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An interview with César Barrantes

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César BarrantesEarlier this month, Kati caught up with César Barrantes of The Voice of Guanacaste - a fantastic publication that connects the rural communities of Costa Rica with what's happening in the wider world. His determination to encourage literacy and give his people a chance to have a voice is truly inspiring!

Could you tell us a little bit about ‘The Voice of Guanacaste’? Why do you think local news stories are so important?

Houses on the coast of Guanacaste, Costa RicaThe Voice of Guanacaste (VOG) is a non-profit newspaper that publishes stories and investigations from communities in Guanacaste, a wonderful province in the north of Costa Rica. These are powerful stories, not like those those stories that just talk about power.

By doing this, we at the VOG are hoping to make the province more visible. We help people to learn that there’s more about the region than just its beaches and resorts. We build bridges between the province and the capital city, and from the communities of Guanacaste to the rest of the world. Producing and publishing local stories in both English and Spanish, VOG strives to empower the people and bring more context to the public policy, even to the tourists from around the world that visit us.

Your work focuses on rural communities, trying to tell their stories and show them the wider world - do you think these people benefit from being more connected?

Cattle farmer in Costa RicaAbsolutely. More quality information provides the people in the rural communities with more power. If they use the content that VOG produce to make better decisions or to organise themselves with greater efficiently, then other people, cities or provinces will be able to learn from their good example. Also, if our people have the chance to tell their stories to the world, they are ever more likely to be connected with what is happening at present and also (more excitingly) with the future.

You’ve been working on a project to increase literacy in rural areas, could you tell us a bit about that?

Cesar Barrantes teaching a localI was born and raised here, always surrounded by books and with a Mom constantly telling me the benefits of reading. So, I wanted to do something to bring more books - mainly children’s books - to the people in the smallest communities from Guanacaste. I want to promote and indulge the habit of reading and love explaining to the children the joy and the benefits of this habit. It's hard to find reading books here and the people from the capital have supported my idea with much generosity.

Have you met any local heroes as part of your work? Any stories to share?

A lot! From ladies trying to improve their children’s access to culture, to young leaders working hard to get more opportunities for their peers in the region. People here are so grateful, whilst also conscious of their rights and the importance of good education in facing the future and the inevitable globalisation.

What would be your top recommendations for someone visiting Costa Rica? Any unmissable highlights?

Boat on beach of Costa RicaRead up on Costa Rica a little bit, as well as on our people before you visit - this will be helpful when it comes to connecting with the locals.

Talk to the locals! Costa Ricans are very kind and easy-going all over the country.

Go on a diet before the trip… just kidding! But it’s great to be able to enjoy all our amazing food with no regrets.

What’s next for you? Do you have any more projects you’re working on?

Cesar Barrantes presentingAlways. We have a lot work to do here! I'm currently working on my new podcast called Verbo Joven, to talk with young people from the seven provinces about politics, the economy, entrepreneurship and the future. We need to promote the young voices that study and work hard to transform the status quo - they work hard to create more opportunities for everyone. I’m very excited about this because the traditional media always ask their questions to old people, but it’s we, the young, who are building the future, so we deserve a chance to share our opinions, and a space in which to do so.

What would be your three dream travel destinations around the world?

Uyuni in Bolivia, Canaima National Park in Venezuela and Chiloé in Chile. I love Latin America so I always want to visit these countries – again and again!

Make it happen

If César's words have inspired you to travel to the magical country of Costa Rica to discover the fabulous culture and enchanting local population, then speak to our local experts and check out our country pages. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.

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