Facebook Groups for Ex-Pats Living in Medellín

Prior to moving to Colombia I spent many hours reading through various online Facebook groups to get a better understanding of what sort of issues people had trouble coping with, a sense of the various communities (locals and ex-pats) perspective on issues, prices of goods and services, places and situations to be wary of, etc. Below are the links to the groups that have been the most useful in orienting myself to life in Medellín

Digital Nomads Medellin


Medellin Expats

Medellin Gringo Classifieds

Doing Business And Living In Medellin, Colombia

Women Entrepreneurs of Medellin

GringoPaisa (Americans In Medellin)

Food in Medellin | Comida en Medellín

Medellin Living Events & Activities

English Teachers Medellin

Medellin Entrepreneurs Society

Cultura en Medellín

Blogging In Medellín

Medellin ENGLISH – SPANISH Events

Medellín Heroes

Medellin Events

Medellin Rooms, Apartments and Expat Info

Medellin Short Term Apartments

Medellin apart/rooms 4 Rent/Sale

Alquiler de habitaciones en Medellin

Clasificados Medellin Antioquia


Groups For All of Colombia

Backpacking Colombia

Teach in Colombia

Colombia Digital Nomads & Entrepreneurs

How To Best Use Data for Storytelling and Content Marketing

In this article I explain how creative strategists like myself can help companies utilize their own data for use in content marketing campaigns or evergreen website content. I review some of the formulas which underlie most of the viral content shared on social media and outline with an examples how it is that data can also be used for evergreen content.

I don’t, however, go into detail why data based content is so important for today’s companies.

Turning Data into Narrative and The Most Viral Content Marketing Structures

Content marketing is both an art and a science.

Its designation as a science stems from being able to obtain and determine the significance of information from a single or multiple sets of data in a methodologically sound manner as well as being able to then track its effects online to determine ROI. This is why the best content marketers often work in conjunction with growth hackers.

Its designation as an art comes from that fact that once a number of these particular findings are uncovered in data, they must then be placed in a narrative structure with aesthetically pleasing components (infographics, gifs, videos, etc.) that is compelling enough to hook and hold the attention of a reader. This is why the best content marketers often work in conjunction with a team able to properly promote campaigns.

Examples of Successful Content Marketing Narrative Structures

Surveys and internal data that use demographic information to tell engaging stories is that which is most likely to be picked up by media outlets and shared on social media.

There are, however, a finite number of ways that such data can be presented and not all of them are equal in the value they bring. Those that exhibit certain traits have a higher tendency to become viral.

Here is a non-comprehensive list of some of the narrative constructions most likely to be shared:

  • People who do X are more likely to to be Y.
  • Having X attribute (big butt) means you are more Y (smart/stupid).
  • X% of children in Y birth order are more Z% than their siblings.
  • Doing X (glass of red wine) easy thing = Y (one hour of exercise)
  • X study confirms Y thing (that everyone already agreed about — such as dogs are better company than people)
  • Being X “good thing” (religious) means you are more Y (bad thing) (mean)
  • People who do X on social media (post selfies) are more likely to be Y (narcissistic)
  • People with X “bad” personality trait (Loner) are Y “good attribute” (more intelligent)
  • Doing X regularly (meditating) correlates with Y (happier life)
  • X type of person (Women) need more Y (sleep) than opposite type of person (men)
  • People who do X (brag) thing to get Y (praise) reaction, actually are the Z (opposite – insecure)
  • X% (high percentage) of Y (common demographic) group admit to Z (taboo thing)

The Psychology Behind People’s Curiosity

It’s possible to go into great depth on the variety of emotional responses and how they are likely to affect various reader personas, so for now an analogy will do. Chances are at some time you’ve been out somewhere in public and heard someone call out your name. If so, you probably can recall the feeling of sudden alertness you get. Where did that sound come from? Who said that? What message do they have for me now that they’ve captured my attention?

The social media equivalent to this is seeing a headline with one or more demographic qualities featured in it that relates to you or someone you care about. You want to know this new bit of information about people like you or something that interests you.

Using Survey and Internal Data For Content Marketing

Depending on the business, oftentimes the data required to tell a good story is already stored in a Customer Relations Management (CR) database or something similar. Depending on their willingness to publish this information, this can be a great means for producing content marketing with original research. Here’s an example:

A company like BeachBody could potentially use their clients data to illustrate possible differences in likelihood of starting and completing a particular workout program by age, weight or current level of physical fitness. This would be a great piece of evergreen, potentially live updating, marketing content as it would show subscribers the attrition rate for all the programs based on those demographics.

