Journal From Santa Barbara

This is Blackbird’s journal from his internship at a small Spanish news magazine in Santa Barbara, Calf.



March 2009
April 2009
May 2009


March 2009

March 5, I went to an interview with Marcos Lazaro, editor in chief of Spanish-language magazine Conexión. It wasn't hard to find the address at Anacapa Street. The editorial office was situated in the same white building as Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce. However, it was a bit difficult to find the entrance to Suite 85.

"It's probably down in the basement," said the woman in the reception and showed me the way downstairs.

I went down to the lower basement and found a small room with three well-dressed and busy Latino guys, who appeared to be in their thirties.

"Is this Conexión?" I said.

"Are you the Swedish guy?" said the tallest of the three suits. He presented himself as Marcos Lazaro.

Lazaro, who had a small beard and lots of mousse in his black hair, was dressed in an expensive shirt with the sleeves folded up under his elbows and a silk tie. We shook hands and he gave me the latest issue of Conexión together with an old one.

He asked what I expected from my internship and where I wanted to work in the future.

"Do you want to start your own paper, as I did, or do you want to work for Time Magazine?" Lazaro said, adding that he was very interested in news and always had the TV on.

Lazaro gave directions to one of the other men, who did as he was told. Sometimes the other guy had to call someone; sometimes he had to look in a file.

Lazaro signed my internship papers, gave me one copy and sent one by fax to City College. I went from the meeting with a sense of relief. Finally, I got my internship. It was almost lunch and the air was hot in downtown.

The following Saturday, I tried to read some of the old issue Lazaro had given me, even though it was entirely in Spanish. There was a lot I would have liked to improve. The paper was too heavy and stories were often printed on a colored background, which made them a bit hard to read. Later, I mailed a suggestion of a topic I would have liked to write about.

"People don't have to read the articles to feel that we are doing an exclusive magazine," Lazaro later said. "Everything is about what you feel."

I didn't get any reply to my first e-mail, so I mailed another list of things I could write about. I also called Lazaro's voicemail

Suddenly, I got an email from another of Lazaro's e-mail addresses. He said there had been some problems with his mail program. Later, I went to an art exhibition at the Atkinson Gallery, which I was going to write a story about for the college newspaper. Then, I called Lazaro and talked to his voicemail.

During a class in Multimedia, Lazaro unexpectedly called back. I had to take the phone, because this was the first time I heard from Conexión since the interview. The call was interrupted due to bad reception, so Lazaro called a second time, and as a result I was thrown out of class. Lazaro wanted me to write about health and fitness in Santa Barbara, as I had suggested in my first email.

I did some research for the article. Then, I went to Conexión's editorial staff in the basement of Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce.

The editor in chief was out of office. He had gone somewhere, one of the associate editors told me. He had Lazaro on the phone, though, and asked if I wanted to talk to him right now. I said yes. The silky tie gave me the phone, and Lazaro gave me instructions to meet with him at the U.S. Congress in Santa Barbara. I went there. We discussed the article in the meeting room, and Lazaro told me that he helped a woman who worked for the Congress.

Lazaro recommended me to talk to a guy called Prof. Ching, who taught Capoeira, a kind of Brazilian martial arts. The instructor had a class at 8 p.m. the same night. It was at the Multicultural Arts Center several blocks down Gutierrez Street. I bought some bakery to eat and after a long walk, I found the gym and talked to Ching and some of his pupils.

Gutierrez Street was really dark at night. I left the Capoeira class and went home. I passed some homeless people in the street but they didn't notice me.

The next day, I started to work on my article. I visited Conexión's office and Lazaro answered all questions for my research paper about his company.

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April 2009

During the following week, I continued to work on the story. When I went to the editorial office, Lazaro was out. I called Prof. Ching a couple of times and tried to set up an interview but could only leave a message on his voicemail.

I met with Lazaro Thursday after lunch. I also visited Alameda Park and Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden but couldn't make it to the Franceschi Park in the hills. It was almost getting dark.

The next day, I made some research on the Internet. I used a computer at the editorial office, while Lazaro was out. Then, the associate editors went for lunch and Lazaro teamed up with us. He drove a jeep but changed to our car, which we parked outside Subway fastfood restaurant in downtown.

We went by car to Shoreline Park to eat our subs. Lazaro sat down on the back of a bench with his feet on the seat. I set down next to him. The associate editors preferred to eat standing. One of the guys asked the other if it was here the Spanish conquistadors arrived. While the other suits fed squirrels, Lazaro explained his philosophy.

"I told them to dress like that," he said. "It's good for the business. In Santa Barbara people judge you by the look."

"Do you want me to dress like that, too?" I said.

"If you want to work with us at the office, yes," Lazaro said. "I also taught them to drink coffee, because I want them to have energy. In the beginning they didn't understand that, but now they like it."

"He buys us coffee every morning," one of the suits feeding squirrels said.

April 14, I went to see my instructor, Anna Lafferty, who had scheduled a visit at the workplace together with Miguel Arana, the other intern. However, Lafferty never showed up and Lazaro told me that she had postponed her visit.

I went back to City College, where all buildings had lost power due to a heavy storm. I decided to do some research downtown for a story about art exhibitions. I had an iced latte at McDonald's. At 7 p.m., I had a haircut and interviewed the hair stylist, Saralisa Manson, who helped me with suggestions for my story about health and fitness.

Later the same week, I interviewed Arana, the other intern and president for the Hispanic honor society Sigma Delta Mu, for a story about a Nicaraguan author, who was coming to City College May 5. I also interviewed Prof. Francisco Rodriguez and Instructor Juan Casillas at the Department of Modern Languages. They insisted me to interview them at the same time, which wasn't the easiest thing to do.

In the afternoon, I visited Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, which had an interesting exhibition of ceramics. The following Saturday, I talked to Heidi Ferguson at Elizabeth Gordon Gallery. She asked me if I was an artist.

"I'm more of a writer," I said.

The next week, I reworked my story about fitness and Lafferty, finally, made her mandatory workplace visit.

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May 2009

The School of Modern Languages, the honor society for Hispanic studies Sigma Delta Mu and the publishing house Cengage Learning had invited Belli to speak from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. May 5 at Fe Bland Forum on West Campus. At about the same time the devastating Jesusita fire, which started in the hills far away, cut the power in the building.

While a small chamber orchestra played some acoustic instruments from Chile at the left aisle, college administrators and security tried to solve the electricity problem. In the faint light from the main entrance, the author entered the podium.

"I feel like I'm in Nicaragua right now, because we have apagón (a blackout)," Belli said. "I feel at home."

Belli, in henna dyed curly hair as on most pictures, sat down behind a desk with a white tablecloth. In front of her were some of her bestselling books. As a novelist, critics have compared her to Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez and Laura Esquivel.

During the weekend, I wrote a story about Belli and submitted it to the editorial staff at Conexión. The story was targeted for Spanish language readers.

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