Name: Diego Emilio Cuesy Edgar
Birth place: Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico
Occupation: Public Policy Analyst at the Lab for the City in Mexico City
Graduated with honors from Tec de Monterrey with a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs. First generation of Yale Visiting International Students.
Languages: English, Spanish, French, basic German and Haitian Creole
Currently reading: “Nuevos Rumbos del Teatro, Entrevista a Joseph Chaikin” (“New Paths of Theater, interview with Joseph Chaikin”), by Manuel Salvat
Q: What is your most memorable international experience?
Diego: I do not have a most memorable experience, but I’ve encountered three memorable people.
During a year as an exchange student in Belgium, I engaged with a team that got a grant to film footage about rape as a weapon of war in the DR Congo.
There we met Gégé Katana, a woman so serene it was hard to imagine she had been repeatedly arrested and threatened during her 25 years as a women’s rights activist. She believed music and theater could sensitize communities to the dangers of rape, and she created a support network of about a thousand survivors.
While visiting El Salvador to meet Fernando, a close friend’s first son, we passed by Suchitoto, a small colonial town north of the capital.
There my friend introduced me to Bernarda, a former FMLN combatant who had to hide twice amidst dead bodies to escape the military during the Civil War. She said that this suffering was nothing compared to her life as a quasi-enslaved field worker prior to the conflict.
While serving as outreach coordinator with an education NGO in the Dominican Republic, I had the honor of coordinating the IHRC in loco visit to Batey Libertad, my host town.
Caco Pelao — father, voodoo priest, community leader and witness of many abuses towards Haitian migrants — approached the room to make his statements. I could not believe my ears, as the permanently noisy surroundings became deeply silent. No other accusers had this effect.
Q: How did you become interested in international affairs?
Diego: Back in 2005, my high school class in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, hosted a small group of Austrian students for two weeks. The cultural differences were exceptionally thought-provoking, as we experienced them collectively.
Austrians were curious why we would all go to the airport to pick them up, immediately invite them to a botanero restaurant without any rest, go completely off schedule and try our best to leave them with a good impression of Chiapas.
We Mexicans were intrigued by how moved they were when they spoke of the highly visible social inequality in our society. Our high school principal was utterly shocked and angry when he found out that two Austrian girls had kissed for fun during a party. For him, no such thing could happen in 2005 Tuxtla.
What explains these cultural differences? Why do they exist? This is where it started.
Q: What international issue is of greatest interest to you today? Why?
Diego: I’m currently interested in how emerging cities can generate development value through experimentation and the decentralization of innovation.
Inspired by the global movement of open governments, the Lab for the City coined the term Open City to describe an urban environment where the public, social and private sectors collaborate closely, generate and take advantage of data, and engage people in the decision-making processes that affect them.
In the wake of the digital and social science revolutions, the ability of cities to share good practices and policy mistakes could lead to a global developmental leap forward.