By informing those that might be new to their services that certain exercise programs are more appropriate for people at higher level of fitness, it could help them to lower the monthly cancelation rate as people can now visualize how others have handled their programs and realize that they might need to choose an easier one.

For survey based content marketing campaigns, wherein new data is created through services such as Survey Monkey, including demographic questions is the key for turning raw data into narrative. As you can include a variety of questions that have previously been peer-reviewed and tested to show a number of psychological qualities, surveys typically allow for much more complex data to be parsed that that normally collected by companies.

Why You Should Hire Ariel Sheen to Develop a Content Marketing Plan Using Your Company’s Internal Data; Existent Data or New Data

As presenting misunderstood or misinterpreted data can damage a company’s reputation, it is imperative that at each stage of research and production all findings are fact checked for quality assurance. Thanks to my academic training and content marketing experience, I am uniquely qualified to produce SEO-optimized, original, viral or evergreen marketing content that follows best production processes.

If your business is ready to incorporate content marketing projects that uses internal data, existent data or newly created data as part of your digital media fingerprint, then contact me and together we can craft a statement of work that helps you to achieve your marketing goals.

Review of “The Brethren”

I haven’t read a trade paperback book in a very long time, however only two of the five books that I’d purchased with the intent to read while in Colombia came to me in sufficient time before my trip. Because of this, when I finished my last book on Colombia I picked up a copy of The Brethren by John Grisham for no other reason than it was there. The last time that I read a trade paperback that wasn’t a reissued classic was, I think, when I was early in my teenage years. Back then I read a lot of Grisham as well as James Patterson, Steven King and Clive Barker. I’m glad I read this, however, as it was nice to re-encounter the specific style and voice that based on sales has one of the widest audiences.

The novel develops around two separate plots that at converge to create the purportedly dynamic but unpredictable third act tension. I say unpredictable not as Grisham gives anything away, he plays the scenes close to the cuff, but because I’m sure if it’d been any other way then there would have been thought pieces published in some of the literary journals listing examples and posturing about the verisimilitude of the world we now find ourselves in.

The book opens on three imprisoned ex-judges that have been given the collective name of “the Brethren” by the security guards in the minimum-security prison. In this prison they attempt to re-create their former power by acting as Justices of the Court by hearing complaints amongst the inmates. Their judgements are considered final and are always a 2-1 verdict, so that if an inmate corners one of them they can claim they were the one that voted in their favor for security purposes. The Brethren also engage in an elaborate blackmail scheme that preys on wealthy, closeted homosexual men with the help of a drunkard lawyer. Since their job in the minimum security prison only pays cents an hour, this is a good way to save time and put money aside to prepare for their relase.

The second narrative traces the rise of presidential candidate Aaron Lake. Lake is, essentially, a puppet created by CIA director Teddy Maynard to fulfill his desire for increased U.S. military spending to counter a General in Russia that he foresees as rising in power and leading to an existential threat to America. Grisham does not quickly weave these two threads together immediately, thereby leaving the reader to wonder in the opening chapters how and when these two worlds will collide.

This plotting was tight, but the stakes for the characters involved was so low that I had trouble getting too invested in their struggles. Towards the middle and end, when there’s much more intrigue going on, I still never felt that anyone was in “real danger” or that the cause for actions was all that significant. Part of this is because I think Grisham want’s to cynically highlight the false personalities we expect of politicians and the political process – there are certainly a few passages and asides that accomplish this. However this intrusion of social commentary in sparse and comes off in all but a few passages less as insightful critique and more as scathing but essentially fatalistic pessimism.

I found Grisham’s portrayal of characters to be interesting but not altogether impressive. There are some complex figures, such as Justice Hatlee Beech, but even then this former millionaire judge rendered divorced, bankrupt, and friendless after his conviction for vehicular homicide while drunk (two students outside the car and a naked female stranger in his car) doesn’t strike me as well developed. His trauma is less from the acts that took him there and more from his loss of a job that was a well-paying appointment for life, prestige, his wife’s money. Even his children’s lack of contact with him, so as to stay in the good graces of their rich mother, seems to only be an afterthought. Presidential candidate Lake seems and even the CIA director Teddy Maynard also read to me as nearly one-dimensional. Maynard is not evil, but a puppet-master who uses his knowledge and connections to help mold the public will via ad campaigns, illicit contributions, and international intrigue. There is, however, little description on any of this and instead we read of CIA ops going on in the office of a small town lawyer that’s also a drunkard.

