I was excited to meet Wendy Brawer, founder/director of the Green Map System, in late November in New York City. As an intern I am tasked with fun responsibilities like helping with Park2Park walks and tabling at events. I am also given routine tasks like editing spreadsheets and working on the behind the scenes aspects of the Green Map. I can only wonder what it must be like to create a map without our modern day technology such as Excel. Through Wendy, I learned that there is a large group of Cuban mapmakers who have been doing exactly that, mapping by hand for 15 years.
Wendy had recently returned from a trip to Cuba, to attend a Mapa Verde en Cuba event, a gathering of 40 adult volunteers who had a passion for giving back to their communities through map work. When I asked Wendy why she thought that these volunteers had decided to participate in the event she told me that they all wanted to be part of a positive effort in their own communities. They also believed that this would be one of the few ways that as citizens they could contribute to improving their environment, due to the strong influence the government still has over people in Cuba. The environmental lens used and the peaceful nature of the Green Mapping process allows the mapmakers to pinpoint problems without incurring criticism from the government.
Hearing Wendy discuss how, as a tourist, she used a Green Map lens to explore Cuba really reminded me of when I first began my internship at BGM in September 2015, the same month I moved to Baltimore. Learning about Baltimore through the icons highlighted on the Jones Falls Trail Map allowed me to become acquainted with certain aspects of the city that I normally would not have discovered, such as the many farmers markets, The Book Thing, and public art spaces.
The maps created by the Cuban participants are very different from the way we at BGM create our maps. Many of the documents were on poster paper with drawings or outlines of the areas and dots to indicate important locations. This is very low tech compared to what we’re used to, interactive maps with icons and special features or sophisticated printed maps. The art of mapping can be wide ranging no matter what one’s access to resources are, as proven by the work done by the green maps in Cuba.
To learn more about Wendy’s trip, check out the Green Map System’s very own blog post and slideshow of pictures: http://www.greenmap.org/greenhouse/en/node/26256.
by Simone Robbennelt, BGM intern