You are keen on travelling to Latin America and exploring the region inside and out. You are dying to get a glimpse of its colourful taste of the authentic and the best before traveling there. And you have nothing to worry about now that information is available at the tap of your fingertips. However, with convenience, comes endless frustrations of having to play “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” with infinite clusters of information, that it can be difficult to separate the bias or commonly spoon-fed details from the genuine meat that will showcase a better-informed diversity.
That is why 48-year-old Mark Chesnut from New York City in the US yielded to the calling to start LatinFlyer.com in 2009, an online blog that blossomed into a full-functioning website solely dedicated to authentic Latin American travels that are fresh, fun and intriguing, with explorations to areas and Latin experiences seldom mentioned in mainstream media.
Mark who writes many of the articles on LatinFlyer, is a regular traveller to Latin America. His fierce love for the region is undeniable from his many appraisals and undying loyalty to the region, a trait many Latin Americans are glad to embrace from a foreigner.
So how did LatinFlyer manage to outrank many travel trade and consumer magazine sites in less than 4 years? We began to discover from Mark the magical moments of his putting together of this great informative website that is sure to keep you coming back!
How many Latin American countries have you travelled so far and what made you fall in love with the region?
I’ve been traveling since I was a kid, and it’s always been one of my favourite things in life. I have visited every Spanish-speaking country in Latin America except El Salvador and Paraguay; I have also visited Brazil many times. What I love about Latin America is the diversity; every country has its unique culture, traditions, attractions and activities. I also like that with just one language, you can communicate with so many people in so many different countries. In Europe, for example, it’s much harder to connect on a personal level in every country you visit, since a different language is spoken in nearly every nation.
Which is your most favourite Latin American country and why?
It’s hard for me to pick a favourite, because I find something wonderful in every country I visit. I guess it depends on what I’m looking for. Brazil and Mexico are both great, since they’re so large that they pack in a wide variety of cities, towns and natural beauty. But I also love smaller countries like Ecuador, which has incredible geographic and cultural diversity considering its small size, and Panama, which has an amazing, fast-growing capital city that’s lined with skyscrapers as well as gorgeous flora, fauna and beaches.
Describe some of your most memorable visits and experience in Latin America.
I’m attracted to both cultural experiences and geographic contrasts, and I’ve had so many memorable experiences in Latin America. Celebrating the turn of the century in Antigua Guatemala was unforgettable — festive music and costumed performers in the streets made us all part of the celebration. Spending time with the Kuna Indians in Kuna Yala, the region of Panama also known as San Blas, was also really interesting, and the setting is beautiful. One trip I took from the south to the north of Chile was especially amazing, as I got to see the dramatic contrast of glaciers in Patagonia and the other-worldly Atacama Desert in the north. I’ve also really enjoyed attending traditional festivals in Puerto Rico, where my partner and I used to own a condo. And I’ll never forget the first time I stood atop a pyramid at Teotihuacan, north of Mexico City.
What do think of Latin America in general as compared to the way the global media has portrayed the region?
I think the global media tend to focus on the same destinations over and over, and often skip over the diversity. Each country is so different, and each country offers a wide variety of experiences within its own borders. I’d like to see more of that diversity represented in the media, and it’s one of my goals with LatinFlyer.com.
How did LatinFlyer get started?
I started LatinFlyer.com in 2009 as a small blog. I’d been covering Latin America for several years as a journalist for media outlets including Travel Weekly, and realized that there was no consumer-friendly Website focused solely on travel to Latin America. There is so much to write about, photograph and video tape in Latin America — so many great travel experiences and ideas, so I set out to do my part to spread the word.
How has the journey been so far for LatinFlyer since it started?
It’s been an exciting journey so far. The site has grown from a small blog to a growing website that now outranks many travel trade and consumer magazine sites. Last year, we did a fabulous redesign to make the site more interactive, user-friendly and attractive. I’m the only person working full-time on the site, but I collaborate with a pool of very talented and knowledgeable writers, editors, photographers and a world-class designer. I also have advertising representation, which is working on developing more custom content and expanding the site further.
What are some of the most popular topics on LatinFlyer that has captured many people’s attention?
It’s always interesting — and sometimes surprising — to see which stories, photos and videos resonate the most with readers. The most popular feature articles include roundups of the best drinks in Puerto Rico, traditional costumes in Chile and hotel and flight reviews that help travelers decide which airlines and hotels offer the best service in Latin America. Also very popular was a piece I did of all the different words for “drinking straw” in Spanish — every country seems to have its own unique word for this, and I’d never seen anyone do a complete roundup before. Among the most popular videos we’ve done are a city tour of Antigua Guatemala, a demonstration of the five basics of Puerto Rican music and dance, which I shot at a historic fort in San Juan, and a ride aboard the metro in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Do you think the interest in the culture and travel to Latin America has increased compared to 5 years ago?
I do think there is more interest in the region, as people are better travelled and also are more connected to the rest of the world via the Internet and social media. Travelers are always looking for exciting new experiences and Latin America has lots to offer. But of course the media could do even more to highlight this.
What do you think are some of the misconceptions of Latin American countries that may hinder people from exploring the region?
I think that some people who are unfamiliar with the region may think that Latin America overall is unsafe or poor, which of course is not the case. Some people pay attention to sensationalized headlines about one city or town and apply that to an entire continent. People should realize that Latin America is huge, diverse and offers something to please every kind of traveler.
What do you love most about promoting Latin America?
I’m really in love with Latin America, so it’s great to have the opportunity to keep traveling, exploring and discovering new destinations and experiences. And of course meeting and speaking with people is always one of the best parts. You can learn so much from people!
What can potential readers look forward to when reading LatinFlyer?
Readers will find a variety of travel tips from everyone from tourism experts to everyday travelers and locals who live in each destination. They’ll find hotel and airline reviews, ideas about what to eat, where to shop and how to find great experiences. We also provide lots of information for business travelers too, with details about the best places to stay, dine, entertain and do business. People visit Latin America for a lot of different reasons — to do business, to visit family, to go on vacation. People who live in Latin America also travel around the region, of course — two of our biggest audiences are in Mexico and Brazil, so we aim to provide travel inspiration to a variety of travelers in Latin America.
Any future plans for LatinFlyer?
I hope to keep expanding the site to provide even more detailed information, reports, photos and videos, with an ever-growing array of people and organizations playing a part. I’m always looking for people interested in being interviewed about their own Latin America travel experiences.
You can read LatinFlyer at http://latinflyer.com/
This article was published on Vida De Latinos’ online magazine, June 2013.
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