I didn’t particularly find the book’s resolution to be all that engaging. Spoiler alert! Even after The Brethren hustle their way out of prison they return to the scam that helped get them out. It’s sensible, as they were able to make a lot of money the first time around, however I find given their recognition of the precariousness of their safety (they’re being constantly watched) that they would be willing to risk this.


Review of “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual”

I’ve been meaning to review The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual by Harold Cruse for quite some time. With it’s depth and breath of evidence and a forceful analysis it’s no surprise that following it’s publication it was a cultural touchstone amongst the cultural and political elites of the early 1970s. Truth is, whenever I’ve sat in front of an open Word document with the intent to respond to it’s arguments and evidence, I start to feel a bit overwhelmed. This despite the fact that I’ve had some pretty extended conversations on this book.

Thankfully, one of the Facebook groups whose posts I follow, the Society for United States Intellectual History, recently curated a Roundtable on the Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. Rather than provide you with my thoughts on the matter, I decided I’d share these instead:


Along with two other insightful PDFs:

and some random other links:

Beyond the Color Line: Jews, Black and the American Racial Imagination

Music That’s Playing in Medellin

This is by no means any sort of scientific attempt to curate the music scene in Medellin. This is just a short playlist of some of the songs that I’ve listened too in various places I’ve voyaged to in Medellin over the past two weeks.

Tu Me Enamoraste by Lary Over, Anuel AA, Bryant Myers, Brytiago, Almighty

Ahora Dice by Chris Jeday featuring J. Balvin, Ozuna, and Arcángel

Un Polvo by Maluma featuring Bad Bunny, Arcángel, Ñengo Flow,and De La Ghetto

Si Tu Novio Te Deja Sola by J. Balvin featuring Bad Bunny

Ella y Yo by Pepe Quintana featuring Farruko , Anuel AA, Tempo, Almighty, and Bryant Myers

Cuatro Babys by Maluma featuring Noriel, Bryant Myers, and Juhn

Ornette – “Crazy” (Nôze remix)

Esclava Remix by Bryant Myers featuring Anonimus, Almighty Y Anuel AA

Or Nah by Anuel AA’s Remix of Ty Dolla $ign’s same named song featuring The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa & DJ Mustard

Tu No Vive Asi by Arcangel x Bad Bunny

Escápate Conmigo by Wisin featuring Ozuna

Si Me Muero by Pepe Quintana featuring Farruko, Ñengo Flow, Lary Over, Darell

Si Tu Lo Dejas by Rvssian featuring Bad Bunny, Farruko, Nicky Jam, King Kosa

Krippy Kush by Farruko, Bad Bunny, Rvssian

The Importance of Long Form Content for Marketing

This article will first explain what long form content marketing is, then why it is important in today’s digital marketing age. It will also examine how to develop ideas for long form content marketing as an in-bound strategy and how someone like me can help develop a strategy that provides your company’s digital space with evergreen, high Google Domain Authority ranking marketing content.

For Whom is Long Form Content Marketing Important?

Why should companies today give serious consideration to paying someone to produce long form content marketing as part of their total content marketing strategy? Well, to appease four very important audiences. Most importantly is the AI that Google uses to determine Domain Authority and Page Rank. The other three are those consumers that are (1) already enthusiastic customers that would like to signal their rationale for consuming your brand (2) customers that are not yet enthusiastic enough to become a vector for sharing marketing messaging but could be, (3) those that know about your product but have yet to purchase it and (4) those that didn’t know about your company’s products or services at all.

Why Does Google Care About Long Form Content Marketing?

Understanding how Google’s AI approaches long form content marketing and why it is so important for determining Domain Authority and Page Rank can be explained by asking a single question:

On a scale of one to five, with one being the least amount of trust and five being the most amount of trust, how would you rank the trust-worthiness of the below people to provide meaningful insight on a particular field of human knowledge?

  1. Someone that graduated only with a high school diploma
  2. Someone with a bachelor’s degree in a different field of knowledge
  3. Someone with a bachelor’s degree in that particular field of knowledge
  4. Someone with a master’s degree in that particular field of knowledge
  5. Someone with a doctoral degree in that particular field of knowledge


Most likely your answers were in ascending order: someone graduating only with a high school degree getting the lowest trust ranking and an in-field PhD getting the highest ranking.

The simple reason is that you, like Google, know that subject area mastery is best accomplished through publication of research and academic writing and not a number of small memorandum on the matter. Long form content raises a website’s domain authority, which also causes it to rank higher for certain search terms and lower the costs of Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns.

Why Do People Care About Long Form Content Marketing?

There’s other reasons why long form content marketing is important besides being an oversized textual canvas with which to include many of the SEO specific terms. Long format content marketing earns more backlinks than short form and also receives the most amount of organic traffic.

