Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

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Micronations, A World Tour Of 8 Bizzaro Spots Barely On The Map
Weird

Micronations, A World Tour Of 8 Bizzaro Spots Barely On The Map

A journey through the unlikely phenomenon of microstates, which have been founded on nothing more than a personal whim or nothing less than a diehard political stance.

Taiwanese businessman James Chang has been mired in a long battle with municipal authorities over what he sees as "excessive" taxes on the hotel he owns on the eastern coast of Australia.

So when all traditional legal and political means have been exhausted, what do you do?

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A woman buys medicine in a pharmacy with almost no products amid COVID19 pandemic , in Cuba
Coronavirus

Where Are My Meds? Cubans Facing Mental Illness In COVID Times

While Cuba has historically been praised for its health care system, the pandemic has struck the population hard, even those not infected. Among the victims are those suffering from psychological ailments whose prescriptions couldn't be filled because of closed borders and economic crises.

Chavely was raised with strict discipline: she couldn't bring friends home or go out to play for long periods of time, and her television and reading consumption was closely monitored.

The pressure grew in the preparation courses for university entrance exams. Chavely began to get low marks in math, physics, and chemistry. They changed her to a different classroom, then to a new school. She had extracurricular studying time and meeting up with friends became strictly forbidden. At home, she faced continuous scolding. The most difficult moment of her life was while preparing for the university entrance tests.

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Photo of a boy black-and-white skeleton makeup, in white traditional Mexican clothes, during a Dia de Muertos celebration in Mexico City
Society

Grieving For Papá, Grieving With Others: My Día De Muertos Diary

When the author's father died suddenly two years ago in Colombia, the Catholic Church mourning rituals offered little comfort. Two weeks ago, by chance in Mexico City for the annual Día De Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations, she discovered how these ancient rituals for the departed could finally help her face the pain, and find true peace.

In my native country of Colombia, when someone dies, the process of mourning is almost always turned over to the Catholic Church. It starts with the wake, set in aseptic shiny salons, surrounded by dozens of other identical rooms, each family has to welcome people who come to give their respects for days, amid religious symbols and white flower crowns. The lonely rituals are interrupted only by the occasional unrequested words of advice from friends or clergy about the right way to mourn.

For my first 22 years, I'd observed all of this with mild irritation from a distance at the few wakes and funerals I'd attended. Then, one Easter week, the family crying desperately in the center of the cold room was my own.

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Black-and-white photo of a woman looking out a window
Society

Black Women And Breast Cancer: A Tale Of Racism, Sexism And Redemption

When the author, a black Cuban immigrant living in Spain, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had to overcome not only the physical toll but also the daily humiliations by a medical system and society that treated her as a second-class patient. But then she decided to say, enough.

I have beaten cancer and I am grateful for that every day. I'm a 46-year-old mother of a beautiful nine-year-old Afro-Spanish girl, and with my professional aspirations half-fulfilled, I felt it was not fair to leave so many things undone.

So I have defeated breast cancer, but not racism, xenophobia or machismo. I've been quite stunned by the sheer volume of instances of prejudice I had to confront throughout this journey.

Among the bad habits brought on by COVID-19 is the irremediable lack of contact, the distancing from people and, consequently, the coldness in human relationships. When I received the news about my disease, I had to enter the medical appointment alone and, three meters away from me, the doctor and nurse dropped this little piece of news on me.

However, up to then, everything was normal within a pandemic context. Horribly normal.

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Photo of activist Candance Chávez protesting for trans rights
LGBTQ Plus

The Mortal Danger Of Being Trans In Latin America

The murder of a trans activist in Honduras, and new report on violence against LGBTQ+ across the region, shines a light on the place where it's simply not safe to be a trans person.

BOGOTÁ — On September 26, Honduran trans rights activist Tatiana García was stabbed to death in her home in the western city of Santa Rosa de Copán. The targeted murder also put a tragic end to García's work helping LGBTQ+ people to file hate-crime complaints in Honduras — indeed, she was the 17th LGBTQ+, and fourth trans, murder victim this year in the country of 9.9 million people.

In a region with a long history of violence toward LGBTQ+, Honduras is among the most dangerous places in Latin America to be gay, lesbian or trans. In June, the Interamerican Court of Human Rights held the Honduran state responsible for the 2009 death of trans activist Vicky Hernandez. The court ordered the country to carry out a public act of recognition of responsibility and to adopt a procedure to recognize gender identity in identity documents, and other measures to defend LGBTQ+ rights.

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest
Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

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Photo of people walking alongside the border between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana
Migrant Lives

A Migrant Odyssey: Haiti To Chile To Mexico's Border, And Beyond

Shella Jean was part of a new migration path from Haiti to the relatively prosperous nation of Chile. But she has since left behind her "Chilean Dream" on a perilous journey northward toward the U.S.-Mexico Border. This is her story.

I met Shella Jean in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in July 2017. The first time I saw her, she was standing next to a gas station in the blazing sun. I remember her face: the almond-shaped eyes, the thick lips, and eyebrows as thin as two strands of thread. Shella took me to her home.

We climbed a steep stone street until we reached a concrete room. It was used as a dining room during the day and a bedroom where she slept with her mother, a cousin and a nephew whom she had to take to Chile to reunite with his parents.

Indeed, accompanying her nephew was not only the mission entrusted to her by her relatives but also her chance to start a new life, away from the misery of her homeland.

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