e-STAS 2009 (I). Interview to Carlos Argüello

Notes from Simposium de las Tecnologías para la Acción Social (e-STAS: Symposium on Technologies for Social Action) held in Málaga, Spain, on March 26-27th, 2009. More notes on this event: estas2009. More notes on this series of events: e-stas.

Interview to Carlos Argüello, Studio C., by Jaime Estévez

Founder and director of Studio C, Carlos Argüello has over 20 years of experience in graphic and digital design. Has stood for excellence as a creative and artistic director in the world of renowned companies such as Walt Disney Features, Cinesite (Kodak), Synthetic Video and PDI (Pacific Data Images). One year later, in 2001, he returned to his homeland, Guatemala, and created Studio C. His aim was to work with local talent offering their design and production experience in the fields of architecture, audiovisual production and graphic design.

Carlos explains how he began working as a waitress and accessing computers at random, learning their usage and focusing in multimedia edition. He then travelled to the US and began to work with Hollywood, which represented quite a personal leap in his career (working for Terminator II, Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” videoclip, Armaggedon, SpaceJam, Waterworld, etc.).

At the sweetest peak of his career, he used to come back to Guatemala (his homeland) but saw it through the eyes of a tourist. Then a plane crashed in front of his own eyes while waiting to take a plane in Cuba. And felt the need for a personal change, a change that could bring change to other people. And thought about doing something in Antigua, Guatemala that was beyond the typical local wish to emigrate to the US.

He created a team of geeky kids and teens that already played with computers, and taught them to create products for the media industry in Guatemala. The project grew and they moved the office to the capital. One of their flagship projects, working with “The Chronicles of Narnia“, which was a national event. Not only the technical output was high quality, but the “moral” output was: putting on the map a developing country in the arena of hi-tech media productions.

Besides these more commercial projects, they are also producing educational projects for minorities (e.g. the Maya community).

Now the project’s become a regional one, not only working in/for Guatemala, but also Mexico, almost all Central America and part of South America. The good point (or bad, depending on how you look at it) is taht there’s never been public funding to create the offices, which means the project is absolutely sustainable. All the resources come from the private sector. Which does not mean that the project is looking for wider support to enlarge its reach.

Q & A

Q: what’s the priority: the Economy, Education or Politics? A: They are interdependent. It is difficult to state whether a solution in one particular issue can come without the other two changing too.

Javier Estévez: is technology the solution to poverty or to inclusion? A: No, it’s not, but it’s a very powerful enabler and catalyst. ICTs are creating new paths of development. And, most important, paving them for any kind of people, whatever is their origin (e.g. indigenous people).

Q: Is this project a personal one? Would it survive would the leader (i.e. Carlos Argüello) quit it? A: Yes, it would. There’s been a deep empowerment of the people involved in the project, which have made of them independent and responsible people, and leaders at their time of their own local communities. On the other hand, they are no more stuck to their homelands, but have become citizens of the world and have established their own networks.

Q: Is this project a new example of “cognitive neocolonialism”? Will these trained people emigrate to other places where they’d be better paid? Is the project favouring brain drain? A: Most people involved in the project do not want to go and live and work abroad. If given good conditions at the local level, people have no reasons to emigrate. The key is local development at large, not developing a minority that, of course, would most likely emigrate.

Jaime Estévez proposes a headline: Carlos Argüello went to the US and came back to make Latinamerica less dependent from the US.

NOTES: the post cannot reflect neither the richness of Carlos Argüello’s talk nor how well conducted the interview was by Jaime Estévez. Thank you both!


e-Stas 2009, Symposium on Technologies for Social Action (2009)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2009) “e-STAS 2009 (I). Interview to Carlos Argüello” In ICTlogy, #66, March 2009. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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