Ask yourself, would you be more likely to share a 250-word post that explains something you care about in three small talking points or a compellingly written 2000-word article that contains a number of examples; quotes and original or secondary research?

Short-form content is a necessary strategy to drive engagement and build domain authority. But at a time when competition for the attention of potential customers is so high that they are seeing literally thousands of ads a day, it’s important to have a diverse approach to one’s online presence.

Because there is simply so much short form content out there, unless combined with a pay-per-click boosting or a placement/sharing of the content through another media outlet, paid or earned, short-form content’s virtual freshness is brief.

Additionally, long form content done right keep the visitor on the website longer than short form content, which Google monitors and also uses to factor Domain Authority and Page Ranking.

Long form content done correctly is also more engaging and is more likely to help make customers not just purchasers of the product, but proselytizing enthusiasts of it.

What is Long-Form Marketing Content?

Long-form content marketing can be defined as any kind of in-depth content that has been produced with the intent of giving the reader or viewer a large amount of detailed information.

Long-form content marketing can include things like investigation or exposition that uses original research, company data, an analysis of existent research or some combination thereof; a single, long format blog; a blog series; e-books; white papers; and keystone articles – articles that combine and synthesize information found in a number of already published on-site short form blogs.

It should also be noted that the difference between short and long term content is not just about length. Done incorrectly, long form content is similar to the writing of high school students on a test when they’ve not done the reading or paid attention in class – they use a large number of filler words in order to boost their word count. This not true long form content, but short form content writ large.

True long form content is able to provide more examples of style, voice and authority – some of the key components of corporate branding.

How Does Long Form Content Marketing Different from Short Form Content Marketing?

Besides just the length of the writing and the number of audio-visual assets that can be incorporated with it in an aesthetically pleasing manner, long form content marketing is qualitatively different from short form marketing content. Some of the many ways in which it is different are as follows:

  • Long form content marketing availability means that an email subscription pop up could be added to grow a company’s contact list.
  • Long form content marketing can be held behind a survey, the shorter the better, in order to assisting in greater understanding of purchasing profiles.
  • Long form content marketing can contain an active feedback section can make it a page where potential customers and current service/product enthusiasts can engage in conversion conversations.
  • Long form content marketing can contain an active discussion component that can make it a page where questions are answered that would normally go to support staff.

This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive but instead just a few examples of the benefits that can be gained from having long form content marketing.

How To Develop Long Form Content Marketing As An In-bound Strategy

In order to develop a strategy for long form content marketing you need to know how to produce so it meets Google’s preferred formatting to achieve the most effective SEO ranking possible, but you also need to know how to present the subject matter to your human audience in a manner that is pleasing. Your human audience will break down into four subcategories:

  1. Your existent customers.
  2. Those that are at some part of your sales funnel.
  3. Those that could be in your sales funnel.
  4. Those that won’t be in your sales funnel but may share the material.

Prior to looking at internal marketing data, an ideation session would occur wherein from potential topics those are chosen that best meet the SUCCESS criteria.

Based upon the different buyer personalities that exist, the ideas are adapted to fit the proper audience. Content is then ordered into a production calendar that matches cyclical or topical events and is then produced from according to any pre- or co- determined branding guidelines.

The Development Process for Long Form Content Marketing

Long form content marketing is a complex process and requires either a team or a person that is able to complete all of the following:

  • Co-ordinate with the existent marketing team to determine the metrics for success, targeted audiences and how prior content marketing campaigns have fare.
  • Ideate share-worthy ideas for long form content marketing that are informed by statistical insights gleaned from your existent customer profiles.
  • Create a content production calendar.
  • Determine which promotional route is best to follow for each and to execute according to that judgement.
  • Produce engaging textual and visual content the follows Google’s formatting guidelines to maximize SEO as well as existent or newly created branding guidelines.
  • Co-ordinate with the webmaster to place content on the client’s website.
  • Track mentions, shares, backlinks, changes in domain authority, etc. for marketing reports.

Why You Should Hire Ariel Sheen To Plan and Execute Your Long Form Content Marketing Project

If your business is ready for increased sales via new in-bound sales funnels, decreased costs for PPC marketing, and greater brand exposure then you are likely considering the benefits of beginning a long-format content marketing project. If so, know that the full ideation and development process is part of my basic and premium level long form content marketing packages.

Contact me with what your goals and hopes for a long form content marketing campaign and together we can craft a statement of work that helps you to achieve your marketing goals.


