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Chilean maker Tiburcio de la Carcova.

While the maker movement reaches all over the world, Latin America has yet to host a Maker Faire. But that’s going to change this month. Santiago, Chile will hold Latin America’s a Mini Maker Faire Dec. 15-16. And by the looks of things it going to be anything but small.

The man behind the event is Tiburcio de la Carcova, an entrepreneur and video game designer. As he explains it, making and hacking have long been part of Latin American culture. And now Santiago’s Maker Faire is giving makers from all over Latin America a creative outlet they never had. Here’s how Tiburcio explains the maker scene south of the border:

About a year ago I decided to open a makerspace in Santiago. I had a big workshop at home with tools like 3D printers, laser cutters, old computers, so I basically had the materials, but these places are all about the people, the community. So I first I found a great partner (Macarena Pola) and then the place. I found an old abandoned factory and signed the lease without any idea of what we will do.

What happened after was incredible and keeps surprising me. Not only do we have an amazing community, but we triggered a chain reaction. I was invited to give a TEDx talk in a theater in Uruguay and that detonated the bomb.  Suddenly, we were getting a lot of emails from people asking us how to build a similar space in countries across the region. From Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru, and other Chilean cities. Some became a reality and we are now building the network. In our region the creativity to resolve problems in a DIY fashion sometimes is a condition of survival. Hacking things to make them last was part of our culture. So not surprisingly it is all around us. (I’m now documenting the story of a fisherman who build a little DIY generator using a small stream of water near to his house in his village in Brazil and now is giving electricity to all his community).

The maker community was already there and huge, but all this buzz helped to make it visible. There are many active groups and communities and every day someone new shows up their projects or connecting their space. Also I see companies forming around this space. Building 3D printers or electronic kits. At our makerspace we have have had three ideas that turned into companies.

Months ago another partner joined us, Alejandra Mustakis, and with her we were able to bring sponsors. NeXTEL signed with us for 2013 so financially we are covered for an year.

I’m feeling the same way that I felt in 1994 about the internet. I’m sure that we are seeing something big, that will change our lives, but we don’t know yet how.

Just before Tiburcio stepped on a plane to fly from Santiago to San Francisco I asked him a bit more about the maker movement in Chile and Latin America at large.

What is the status of the maker movement in Latin America?
I think that we are in just in the tipping point. Lots of exciting things happening this year in the region. We were opening the Santiago makerspace a year ago thinking that we were almost alone and now we are trying to figure it out how we will fit all the makers we got in our fair.

Who are the makers in Chile?
Most of our community is young and in their 20s on average. The background is very heterogeneous. Artist, designers, engineers, kids still in school. Some of  them have regular jobs and do this in their spare time, but we are seeing a lot of guys taking this very seriously as their primary occupation.

Are you seeing a lot of new businesses grow out of this?
One of the great things we are seeing is that is actually happening. We are seeing groups starting theirs ideas at the makerspace and turned them into products, even raising capital or grants. At our makerspace the projects range from a company making high quality design lamps with green tech to a start-up that is building a device to 3D print your dreams.  (Believe or not that one just received a government grant). I think we are in front of a new golden age of creators, inventors, and designers who have no fear to pick a fight with traditional firms. We will start seeing more and more disruptive products from this groups here in Chile and all over the world.

What have your learned about the maker movement in the course of putting together a Maker Faire?
Well, first that is a pretty wild crowd. Trying to organize makers was one of the biggest challenges. More seriously, I learned how diverse and big the movement was down here. Suddenly after we make our first call to makers we started receiving amazing projects out of the blue. Not only from Chile, but from the neighboring  countries. We got people from Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Mexico participating and that’s amazing. We are one week away from the fair, with our space full, and we keep receiving makers who want to participate.

What is maker culture like in Chile and Latin America?
It’s blooming. New hackerspaces, makerspaces, and fablabs are appearing every day. There are independent ones like ours inside universities, inside technical school. Ours is the first one, but you will see that next year we will have many across our continent. In our region we are a maker culture by necessity. Many people can not afford the early planned obsolesce of the current consumer products. So we learn how to improvise solutions, how to extend the life of products or adapt them to other uses by hacking them until they blow up. Just by looking at these improvised patches you can see that the making culture is in our roots.

What projects have impressed you most?
Well, even that is not 100 percent Chilean project, Backyard Brains is definitely one of the most impressive. This two amazing duo (Tim Marzullo and Greg Gage) showed up in our hackerspace an year ago with their neuroscience kits and remote controlled live cockroaches. They develop and improved their products here in Chile. And the amazing  thing was how they impacted other people to create derivatives of their work. Bryan Salt’s Thinker-Thing project was entirely developed at the space based on their work. Also Sergio Seguel’s robotic hand kit (controlled with your mind) is great. But is so difficult to name one. There’s a huge DIY 3D scanner, a life size DIY paraglider simulator, amazing toys made out of recycled materials. All great stuff.

What is the future of making in Chile and Latin America at large?
I think this movement will play an important role in our society. It’s a global movement in which we all share the same core values, extreme curiosity, reluctancy of accepting things like they are or not understanding how the work, incredible generosity with our ideas, and fearlessness about creating what we want even if we fail a lot. Those  are basically the same values of entrepreneurship. The maker revolution is also a entrepreneurship revolution and that’s why is so important for society, especially emerging countries like Chile.

Que viva el moviemiento hacedor!

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.


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