Spain: leaving crisis behind to find 'happiness' in and of Latin America

Article published on Oct. 17, 2011
Article published on Oct. 17, 2011
Valencian-born Ainara Aparici, who has lived in Italy and the US, has been travelling Latin America since March 2010 and has directed a documentary. She says the continent has much to teach us about things that we often overlook and forget about Ainara, why search for ‘happiness in the world’?

Ainara Aparici: Where we come from (in Europe), personal dissatisfaction is often a daily occurrence. Stress, anxiety or depression are common in our western societies which supposedly have it all. We are at a critical moment in time when there is so much emphasis on what direction your life is going in - to live well, or to be happy?

Some years ago, I discovered various studies such as those which were carried out by the UK-based think tank New Economics Foundation about the rates of well-being. These showed that the measurement of happiness could be variable. The conventional ones, based on economic income, do not necessarily reflect people’s happiness. Some studies revealed something that I also perceived on a small scale; that many of the happiest countries in the world were found in Latin America. This was fascinating considering all of the negative information we usually hear about this part of the world. My curiosity was too much for me. I started my own search for these happy people to see how they live and what philosophy of life they live by. I spent a few months crossing central and southern Latin America, passing through Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, moving swiftly southwards on the search for the stories that are never told: the stories of happy people. How are you telling these stories?

Ainara Aparici: Since the beginning of the investigation a blog has been tracking the process and is updated weekly. It is about sharing the whole process of the investigation, as well as the things which happen to me, so that in some way, everyone who reads it can learn something from what I myself have learnt. We will soon have a website, which will enable anyone who wants to share their happiness to do so with their own videos. And we hear a film is in the pipeline?

Ainara Aparici: Sometimes it is important to reflect on our own lives and see if what we are searching for is really what is good for us because we can be looking in the other direction. I am putting all of my efforts into the production of a documentary called Happiness in the World, which will show different alternatives to life, people who have been able to find their own path and who have found real success, away from materialistic tendencies that blind our small yet pompous world. I want to show that happiness is a varied concept. Contrary to what we think, personal satisfaction is right at our fingertips but we must know how to see and appreciate it. Revealing some stories of happy people will perhaps awaken something similar in our own lives. Your blog, in English and Spanish, is full of hopeful stories of people you have met along the way. How would you define happiness now?

Ainara Aparici: This journey is an opportunity to demonstrate that not all preconceptions and prejudices are right. It also shows that not everything the media tell us about a place in all its dimension. It shows that the world is actually full of wonderful people who will always be ready to lend a hand if given the opportunity. For more than a year now, I have been taken care of by complete strangers who have opened their homes and their lives to me in return for nothing more than knowing that they are helping someone. I believe that this is more common in human nature than we think.

Nowadays, nothing makes me happier than having an experience like this, to be able to share with people from different places and to discover that really, we are not so different. Happiness is when someone does what they chose to do and shares it with others. However, happiness can be anything at different moments in our lives and something different for every person whatever their circumstances may be. It is precisely this which is key, in that there is not just one way of defining it or finding it or living it. There is not just one route to happiness; in fact there are many, many different ‘happinesses’.

Images: main (cc) adam_jones/ Flickr; in-text ©  Las Felicidades del Mundo; vídeo: (cc) araniaproductions/ Youtube