Review of “The Para-State: An Ethnography of Colombia’s Death Squads”

The Para-State: An Ethnography of Colombia’s Death Squads by Alvo Civico is an engaging and at times haunting account of the armed conflict between various groups that has shaped Colombia’s political economy over the past forty years. The books anthropologically oriented methodology combines first person interviews with cocaine kingpins, leaders of para-military forces as well as the regulars, victims of paramilitary violence, as well as supporters of the paramilitary along with a historical account that contextualizes the events described in the interviewees stories. Through these accounts, Colombia’s rural interior comes to be seen as a space where actors project their desires for wealth and personally engage or organize horrific behavior in order to obtain it.

While it appears late in Para-State’s chapters, despo-capitalism is the term that Civio uses to describes the socio-economic dynamics of Colombia. It is a “threshold where the repressive forces of the despot combine with the liberating forces of capitalism” (140). His theoretical model for understanding the dynamics of despo-capitalism is decidedly Marxian with deference to Deleuze and a dash of Zizek. He states repeatedly, in fact, that the role of the AUC is what is described as a War Machine in the book A Thousand Plateaus. To bolster this positions, he includes a brief comparative political account based on interviews with an Italian prosecutor that illustrates the similarity of development of the Sicilian Mafia to the Colombian para-militaries.

Paisas Son Un Gente Muy Amable y Acogedoras

 If you consume enough of the marketing content that encourages travel and investment in Colombia or various polls, you’ll soon notice that one of the recurring themes is of how wonderful and welcoming the people are here. While as of writing this I’ve only spent time in Antioquia, this combined with the many others I met from this region while living in South Florida makes me feel that this is a general truism. The irony, of course, is the happiness that they feel despite there being a longest standing civil war throughout any Latin American country.

The reason for the Civil War is long, and stems in part to the violence between Liberal and Conservative Parties before that. Each operated with tenuous. After a number of periods of sectarian killings, including La Violencia, the political elite united around the Frente Nacional (1959), which is incredibly similar to Venezuela’s Pact of Punto Fijo (1958). This specifically lead to the establishment of the FARC and would later open up the conditions for the death squads the books describes. Unable to get enough civilian support in regions rich with fecund land and extractable primary goods, the para-militaries became a means for the elite to establish control.

Limpiezas were right wing paramilitary that went throughout the rural and urban areas and liquidated those that they considered FARC sympathizers (real and imagined) as well as desechables, gamines, and those in combos. There were a large number of such groups, such as the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Cordoba and Uraba (ACCU), that came to be united in name but not always in orientation under the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). Regional groups were funded by either the upper classes with financial interests in a region or workers being under their total control or cocaine producers and distributors.

Death By BananasDespite what the above meme suggests, getting murdered because you don’t want to pick bananas for the wages offered is not something relegated to the not so distant past. In the period when the bi-lateral trade agreement between Colombia and the United States was being debated by the Legislative branches of government, the American trade unions pointed to the wave of over 450 assassinations of civil rights leaders, trade unionists and community leaders that was then going on. Chiquita Banana, may still face trial for its support of the AUC after the State Department deemed it a terrorist group.

The informant network created by the AUC deemed all such people as “collaborators to the FARC’s cause,” even if there was no such material support evidence. The mere belief that workers had a right to collectively bargain was considered cause for getting kidnapped, shot, dismembered by chainsaw and the remains left somewhere in the forest for animals to consume.

In regions with fecund soil that inhabitants had adopted a subsistence model of reproduction, market relations were either forced on them by paracos or they were dispossessed. In regions where wage-labor for agricultural production was pre-existent but drives for higher wages occurred, paracos enforced at gunpoint the continuation of work. In a word, the feudalistic model for enforcing labor participation for capitalist production was the norm.

The information network of the AUC would later identify and assassinate over 450 unionists, community rights leaders, and other “sympathizers” or collaborators to the FARC’s cause. If this seems high, well, the number of civilians the AUC killed is drastically higher. When a valley needed to be cleared of occupiers so that a foreign national company could grow bananas, for instance, or a gold lode was discovered that initial seismic wave readings indicated could be worth billions – paracos would declare that town a pueblo guerillero for resisting such displacement. After they’d encircle it with hundreds of heavily armed people, they’d raid a number of people specifically identified as trouble and then publicly execute them and put their bodies on display in an area with high pedestrian and automobile traffic.

