THE MEDICINE STUDENT WHO HEARD THE RADIO AND NEVER WENT BACK TO MEDICINE SCHOOL
Brisa Munoz is a journalist based in Cancun. She loves her family, learning about new things and sharing them with others. However, at the age of 19, Brisa was heading towards an entirely different path. She was a medical student in Mexico City, who by chance or destiny hopped into a taxi with her family, on their return from a family holiday in Cancun, and life changed forever.
This is Brisas’s story
Brisa’s family had just returned from Cancun, and her mother had to go back to work that very same day. The taxi driver was listening to a radio contest going on throughout the metropolis. A voice in the distance gave listeners clues, whoever arrived at the right location first would win a mystery prize.
“I know where it is! I know where to go. Can I go?” Brisa asked her mother.
Surprised, her mother agreed, and Brisa headed to the uncoded mystery location thinking she was about to win a funky t-shirt or a cool CD. She was far from guessing that the very same day she would be on a flight to Puerto Rico, to the first international rock concert in Latin and Ibero-America. The only question was, “Do you have a passport?”
The birth of a journalist
“You need many cameras to capture all the gestures and reflections…”
The radio invited Brisa to be behind the scenes during the music festival, as a special guest. It was madness. MTV was in the apogee. There were DJs and musicians everywhere. Radio journalists were making series of interviews, and she was right there, in the eye of the music journalism hurricane. There were so many bands around! Los Lagartos, Los Divididos, El Tri, Fobia, Los Tres, and so many that she had never heard about. Her motto of the week was, “So, what do you do?”
“…but with words, you only need your hand, your memory and to write.”
A journalist placed a microphone in front of her. It was her turn to share with others what her experience as a radio guest was like. Brisa described everything with enthusiasm. Her life had gone from endless hours of reading medical books to a fast paced world that blew her away. Jorge Rugerio, who would later become one of Brisa’s friends said, “You are a natural.”
At the end of the two days, she called her mother waiting at home terrified to say, “I am staying another day.” A phone call she repeated for another five days. The weekend turned into a week. She loved the hype and the buzz of radio journalism, and they loved her. The medical student never returned from that trip. Brisa felt alive for the first time, and a communications science student was born.
Learning how to walk
Her mum said, “I will support you, but I will only support you. I am not going to move a finger to help you. When you set yourself up, I will pay the bus fare.”
School hunting was the least of her new challenges. Brisa had to repeat a whole school year to catch up with the new subjects and pass an exam at UNAM. She failed on her first attempt. She was devastated. Her mum paid for a preparation course to help her prepare for a second attempt. Two years after Puerto Rico changed her life, she passed the exam with the best grade of the year.
“If I spend my time writing that the world is crap, and people in the city are crap my children will believe it. Then, it will be worse…”
Throughout the course, the world of journalism opened even more. Brisa studied TV, cinema, journalism, and loved all of it. Everything was going well, until the 5th semester. Brisa found out she was pregnant, married the father of her child and tried to run a home and study at the same time.
In her 8th month of pregnancy, the political situation in Mexico became unsettling. Eagerly, students made a stand, and the school closed in April for ten months allowing Brisa to be a full-time mother and a wife. Motherhood gave her a new sensibility, and away from the university, she realised she was really good with words.
“…but if I say, there are bad things and good things too. The world will be better.”
Her husband was working at a newspaper, and heard of some friends who needed interns, at the biggest and most impressive newspaper of Mexico. Brisa welcomed the opportunity, after all, she had left the university thinking she knew it all. She was wrong! And the world “ate” her.
Brisa’s bosses, Arturo Rodriguez and Jorge Almazán, were amazing and humble, but they were also tough. They grounded her with the constant, “This is crap, do it again.” They taught her to be a professional independently of the column she worked at and made sure she understood that journalism is a social service, not a way to earn money.
When Brisa turned 25, her relationship ended, and she decided to start again. This time in Cancun. Her professional experience backed her up, and within a week she became an editor at Quequi, a local newspaper. It was her first time working at a regional newspaper, and the difference was overwhelming.
Same job, new challenges
Cancun was about to challenge her principles. Much of what she had learned did not seem to apply anymore. Many interviewees did not want to be interviewed; they wanted to dictate Brisa’s words. In other occasions, locals wanted to be interviewed just to have a five-minute spotlight without a real purpose or collective contribution.
“I learned to write through my eyes but with someone else’s vision.”
Other times, she would head to the streets, find a good story, and hear; “This is not good; this will cause a problem with the local government. Change the perspective.” Brisa felt people needed to know the truth, to learn about society’s mistakes, and to make amendments. Just as much as they needed to know about the good things, and to feel inspired by them. But her efforts were going down the drain.
“That’s my way of having an impact in the world.”
Months later, she opened the newspaper and saw an article she had written, but none of her words. Someone had rewritten her story and left her name on. The following day, she walked through the newspapers’ doors waving the paper in the air, and left saying, “You know what this is over!”
But it was not, not then and not now. Brisa could never stop being a journalist. Over the following decade, she worked in several newspapers, changing jobs every time someone promised her better work conditions. She covered everything from politics to entertainment, economy and tourism. The only section she never worked at was sports.
What does Brisa say to those who dreams of being journalists?
“Do not forget that this is social work. This is a job, this is a vice. You cannot quit. I tried to quit many times because I got sick. In this job, you see the biggest, the most terrible, cruel and infamous things a human being can be. I saw a man after being rescued from a kidnapping, a father who raped a daughter, but I also interviewed people who love the environment more than they love their own life. That marks you forever.
Never forget that the social work you are doing serves to show the next generations how society was when you existed in the world. What people thought, what they did and what they cared about. That’s your job. Prosperity! Talking to people about the past with the vision of the future. Mistakes cannot be repeated, and good things must be highlighted. When you have that clear, everything else will flow. You must be very certain that you can deal with an addiction like this. It’s a very heavy weight to carry, but it’s a weight worth carrying.”
Name: Brisa Munoz
Passion: To inform
Inspiration: Her family and offering a vision that allows them to have a better world