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¡Hola! Introducing El Huffington Post

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MADRID - ¡Hola! I'm delighted to announce the launch of El Huffington Post, a partnership with El País that will combine the Huffington Post's signature mix of news, blogging, community, and social engagement with El País's legendary journalistic traditions. El Huffington Post will be rooted in Spanish culture, will be run by Spanish journalists, and, like Spain itself, will have a very distinct personality and its own way of approaching the world. It arrives at a time when the challenges Spain is facing are of great consequence not only to the people of Spain but to all of Europe and the world beyond.

We are thrilled that El Huffington Post's editorial director is Montserrat Domínguez. I met Montserrat (or Montse, as everyone calls her) on a Sunday morning when she interviewed me for two hours on her radio show, A vivir que son dos días on Cadena SER, in Madrid. I loved her right away -- her passion for news and storytelling, her intelligence, her gift for intimacy.

El Huffington Post will be both a journalistic entity and a platform that captures the unique perspectives, voices and spirit of the Spanish people. One reason we are particularly thrilled to partner with PRISA and El País is that they are not only deeply familiar with that spirit, but a core part of it, with their long history of championing democracy and free expression. Together, we'll be telling the stories people care about most -- and, just as important, helping them tell their stories themselves.

And this is a moment crying out for those stories to be told. As Alan Solomont, the U.S. Ambassador to Spain, put it: "Civic participation is not a luxury but a necessity for a healthy democracy." We are committed to having El Huffington Post be part of that civic participation -- the fulfillment of one of the founding goals of HuffPost back in 2005: to take the conversations happening at water coolers and around dinner tables -- about politics and art and books and food and service -- and help bring them online.

Spain is at a crucial moment in its history, engulfed in crisis and facing steep challenges. The country's unemployment rate is 24 percent -- roughly the rate in America during the Great Depression -- and rising to 50 percent among those aged 16 to 24. As Jonathan Blitzer wrote, "this generation is the best qualified in the country's history, yet its members are the first since Spain's civil war to face worse job prospects than their parents."

With Spain's banking system imploding, small and medium-sized businesses are unable to get loans, crippling would-be employers and dashing the hopes of job seekers. And as growing numbers of Spaniards seek opportunities currently unavailable in their own country, the number of them living abroad has reached 23 percent -- which means that Spain is losing out on the creativity, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship of many of its best and brightest.

The crisis led El País to ask "is the sun setting on Spain as a brand?" Which is to say that, in addition to its more tangible difficulties, Spain -- like many European countries, including my native Greece -- is suffering an identity crisis. Though far from being exhausted, Spain's national spirit needs reviving. As Raphael Minder says, "The perception abroad is really no different than that in Spain: optimism is fast disappearing."

Of course, if Spain is "trading low," as El País put it, and its optimism is fast disappearing, that's the perfect time to "bet on good people doing good things," as the American civic advocate John Gardner once said. So while El Huffington Post will report on Spain's deficits, we'll also focus on its surpluses. Because Spain has more innovation, creativity, and empathy right now than it has jobs. As José Ignacio Torreblanca wrote last week in El País, Spain urgently needs to rebuild trust in its institutions. And while this rebuilding process unfolds, people are tapping into their own leadership potential.

We see this commitment to community in the players on champion fútbol team Real Madrid, whose foundation brings athletics and team-building activities to kids and adults alike in poor Madrid neighborhoods. And it can be found in the people of Higuera de la Serena, a tiny village that ran out of money earlier this year. Faced with the prospect of shutting down most of its basic services -- from street cleaning to day care -- village residents gathered and began doing the chores themselves. Each Sunday, a group of 80 or so volunteers comes together to pitch in, followed by a potluck lunch.

At the same time, social entrepreneurs are working to match their abundant spirit of innovation and concern for their fellow citizens with the country's unmet needs. Like Cristóbal Colón, the founder of La Fageda, a Cataluña dairy farm owned and operated by workers with disabilities. And Jerónimo Aguado Martínez, founder of CIFAES-Universidad Rural Paulo Freire, which offers informal education and training to residents of small rural towns -- a crucial investment as Spaniards increasingly move to overcrowded cities. And Antonio García Domínguez, who with AHIGE is helping combat the view that women's equality means a loss of power for men.