The Direction of Colombia’s Economic Development is the Heart of its Civil Conflict

These capital and labor intensive industries along with cocaine production and trafficking are at the heart of the Colombian political economy. The latter more so as cocaine itself is a totem that organizes the distribution of bodies, practices, objects, symbols and words. The class divide determine by one’s placement in the such a system of capital circulation is both implicit by social norms but also by the legal system which designates people according to a legal class (estrata). Those that are lower class are not given much, if any, assistance by the state – hence the antagonism to it, as those on the lower end see the benefits given to those at the top – and thus can best earn through trafficking or muscle. An additional element driving the conflict has to do with US investment in the region.

Cocaine and the Development of Medellin

The Para-State’s account of cocaine’s role in the geographical and demographic development of Medellin describes evolving dangers from sundry violent actors working in unison and against each other. With vast amounts of capital coming into the country through sales via Miami and other points, the traffickers soon became the largest land holders in the country. Not all wanting to live in highly guarded fincas outside of the city center, they invested in different neighborhoods in Medellin.

As a result of the the aforementioned dispossessions and high level of unemployment, combos formed in these area. The effects that these two converging factors in one region is described on page 158 by Civico as follows:

“Medellin has long been crossed by these invisible but powerful boundaries, and transgression could trigger a death sentence from a rival armed group. These lives have shifted constantly, and residents have learned which streets to travel on, which ones to avoid, and which boundaries to cross. Walking on the wrong side of a street can get you killed. In several of the city’s barrios, survival has been a matter of such cartographic knowledge.

Having spent a few weeks now in Medellin, it’s worth noting that even now, 20-30 years after the period described the dynamic remain the same – with the higher areas along the mountains being more “dangerous” while the center is safer. That this is a dynamic caused by wealth inequality from the hegemonic economic capitalist enterprises is clearly shown to be the case.

De-armament, Reintegration and Politicization of the Struggle

Even before the recent FARC demobilization, those once in the AUC were in the process of demobilizing. As Civico describes it, however, this is not an easy process. The job prospects for those once involved pay significantly lower, making them ripe for recruitment by narcos, their history of violence makes them apt to end up in jail or dead over minor disputes and others that aware of their crimes – be they family members of those they killed or rival groups – sometimes take justice in their own hands. One of the interviewees that Civico writes about, in fact, is taken by a group that he was on bad terms with and is never seen again.

The politicization of the armed struggle is certainly a step in the right direction for a united Colombia, however as this book shows there is a lot of bloody history that will continue to make such a transition difficult. While it’s not clear if this will work, Civico is clear that if the massive modernization projects which dislocates thousands continue, if the assassination of leftists continues, if the state continues to fail in its ability to speak for all but the elite, that this project will fail.


Desechables – Literally means “disposable people”. This meant people that were drug addicts, petty thieves, homosexuals, domestic abusers and could sometime include people that had long hair.

Intreccio –the inter-twinement of the state and the parastate. First used to describe the relationship between the Italian Mafia and state

Traquetos – the people engaged in cocaine trafficking who make a show of their wealth with thick gold chains around their necks, expansive cars and stunning young women

Pajeria – literally means “squad”. People who enacted organized political violence

Vacuna – protection money

Farras – parties to get drunk

Urbano – a paramilitary working in an urban area

Bonification – a bonus according to the number of people you killed

Paracos – paramilitaries

Bara – The dynamic wherein a commander likes your performance and gives you frequent opportunities and recommends you

Limpieza – social cleansing accomplished through spectacular violence

Raspachin – coca gatherer

Pueblo guerillero – a town associated with guerillas

Gamine – street kids

Vallenato – romantic Colombian music from the coastal region with lyrical content similar to African griots

Pillos – a Medellin specific term for gang-members and junkies

Culebras – literally poisonous snakes. A term for one’s enemies.

Combos – street corner gangs

Review of “Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing”

Reading Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing by Les Edgerton reminded me how to be attentive to the variety of creative decisions that determine the voice of a work. How they can be interpreted, improved and evolved from different experiential exercises. The book contains focus on various voices – pulpy, sardonic, confessional, etc. – along with “before and after”  changes. Theres illustrate how a few different decisions can radically alter the ease and enjoyment level of the reading. Some of the various traps to watch out for that Edgerton cites are the “beige voice” as well as talking up or down to the reader. As all of the fictive dream – the neurological firings in your brain that are activated during the process of readings words on page or screen- occur as the results of words, best get them right. Right?!

There are, additionally, exercises contained within for identifying the ways in which honing in on voice in specific passages can radically improve the experience of the reader and how some choices can lead to it “going wrong” in one’s writing. For instance, say one wanted to get the reader to slow down. Not to scan the text; as so many are apt now to do. Well, the solution is simple. Place a number of shorter sentences back to back. This is a particularly effective practice following longer expository passages. Explaining difficult things, after all, requires the combination of lots of pieces. Much as in the same way that sentence variation forces the reader out of the simplistic subject verb object constructions.

