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From issue: Connectivity and the Digital Divide (Winter 2009)


Some of our hemisphere’s emerging leaders in politics, business, civil society, and the arts.

In this issue:
Charo Bogarín (standing) and Diego Pérez of Tonolec

Arts Innovator: Tonolec, Argentina

Leah Serinsky

Often associated with melancholy tangos and chart-topping rock en español, Argentina’s music scene is taking a techno/traditional turn with the band Tonolec ( The Buenos Aires-based duo, Charo Bogarín and Diego Pérez, have introduced indigenous musical traditions from their native Resistencia (in Argentina’s northeastern Chaco province) to the mainstream. Their electronica-fused traditional indigenous compositions are challenging preconceptions of Argentine music and introducing listeners to the country’s cultural and linguistic diversity.

Layering haunting indigenous melodies over playful rhythms, Bogarín plays an array of traditional instruments and sings in both Spanish and Toba (the language of the indigenous group the music draws from). Pérez plays the keyboard and guitar and mixes tribal recordings with electronic beats...

Listen to Tonolec!

BUSINESS INNOVATOR: Juan Hinestroza, Colombia

Leah Serinsky

Imagine a shirt that can change colors with the wave of a magnet or a jacket that can protect you from disease. Thanks to Colombian-born engineer Juan Hinestroza, these products may soon be available at your local store.

Hinestroza, 38, an assistant professor in the Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design at Cornell University, is one of the world leaders in developing what he calls “smart textiles.” With a research team of ten Cornell graduate students, he has pioneered the use of nanotechnology—the science of engineering molecular-size chemical structures—to develop fabrics that perform functions such as filtering germs and hazardous gases and that can generate their own color instead of using dyes...

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POLITICAL INNOVATOR: Claudio Orrego, Chile

Leah Serinsky

Affluence isn’t a prerequisite for being at the cutting-edge of connectivity. The proof is Peñalolén, a working-class municipality on the outskirts of Santiago, which was named this year as one of the most-connected municipalities in Chile by the Universidad Adolfo Ibañez, and declared the most digital medium-sized city in Latin America by the Ibero-American Association of Research Centers and Telecommunication Enterprises in Madrid.

The reason for Peñalolén’s stature is not hard to find: smart political leadership.

Peñalolén’s digital revolution is led by its 42-year-old, second-term mayor, Claudio Orrego. The Harvard-educated Orrego has aggressively pursued digital literacy forhis constituents since he was first elected in 2004...

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Civic Innovator: Bibliotecas Independientes, Cuba

Leah Serinsky

Thre are no banned books in Cuba; there just isn’t any money to buy them,” Fidel Castro famously said at the 1998 International Book Fair in Havana. Later that year, Ramón Colás, a psychologist and journalist, and his then-wife, economist Berta Mexidor, took up Castro’s challenge. They opened their home library to the public, thereby establishing Cuba’s first Biblioteca Independiente (Independent Library). Ten years later, there are 162 “independent libraries” in over 15 towns throughout the island.

With the aim of creating free spaces for intellectual exploration by providing access to a broad range of books, the libraries are each expected to visibly display a minimum of 300 volumes, representing all ideologies and political perspectives, which means they are not simply a center for anti-Castro polemics. Books and reading materials, including magazines, are donated by foreign embassies—the Spanish and French are among the largest donors-—as well as NGOs who work in Cuba...

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