El Huffington Post will also celebrate Spain's rich and diverse cultural life, from its architecture, literature and movies to its fútbol clubs, food and music. And in addition to the most important stories, we'll also be covering the most entertaining stories, like King Juan Carlos's elephant hunting mishap or the ban, and then lift of the ban, on soccer players tweeting during Euro 2012. As a platform, El Huffington Post will be the starting place for conversations on all the passions, diversions, and traditions that give Spain its unique identity.

As editorial director, Montserrat Domínguez brings decades of multimedia journalism experience at organizations including Efe News Agency, Canal +, Antena 3, and Tele 5. During the last five years she has been the director and host of "A vivir que son dos días," the leading weekend radio show at Cadena SER. She has written regularly at La Vanguardia as a political contributor, and is vice president of the Spanish section of the European Journalists Association.

Montserrat will work closely with editor-in-chief Guillermo Rodríguez. Formerly editor-in-chief of Público, a daily newspaper, he has also worked at Vocento, the biggest regional media group in Spain, and Baquia.com, a pioneering tech site.

Delia Rodríguez will serve as senior news editor. Formerly editor of SModa.es, a weekly fashion magazine of El País and Conde Nast, her popular blog Trending Topics in El País is a must-read for those interested in digital trends.

As we've worked to bring El Huffington Post to life, it's been a real pleasure getting to know the people behind El País and PRISA, including editor-in-chief Javier Moreno and digital editor Borja Echevarría. And Juan Luis Cebrián, who was the founding editor of El País and is now CEO of PRISA and has become a dear friend (and who, in his post today, brings eloquence and urgency to the question of a Europe that has found itself at an "historic crossroads").

And I want to thank our amazing HuffPost editorial and tech team that's been working tirelessly to prepare for launch: Nicholas Sabloff, Travis Donovan, David Flumenbaum, Elena Haliczer and Philip Moortgat, as well as Jimmy Maymann who's heading our international expansion.

For more than three decades, El País has been a leader in Spanish and international journalism. In 1976, as Spain emerged from Franco's dictatorship, the newly-founded paper found its voice as a champion of democracy under the leadership of José Ortega Spottorno, and in the years that followed established itself as an ethical and stylistic standard bearer. PRISA's influence is felt throughout Spain, and beyond, in multiple ways, through La Escuela de Periodismo, which offers a master's degree in multimedia journalism; the Instituto Cervantes, which promotes the Spanish language and culture around the world; and educational programs like El Paísde los Estudiantes, which helps students use the Internet to create their own newspaper.

Our launch day lineup of bloggers includes Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, secretary general of the Socialist Party, on the importance of confidence and trust in Spain; Esteban González Pons, Popular Party deputy secretary of programs, on how politicians tend to simplify difficult issues; 15M protester Pablo Prieto on how Spaniards can become more involved in democracy; María Blasco, head of the National Center for Cancer Research, weighing in on how hospitals can better tailor cancer treatments to individual patients; hip hop artist El Meswy on the ways music can challenge the status quo; author Francisco Mora on whether our brains are designed for happiness; pediatrician Jesús Martínez on how doctors and parents can improve emergency room care for children; and sports journalist Eduardo Verdú on Spain's fútbol hopes after having won the 2010 World Cup.

We are delighted to invite readers in Spain and Spanish speakers throughout the world -- as well as those who care about Spain's people, issues, and rich culture -- to join the conversation. Your perspectives, your voices, and your spirit have made the launch of El Huffington Post possible, and will be the elements that allow it to thrive in the future. As Montserrat Domínguez writes today in her welcome post, "We believe journalism plays an essential role in spelling out the answers to so many unknowns, and exploring the best ways to lead us to a calmer, more democratic Europe. And we know this is only made possible by winning the confidence of readers every day with news that is courageous, factual, independent and diverse."

So, welcome to El Huffington Post. Please use the comments section to let us know what you think.