The book is for both writers of fiction and non-fiction and addresses something that is very important as it relates to today’s media landscape – talking up, down and beigley to the reader. Explaining every and all thing can cause passages to drag on and o n. If they are known by the reader, it’s a bore, and leads to mental lagging. A good writer, Hemingway and others have stated, leaves something for the reader to want to discover. Writing in too high of a voice is the struggle that I’ve had, having an advanced academic background I can sometimes lapse into uncommon terms that are, nevertheless, quite useful for understanding today’s world. But this isn’t all about me. This is not purple prose, either, which I’ve only found in contemporary Latin American literature, is not gone in to but that’s just because it’s so rare in American fictional and non-fictional works that get published.

Edgerton’s colloquialisms, and the linguistic playfulness of the text was, I thought, a little corny at first. However it did grow on me. Plus, I recognized what he was doing with it. Not only was he describing insights into what makes a well crafted writers voice; but he was also demonstrating it! By sharing this, as well as the hat of instructor, he’s helping to show one of the Walt Whitman quotes about – I’m stacatato-cattically summarizing her : “there being multitudes that exist within each of us”. It’s true. There are!

Les’ lessons are follower by exercises to either read, write or re-write. The book is an attempt at a comprehensive attempt to teach the craft of good writing, plot, etc. but just focus on narrative voice and the voice of characters. He lists a large number of books that go into these other areas, and it’s clear with his familiar with them that a lot of experience and time went into the formation of this book.

I finished the book not only informed but also interested in seeing the dynamic that exists in his writing workshops. Having attended several writing workshops as an undergraduate at Florida Atlantic University and in Prauge, Czech republic as part of a University of Michigan program – not to mention other informal gatherings – I’ve always found workshops a productive place where people provide new eyes to help you see things you may not be aware of because you’re too close to the work, or wasn’t aware of some insight or whatever other reason that shows up when people gather with strategic and creative intentions.

I like how following this book one can apply like dissection tools onto the writings of your favorite writers in order to better place their style in history rather than a burden. Stealing can always be great art, but only if it’s great art does it get called great art – not just because it’s just an iteration of the same efforts. That last quote, ya, that’s me. Put that on a goddamn site so i can get me da stats higher.

Review of “The Sounds of Things Falling”

“And the walls of my dream burning, toppling
Like a city collapsing in scream”
Aurelio Arturo, Dream City


Before I moved to Colombia I looked up online a number of lesser known than Gabo Colombian novelists and saw a number of positive reviews for Juan Gabriel Vasquez’s book The Sounds of Things Falling. After reading it and getting taken in by the compelling storytelling, tone and language often only found in those writers whose medium is the romantic languages.

The novel begins with background the narrator, Antonio, who is a young, successful professor of law at the University of Bogota that is dating a former student, Aura, that he soon learns has become pregnant with their future daughter, Leticia. Antonio is shot on the street, not with intention but because he is a bystander of the successful assassination attempt of Richard Laverde. His recovery is not speedy and once the psychological fetters that makes him somewhat agoraphobic starts to wear off, he sets out determine as to what he can learn about the man that he played pool with for years, watched die in front of him and yet knew very little about.

Antonio recalls the few exchanges that he and Richard made and places them within a broad context of those that grew up in Bogota in the 1980s. As later in the novel conversations show, this generation grew up during the period in which Pablo Escobar was fighting the Colombian state apparatus that sought to either imprison him in Colombia or have him be extradited to the United States. At first the psychological difference between those born in 1970 and those born several years later is shown in the manner in which Antonio and Aura respond to the shooting that nearly kills Antonio – she being younger and thinking that it was such a “rare” act that he need not worry while he is now consumed by fear. Later, it’s shown in the discussion between Richard Laverne’s daughter, Maya, and Antonio and how it is that they are able to recall with perfect detail where they were on hearing certain people were assassinated or various places were bombed. However it is not the just the dead of years ago that weighs on the mind of the living. A tape, which we come to learn is the black box recording of a flight that recently crashed and caused the death of Richard’s wife, becomes like a fetish prodding those that listen to it to come to reconciliation with the violence and death of the past. Antonio doesn’t hear this tape, however, until nearly two years after the event. It’s effect on him is significant.

