“My country has failed me, at this point I do not feel proud to be Mexican. My daughter is dead, I feel like I am dead and justice…well, we do not have the money to pay for it, unfortunately”. I remember listening to this quote in a press conference. It was June 20, 2018. This phrase (with different words, similar meanings) repeated itself during almost three hours. The speakers were mothers and relatives of women who were murdered in different states of the country.
It is hard to introduce myself as a 24 year old Mexican reporter without this context. This is (among other topics) what I write and read about on a daily basis. My country is beautiful, but it is also complex and it can be cruel and dangerous. Some days I love it, some days it makes me really angry; everyday I am trying to understand it.
That’s why I felt an intense thrill in my stomach when I received the phone call during the first days of May announcing that I have been selected for the thisisFINLAND Foreign Correspondents’ Programme 2018: “Mariana, I am happy to announce you that you have been selected for the FCP. Congrats! You should feel very proud, it was a hard decision…” After the thrill, other feelings started to appear: surprise, happiness, gratefulness. This is meaningful, I thought, this will be life changing. Now, a couple weeks before starting this amazing opportunity, I am just excited about this adventure.
So, why Finland?
A lot people have made guesses since I announced the news. “Because it is the perfect country”, “because nothing bad happens there”, “because its landscapes look breathtaking”, they have said to me. Well, my honest answer is different.
I want to visit Finland because I want to learn and get new skills and perspectives in order to be a better journalist. Finland because journalism matters in any society, but as any other job we need to professionalize it and be better reporters, writers, editors… This nordic country, I am certain, will open my eyes to new stories, places, people and ways to solve problems.
I am really curious at this stage: How do the main Finnish dishes taste? How surreal will the lakes look? How do the journalists work there? How people consume news? What do they read, watch, listen? How do you report in such an equal country, how do they conceive (and construct) a good story? Why do they love saunas so much? How are the libraries and universities? How does a green country function? What’s the meaning they give to happiness? I hope to answer these questions and, obviously, to ask new ones along the way.
As Gay Talese once said: “[Journalists need to] show up. Look people in the eye. Observe everything first-hand. Be there!”. And I want to be there: in a country that is ranked fourth place in the World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders; first place in the World Happiness Report of the Global Happiness Council; first place as the most stable country according to the Fragile States Index and so on. In order to understand how do they make a fair society possible, I need to be there… and I am beyond happy and grateful to have the opportunity of doing so.