Interview with Begoñia Pecharromán: Host of Jane Jacobs Walk in Donostia, Spain

1.    What is your relation to Jane Jacobs Walks?

We knew Jane Jacobs’ biography and her work, and we thought that she was a very interesting professional to learn from so we wanted to share her concepts and teachings with more women in Donostia-San Sebastian. In our group, Foro de las Mujeres y la Ciudad (Women and City Forum), we work in different lines to recognize women’s contribution to the cities and villages.

2.    Why were you interested in hosting a walk in Donostia, Spain, and what was the goal?

In Donostia there have been a few groups and associations that have hosted Jane Jacobs’s walks for the last two years. Our Forum hosted one last year in order to know the women’s contribution in Donostia. We wanted to carry on hosting the walks to pay special attention to subjects related to women that normally are hidden and veiled, but fundamental for people’s life in cities. We try to promote urban planning through the community participation. This is why we try to share Jane Jacobs’ life with more people—especially women.

3.    What is the contrast between women and women’s jobs in the 50’s compared to now in Spain?

We learned about jobs women did in Donostia at that time and we felt very privileged to have the women that lived in those years tell their personal story and share their testimonies.  There are a few differences. For instance, many jobs have disappeared because clothing manufacturers took over in our societies and we do mostly purchase clothes instead of making them by hand. Therefore dressmakers have no chance to work the way they did then. Fishing is also a way of earning an income that has almost disappeared, so the net menders have not been able to work. This shows a fundamental change. Another issue that we learned is that working conditions have changed for better, for people used to work very long hours for very low wages. On the other hand, benefits of working in the 50’s were that there were more jobs, and more chances of entering the workplace as an apprentice to learn the profession through experience.

4.    Do you have any stories from the walk, specifically with the women mentioned?

It was a great encounter to meet women of the different ages and share stories that showed how life was then. All of them could tell us many stories of how life was tough, but they showed solidarity throughout that time.

5.    What is Women and City Forum and what is your role there?

It is a group of women that have been working since 1996 to research, to reflect, and to share knowledge about the future cities, taking into account the women’s perspective and the human beings’ basic needs.  

6.    What are your hopes for the future of Donostia with regards to Jane Jacobs Walks?

We hope to organize one every year and have more and more people coming to the walks.

7.    What are your goals when you host a Jane Jacobs Walk for the participants?

We have three goals for our participants: to know Jane Jacobs trajectory, to promote activities to build and maintain the sense of community, and to recognize the women’s contribution in cities.

8.    Anything else you would like to add?

It would be good to know more groups that do Jane Jacobs walk around the world and share experiences.

Explanation about the forum in Spanish

Walk in Donostia

We want to give a huge thanks to Begoñia for doing this interview, as well as her contribution to Jane Jacobs Walks in Spain, Women and City Forum, and her community.

Interview With Afshin Edjlali-Host of Jane Jacobs Walks in Tabriz, Iran

Photo Courtesy of Afshin Edjlali

Photo Courtesy of Afshin Edjlali

1.    What is your relation to Jane Jacobs Walks?

I am a civil engineer, with M.Sc of structural engineering and I am working in "SUNGUN" copper mine as a civil engineer. I am interested in cultural discussions about my city and I am publishing a monthly magazine (attached to a newspaper) about construction industry. I was introduced to Jane Jacobs by one of my friends who is an architect. She knew that I am interested in walking in my city and in cultural topics.

2.    Why were you interested in hosting a walk in Tabriz?

There are some places all over the world that are known to all people and there is no need for more explanations, but in Iran and in my area (East azarbaijan province) the people should know and see more. I had a trip to Malaysia with my wife two and a half years ago and I went to the "BATU" cave, which is a very famous place in Malaysia. In Iran, the East Azarbaijan province is full of beautiful mountains and natural phenomena’s that no one knows around the world. I want to show those places to the world.

Photo Courtesy of Afshin Edjlali

Photo Courtesy of Afshin Edjlali

3.   Could you describe the walk in detail, as well as some of the photos and what they represent? 

Because of the international media, people think some strange things about Iran that just aren’t true. There are some difficulties. Women must be covered, and some habits are not accepted, but the life is going on in its normal way. The photos show that a normal stream of life is carrying on. But my goal for the walk was to show how the history of a region is being erased, and the photos are the best way to show that.

4.    What are your hopes for the future of Tabriz with regards to Jane Jacobs Walks?

When foreign tourists come to Iran they just travel to places like Isfahan and Shiraz. I wanted to say that there are more beautiful places to see, to walk, to enjoy.

