By Fernando Labastida
Something’s happening in Mexico. The status quo is being shaken up by a bunch of rogue citizens who are outside of the mainstream. The Mexican elite are not quite sure what to do with the force that has been unleashed in the streets of Mexico City, Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, Cancun and other cities.
No, I’m not talking about the drug cartels. I’m talking about something more revolutionary, more groundbreaking than that.
I”m talking about Tequila Valley.
Mauricio Pastrana, the main instigator of Tequila Valley, has unleashed the pent-up voices of Mexico’s young techno-geeks and Web 2.0 aficinados in a free-for-all, democratic with a small “d”, almost libertarian, conglomeration.
Pastrana told me in a 2 hour phone conversation two days ago that during the first Tequila Valley get-together, which was more or less like a giant Meetup or Tweetup, people were almost reluctant to speak up. Pastrana hails from Colombia, and came to Mexico last year by way of Miami. He was used to the outspokenness of Americans, as well as of his native Colombia.
Pastrana, who decided to stay in Mexico after sensing it was on the verge of a grassroots digital revolution, had to coax the youth to speak up, say what was on their mind, share their thoughts, desires, ideas.
They didn’t need much coaxing. What was unleashed were more than 80 years of suppressed self-expression, ingrained in Mexican culture from years of political status-quo and an unmentioned and unwritten desire to not rock the boat.
Now there are regular Tequila “chapters” and Tequila gatherings in Starbucks all over the country, as well as in different Latin American countries, such as Valdez Valley in Colombia, Montevideo Valley in Uruguay and Palermo Valley in Argentina.
What is Pastrana’s goal with Tequila Valley? He wants to essentially transform Mexico’s web culture. He hopes to achieve this through a series of free non-conferences, some spontaneous, and some such as MobileCamp (part of the BarCamp series), which are scheduled and sponsored by corporations like Nokia and Mozilla Mexico.
Pastrana is also planning a series of trainings or tutorial seminars to help young freelancers and entrepreneurs learn business, marketing and sales skills.
Pastrana admitted to me by phone that convincing some of Mexico’s largest corporations to start blogs or do more on the web has been like pulling teeth.
However, with the buzz generated by Tequila Valley some of these old-school behemoths are coming out of the woodwork to either sponsor events or hire Tequileros to develop websites, blogs or Web 2.0 PR strategies for them.
Who are these Tequileros? They are a combination of web designers, writers, bloggers, and hardcore coders who are experts in CSS, PHP, Java, .NET and even Ruby on Rails.
Some of Pastrana’s co-collaborators in the Tequila Valley project are Laura Hoyos, known by her Twitter moniker @LauraDark; Raul Ramirez, and Jose Salomon, to name a few. You can see a full list here of the Tequila Valley collaborators, a veritable who’s who of Web 2.0 geekdom in Mexico.
What does the future hold for Tequila Valley? Pastrana told me that he hopes new entrepreneurial companies will form, that Internet access prices will come down (Mexico has some of the highest costs for high-speed Internet access in the region), and that Mexicans will embrace the democratizing effects of the Internet to create their own reality.
This write thinks there are also some interesting business opportunities to be had between the Tequileros and us Lonestar Beer drinkers to the north!