Shortly after Antonio hears this, the person who let him listen to it passes along his contact information to Richard Laverde’s daughter, Maya. She requests his presence to talk about her father, and he decides to go visit her in order to learn more about the “friend” of his that he really knew nothing about. Here the novel shifts perspectives and the story of Elaine Fritts and Richard Laverde is presented. Elaine was a Peace Corps volunteer who came into Colombia and fell in love with one of the men that she encountered during her classes in Bogota prior to assignment in the less developed regions.

While throughout the book there’s social criticism about attitudes, values and beliefs – such as Antonio’s resentment of the “vacuous courtesies always exchanged by Borodino’s, with no expectation of a sincere or considered response.” In this section, however, they take on a paternalistic form. As a result of the leadership role that Elaine is granted, she comes to feel that many of the ways that the rural community within which she operates is, in many ways, still suffering from what she calls a “colonial mentality.” Such behaviors that she mentions specifically include a deference to someone like herself (That is, a White Person, an Invader) to initiate and direct health, sanitation and economic cooperative projects; the role of bribes in making sure that government agents follow through on the assistance that they promise; the omnipresent role of alcohol in important discussions amongst all male community leaders, etc.

Laverde, who doesn’t come from campesino stock, is not like this and incrementally ratchets his aviation career from sundry medical and development supplies needed and people to marijuana to cocaine. Elaine Fritt’s lifestyle soon sees the results of his work and, at first, is not worried about where it comes from due to the new conveniences each stage of illegal drug transportation provides her and her new daughter. From horse, to truck, to large farm with a number of staff to support her, she’s shown simultaneously trusting totally her husband to recognizing, after an encounter with one of the American’s that helped him get involved in the business, that he won’t be returning as something terrible has happened.

The segue explaining how it is that Maya learned of the truth of her father’s still being alive, her mother’s plan to re-unite with him and leads to a conversation on the appeal that the cocaine traffickers had throughout wide swathes of society. A conversation on Hacienda Napoles, in fact, leads the two of them to go visit it in the jeep purchased by Richard 29 years ago from money made from transporting drugs to the United States. The two of them share a nostalgia destroying experience there, much of the once “amazing” statues and décor have fallen into disrepair and no longer appear as large, and at the former estate that Maya grew up on before her mother ran to the city with her.

With the problems previously described as existing between Antonio and Aura, I was not too surprised by the sexual relations that occur between Antonio and Maya on their return from the trip and like that it engenders a perpetuation of the traumatic dynamic that Maya previously went through – mother’s departure and the loss of father due. I thought it was a very clever way to not only wrap up the story but to evoke the causes of the social thought maladies that are mentioned throughout the text.

On a final reader’s note, I too want to thank Beatrice Monti della Corte and Suzanne Larenty for their assistance and patronage in helping this work to be written. I greatly enjoyed reading this and it is in no small part thanks to you that I’m able to do so.

Review of “Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising”

Ryan Holiday’s book Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer, is less a “how to” guide than a large number of case studies on how some of the most well-known companies today were able to get to where they now are. Dropbox, Hotmail, Uber, Spotify, Twitter, Groupon – all of these companies and many more used non-traditional marketing techniques, growth hacking, as a means of achieving massive market share growth.

Growth hacking is really more a mind-set for maximizing ROI than a tool kit. It’s an expansion of what the traditional definition of marketing was prior to the advent of social media and the digitization of everyday life. It can include those that produce content designed to be viral; product experience optimization; using platforms and APIs to reach large amounts of people, etc. Whereas all marketing focuses on “who” is receiving their message and “where” they are receiving it, a growth hacking mindset sees marketing as a more fluid process that includes new ways of looking at business. Here are a few of the many examples:

  • Creating an aura of exclusivity with an invite only feature.
  • Create hundreds of fake profiles to make your service look more popular and active than it actually is.
  • Targeting a single service or platform to cater to exclusively so as to piggyback off their growth.
  • Host cool events.
  • Bring on influential advisers and investors.
  • Do other things that are written about in Ryan Holiday’s other book Trust Me, I’m Lying

Because of the lower costs of “growth hacker marketing” in comparison to traditional outlets, with their press releases and media buys, it allows for the greater freedom in experimenting with what works. The evolution of Instagram and Airbnb’s company model are excellent examples of this. Rather than continuing to their original iterations, which is far from what they are now, they used data obtained from their customers use in order to develop a Product Market Fit, a dynamic wherein the product and its customers are “in perfect sync with each other.” While the decisions about areas such as the design of the product is typically given to the Development and Design teams, having in depth knowledge as to who the customers are, what their needs and and how to excite them are also marketing decisions. Growth hackers help structure these through data and information that is testable, trackable, and scalable – be it lead generation or internal optimization. Understanding and applying the principles contained herein can help turn start-ups into growth engines.