has there ever been anything, like Facebook. And in Puerto Rico it's going to stay this way for a long time. [...] 50% of all young people who have the Internet and have a Facebook account in the United States [...] read the news on Facebook, they do not go to the websites. [...] Newspapers move their people from Facebook to the newspaper. [...] For me, Facebook is synonymous with the “town crier”, they deliver the news to you. [...] This is not done by just anyone. In terms of the media, it is the most efficient town crier in the world. [...] That is what is so incredible about Facebook. No one in the world is as efficient as them.

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