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Rebecca Bates: How Diverse is Guernica?

November 1, 2010

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By **Rebecca Bates**

rsz_bates.jpgSince you all went apeshit last month for our investigation into gender diversity here at Guernica Mag, the powers that be thought it only fitting to inspect where we stand on other forms of diversity within our many online pages. This is an incredibly daunting task. Part of what makes us such a baller publication is our devotion to showcasing voices from a plethora of backgrounds. But how do we quantify this?

I started by counting how many authors we’ve translated. While our poetry section failed my gender diversity test—and failed hard—it turned out to be the most pro-translation. We boast fifty-one translated poets, with Chinese writers taking the cake at ten and Spanish-language poets coming in second place with six. Our fiction section pales, however, with just eleven translated authors. Nine are Spanish, one is Farsi, and one is Persian. Worse still is our features section with a lousy four translated pieces: one French, one Basque (who even speaks Basque?), and two Spanish. But really, can you blame us? I mean, it’s nigh impossible to hire translators when you’re too broke to pay your own staff (hint: please, please give us money).

It’s easy to see Guernica has a Latin American obsession. Unsurprising, since several of our staff speak Spanish, and editors-in-chief Joel Whitney and Mike Archer first met and fell in love in Costa Rica. Between our features and interviews sections, about fifteen pieces directly address prominent Latin American figures and issues. In April we ran “Hate,” an essay by Jennifer Jo Janisch about the escalating hate crimes against Latin American immigrants. One of our first interviews ever was with former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias Sánchez, and my personal favorite is with Colombian lawyer Clara Rojas, who spent over six years as a FARC captive in the jungle.

But in general, are we an equal opportunity publication? In our interviews section alone, I counted forty-two out of 108 interviewees who fall into an ambiguous “non-American” category (though I’m not entirely sure Canadians really count). That’s about thirty-nine percent. In addition to being our weakest section in terms of translated pieces, our features section has a mere twenty-five non-American authors out of a total 132 pieces. Only about nineteen percent.

I’m hesitant, however, to turn this into a numbers game. One because I’m tired of counting and making lists and googling “how to calculate percentages.” But mostly because, unlike in our survey of gender diversity, there are dozens upon dozens of categories that our authors fall into. It therefore seems mildly reductive to make a count at all. The bigger question should be whether or not we give our readers cross-national stories they might otherwise not have seen. Do we do this? No shit. Even within the last few months we’ve investigated the scandals behind adopting children from Central America, peeked inside Chinese labor prisons, and explored national identity with an Iranian-American artist. But we’re not perfect. For example, we only posted on our blog twice this summer about the floods in Pakistan—the first a post by Fatima Bhutto, and the second a video of her on Democracy Now—seem to have forgotten about the disaster since. So, while we clearly have a devotion to a diversity of issues, we can’t let that knowledge be a shot in the arm. We’ll keep working, if you’ll keep reading. We promise.

Copyright 2010 Rebecca Bates

Correction: After reviewing the content of the blog I discovered that we in fact published three, not two, posts on the Pakistani floods. Two are mentioned above. The third is by Juan Cole and addresses the media’s meager coverage of the disaster.

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Rebecca Bates is a blog editor at Guernica. Read her post on Guernica and gender diversity “here”:https://www.guernicamag.com/blog/2071/rebecca_bates_guernica_and_the/. Read her Q&A with Tim Hetherington, co-director of Restrepo “here”:https://www.guernicamag.com/blog/2041/rebecca_bates_qa_with_tim_heth/.

To read more blog entries from GUERNICA click HERE .

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