Thursday, January 26, 2023

Francisco Vera Manzanares: “I eat meat, but I compensate by planting trees”

We met on the morning of 22 December in the cafeteria of the hotel in the center of Madrid where he was staying with his parents, who stayed with him without interfering during the interview. The three of them came to Madrid from Barcelona, ​​where they live, invited by a television program and by chance, they were going to take advantage of the day to visit the Prado Museum, the Retiro and enjoy the Christmas atmosphere. Outside, a crowd of office workers and teenagers celebrate the start of the holidays by singing Christmas carols as the children of San Ildefonso blare from the TV in the bar. The 13-and-a-half-year-old interviewee, set in an age when boys could look like children and girls looked like grown women, could totally be one of those guys who was going to win the lottery prize. The interested party smiles eagerly when I tell him and will not stop doing so during the entire conversation.

Santa Claus or the Three Wise Men?

Last night he asked me the same question on TV, I thought about it and said.

Go for God’s sake. How predictable are we adults. and what did he say?

OK, I’ll take both. In Colombia, Santa Claus came and here, the Three Kings, that’s how I carry out the traditions and enjoy both, all in a convenient way: it’s a profitable deal, I asked one of them for a camera and the other for a book of the Arsenio Lupine saga which is out of print and very hard to find. But for some the king is a magician, isn’t he?

What do you like to photograph?

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What grabs my attention It could be a star like last night. Note that in Madrid, despite being so much bigger, it has less light pollution than Bogotá, from what I’ve seen. But I also take a picture of it, see the contrast: [le pide a su madre que me enseñe en el móvil que comparten la foto de una persona sin hogar durmiendo junto a una tienda de la marca Desigual]I am very sensitive to injustice and inequalities.

At the age of nine, he asked his mother for permission to set up an environmental association with some friends in his town. What wind did he give you?

We moved from Bogotá to Villeta, a town to live in. Being with the animals, the ducks, the river, watching nature, makes me more aware of the importance of conserving it than living in the city. Your environment creates your condition. Then I saw the Amazon fires on television, I read about the work of Greta Thunberg and other activists on the Internet, and I felt I had to do something [Ana María, su madre, me mira y asiente],

Adults are going to leave a planet made of foxes. Are they mad at us?

We have a right to be, but if we stay angry and resentful and do nothing, we don’t move forward and time is short. It cannot be denied that adults should understand their responsibility, and we have a right to a clean environment. This is what we demand, but I would rather act than be angry.

In the face of Greta’s perpetually angry demeanor, you always smile. Desire or Strategy?

I’m an extrovert and the smile comes out alone, but I also believe it’s helpful not to let the kids I talk to despair. to replace them econsiedad By esperanza, I know teenagers who have stopped eating, or isolated themselves, or hurt themselves, people who are really suffering from climate change and its consequences. This is not a story.

What would you say to those people who call them the Crystal Generation?

We have enough problems to tell this above. Young people have to face many difficulties to liberate themselves, to live their life. It’s the other way around, we have to go from being crystallized to organizing ourselves, uniting, and proposing formidable responses.

You’re 13, do you think you’re capable?

Children are citizens, we have a voice, we don’t limit ourselves to just playing and reading. They tell me every day on the network that I am a child. It seems unbelievable that in the 21st century we have to answer this. The world is very adult centric.

Do older people look at him and say strange things to him?

depends on. I see some of them in the look and in the right tone… patriarchy, that would be the exact word. They feel like the dad you’re talking about, typical of being older and more experienced, but we think so too.

Why do I feel like talking to a 50 year old man?

Well, I don’t know, I’m 13. I feel like I’m growing, I don’t want to stay small, and not just physically. For me, growing up is also doing it mindfully in knowledge: traveling, getting to know new cultures and people.

Have you been ‘bullied’ at school?

Yes, and here in Colombia. The typical guy who makes fun of you and the typical ruffian and thug. But it’s not just me. It has plagued me sometimes when I was young. Seriously, they’re annoying. But what they do to my best friend bothers me more, seeing how he defends himself as a witness, and many times they end up blaming him. There have, at times, been some rude words from my mouth, but I think it is your right to defend yourself and at least, not let others influence you.

He is in his pre-teens. Can you already feel the hormones boiling inside of you?

Yes, I have become more grumpy and impatient with my parents. [su padre asiente, divertido],

Do you consider yourself weird?

I hope not, but maybe I’m onto something. For example, I don’t like reggaeton at all, nor the rhythm, nor what it says. I love Colombian music from the eighties.

,stain photos serves to attract attention and save the planet?

Those actions seemed to me a mistake, especially when they had become almost habitual. They diverted their attention from the real problem to something else. There are workers who are very brave, people who risk their lives and next to them, who look stupid to me.

Do you argue with your parents like this when discussing your cell phone or when it’s time to turn off the lights?

[Ambos me miran, cómplices, y asienten en silencio] Well, I’m scared. This is my way of convincing. I love rhetoric, artistic thought, for this I read a lot. The most important thing for me is the way to connect with the public and convey the message to them. For example, the climate crisis: I start by describing how it arose, how it’s affecting us, and then I make connections to move from the conflict to its possible solutions. It’s not hard for me. I do it mechanically.

sell me your mind Do you know your IQ?

No, I don’t even want to know. I think I have a facility and a niche for things like geography, history, science that capture my attention.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

President of Colombia.

nothing less? So that?

to change things. Politics is the best solution for this.

And what is needed for that?

I think you must have social conscience, study and experience. I ask a politician to make sensible decisions that take into account the people, the people and of course the ideas he defends.

Confess a guilty pleasure. do you eat hamburgers, with all their fat and their carbon footprint,

If true I eat meat because the pediatrician tells me to, but also because I like it. And now I’ve discovered Iberian ham, and I love it. But I make up for it by planting trees. I have planted hundreds of trees along with my fellow lifekeepers to offset the carbon footprint I have created.

Is he a happy child?

Yes, now I am having a great time with my friends in Barcelona near the sea. Madrid is very beautiful, but it doesn’t have a sea.

There is a Spanish song from the eighties that says: “Wah, wah, there’s no beach here.”

Really? Would you be so kind as to hand it over to me?

Elder boy

Francisco Vera (Colombia, 13 years old), the only son of a lawyer and a social worker, felt the call of nature from a very young age. At age 9, when her family moved from Bogotá to Villeta, a city surrounded by exuberant flora and fauna, Vera, impressed by the fires in the Amazon and the emergence of child activists like Greta Thunberg on social networks, asked His mother sought permission, along with her friends, to form Guardians for Life, an association with which to try to fight the climate emergency. Since then, the impact of his speech directed at his peers has grown to the point of attending the Glasgow Climate Summit and Egypt. He is a European Union Goodwill Ambassador and a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Author of the illustrated book ‘What is Climate Change’, where he explains the environmental emergency to children, Francisco Vera has been living with his parents and studying in Barcelona for some time, continuing his activism in his home country. After receiving death threats for.

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