5.    What are your goals when you host a Jane Jacobs Walk for the participants?

I want the walker to not only enjoy the walk, but also the architecture, the history, the delicious food, the climate, and the whole city.

6.    Anything else you would like to add?

I like walking around historical regions and I accept Jane's idea about relation between walking and soul of cities. Because of my job and my economical condition I cannot travel to many different countries, but I can invite people to share the joy of walking in Tabriz.

We want to give a huge thanks to Afshin for doing this interview, as well as his contribution to Jane Jacobs Walks in Iran.

If your interested in seeing the walk that Afshin did back in June, here is the link:

Walk in Tabriz

Interview With Ron Pesch—Longtime Host of Jane Jacobs Walks in Muskegon, Michigan

Ron Pesch.

Ron Pesch.

What is your relation to Jane Jacobs Walks?

Well I’m actually in IT for a living, and I do historical research as well. I started doing the walks around the neighborhood about 20 years ago through the International Buster Keaton Society. It was actually my son who introduced me to Jane Jacobs and her writings when he went off to college to study architecture and urban planning. So then I started reading her books, and when he showed me the Jane Jacobs Walk website, I started registering my walks. 


Can you explain your walk a little more? Who is Buster Keaton, what is the Actor’s Colony?

Buster Keaton was a silent film comedian in the early 1900’s. He got his start in entertainment as a young kid in the family vaudeville act. Then his father discovered Muskegon and decided he would move his family during vaudeville’s off-season, but he also saw an opportunity for real estate in Muskegon. It was the first place where Buster was actually able to be a kid and enjoy his summers. The Actor’s Colony they created there was his community—a place for them to create and test out acts. They would have a bunch of fun in the summer at Muskegon, going out on the water, testing out acts at a theatre. Then when winter came they would go back on the road doing acts all over the U.S. When Buster started doing movies in Hollywood he would go back to Muskegon and show his family around because, even though he wasn’t born there, Muskegon was the place he always considered his home. So on the walk I show people sites related to Keaton and the Actor’s Colony, including a historical marker and a street named after Keaton. We usually spend about two hours pointing out where everything used to be and showing people something they might not have known about their neighborhood. The amusement park and the old theatre are long gone, as well as Buster Keaton’s family cottage, but there’s still a lot of history to show people. There’s a baseball field where Buster Keaton fell in love with the game. During his Hollywood days, if he couldn’t come up with some material for a film, he and the crew would go out and play a game of baseball.


Is that your goal for the participants of the walk, that they will see something new and learn something about their neighborhood that they never knew before?

Yeah, my goal is to point out something that someone doesn’t normally see in his or her familiar surroundings, and give them tidbits of local history that a lot of people might not know. Then when the convention on Keaton comes around in October I get to show people from all around the world the neighborhood that they’ve read about in history books on Keaton.


What is your interest in Buster Keaton, how did you come to know so much about his past?

Well when I was a kid I never really watched any silent films. I occasionally saw the Three Stooges or a Charlie Chaplin movie, but I had only seen one film of Keaton’s called The General. Then someone told me that a silent actor grew up in Muskegon, and it turned out to be Keaton. When I got older I thought that was interesting so I started doing research on him. I started to become the local history expert on Keaton, and I found out his third wife was still alive and living in California. I was working for a company that had a lot of phone books at the time, so I got in touch with her, and ended up visiting her in California where she gave me photos and lots of information on Keaton. I’m always a firm believer to never be afraid to call or ask, because you never know where it might lead you.

By this time I was known around town as the local historian on Keaton, which is why a woman from New Jersey called me to tell me she was starting a Buster Keaton fan club, and when it got big enough she would like to have a convention in Muskegon every year, and she asked me if I would like to join, and I said sure. That’s when she said, “congratulations, you are now our 7th member.” Since then we’ve had 21 conventions and I’ve hosted around 45 walks. The 22nd convention is scheduled for this October.

Anything else you would like to add?

Just that Keaton is an inspiration to a whole host of people from Johnny Depp and Jackie Chan, to many of the folks at Pixar, and even though he was born in Kansas, he called Muskegon his home. I just love sharing that information with people, as well as checking out cities that I visit, and sharing Jane’s mission. In the summer I host about one walk a month, and it’s so important to get people outside and show them the value of walkability. 

Muskegon, MI: Buster Keaton and the Muskegon Actors' Colony

We want to give a huge thanks to Ron for his continued interest in Jane Jacobs Walk, and the contribution he has made to her mission as well as his community for many years in Muskegon.