Weed, Shantytowns And Conservatism With Viral YouTuber Mauro Albarracín: ‘Working-Class Suburbs Are Not A Jungle’

Shantytowns, mountains of garbage, dilapidated trains, drug-ravaged American cities, neighborhood fairs, the war front in Ukraine, the Chernobyl nuclear plant: wherever he goes, Mauro Albarracín sees beauty. “Many people are very biased. They think that only are white picket fence neighborhoods, somewhere where Jimmy Neutron could’ve grown up, are beautiful. But that’s not the case. There’s beauty elsewhere. And that’s what I search for: I strive to find lights and shadows. Shantytowns can sometimes be beautiful, understanding the structure and the culture, why they turned out that way, everything has an explanation,” he says in an exclusive interview.

Indeed, Mauro defines himself as “a non-hegemonic guy.” In his own words: “I think I have a particular beauty. Sure, I like blue-eyed blondes, but I like other types of women too. You know what I mean?”

With an unwavering mission to uncover and document the authenticity of human experiences in diverse environments, Mauro, also known as “Lesa” on YouTube or simply “Maurito” to those who hold him dear despite not knowing him personally, has resonated with a vast and diverse audience, from the lower neighborhoods to the most affluent sectors of Latin America.

His YouTube channel has become a digital space where viewers can explore the lesser-known facets of life in the suburban belt of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and other intriguing places Mauro decides to visit. Through his lens, the reporter has discovered and shared suburban stories that many might have overlooked, but contain an essence and a reality that’s impossible to ignore. Mauro’s journey on YouTube has not only earned him a loyal legion of followers but has also captured the world’s attention, racking up approximately 100 million views on his channel. His ability to connect with people, unearth unique stories, and present them in a human and authentic manner has solidified his place as a relevant digital storyteller in the contemporary era.

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But make no mistake, what Mauro does is not “poverty porn.” Nope. Unlike mainstream news that often shows drug-dealing spots, trap houses or delinquency in the lower neighborhoods, his search is oriented towards a different nature. He roams the neighborhoods “without stigma” because he’s “from there”, from La Matanza, “a native of perhaps the most stigmatized sector of Buenos Aires.”

And he adds: “I always felt a strongly identified with it. Consuming so much television, I noticed how the place was often labeled: as a crime den, a breeding ground for the lazy, for drug traffickers. I always wanted to change that view. By showing what I show, I want to demonstrate that the suburban belt is not a jungle, that there are also dreams, that people also want to be happy, to have fun, to grow, to improve their situation. It’s not that they live this way because they like it, right? And that’s perfectly fine too. People try to be happier there than in other places.”

The B-Side Of A Class-A Guy

The vision Mauro has of the neighborhoods and their portrayal in the media is a perspective that resonates with many. “People like the forbidden, the B-side of things, delinquency, the darkness. So, I believe that’s valuable terrain,” he confesses, with a tone laden with both resignation and understanding. Mauro consciously distances himself from the sensationalist tendency that often prevails in the media, a choice that speaks to his integrity as a creator.

In Argentina, he refuses to follow the current that seeks to exhibit “the harshest, the bad, the darkest sides of society.” This honesty that characterizes him reveals his conflict: to present a positive and real image of the neighborhoods without succumbing to the thirst for the morbid. “I can be praised for showing the good side, but there are also those who enjoy seeing the darker aspect,” he adds, exposing the dichotomy between his vision and popular demand.

“Let’s not fool ourselves, we like to consume that, otherwise, the numbers wouldn’t be so high,” Mauro argues, aware of the complexity of the issue. Despite acknowledging this taste for the forbidden, his aspiration is clear: to show “the cool side of Argentina, the side of those neighborhoods” that is so often ignored by the media.

The impact of his work does not take long to manifest. The reactions from the public confirm that his approach has changed perceptions: “I thought it was a jungle. I never left the Capital City, I thought the outskirts were a jungle. And the truth is that through your videos I realize that is not the case, and it makes me proud.” It’s proof that, beyond the numbers, what really matters is the mark he leaves on people, the ability to challenge stereotypes and open minds.

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Therefore, Mauro stands firm in his role as a storyteller, conscious of the influence he wields and the line he chooses not to cross. His content is more than entertainment: it is a personal mission to present a multifaceted reality, one that does not fall into simplification or the exploitation of the negative and always nests in the goal of building bridges and generating pride.

Is YouTube A Good Money-Maker?

Mauro turns his passion for communication into vibrant content for YouTube’s vast audience. His arrival on this stage was not a stroke of luck, but the result of a passion rooted in his childhood and a natural ability to detect what attracts people. “I’ve always liked communication. And I was one of the last kids in school to get the internet, in 2011,” Mauro shares with disarming honesty. “That was bad for me, but at the same time it was good because it made me love television, it was my entertainment.” This early attraction to the small screen provided him with an intuitive understanding of what people seek and enjoy both online and off.

His encounter with college life was brief and unfruitful; this led him to discover YouTube as the perfect space to unleash his creativity. “I tried to study journalism academically, a degree in social communication. I didn’t like it,” he recalls with that transparency that’s so characteristic of him. His success has been no accident, but the result of his constant effort and a deep understanding of how YouTube works. “Every content creator’s dream is to go viral one day, something that today seems easier with TikTok. But back in 2017, it was very complicated,” he reflects on the challenges he faced in the beginning.

When one of his videos suddenly went viral, Mauro understood the value of his unique point of view. “My first viral hit: an electric bus… And then a hot dog that was like a meter [3.3 feet] long. That’s when I realized that the suburban identity was something that paid off a lot. The suburban identity was a flag that wasn’t being raised, and I went for it… street fairs, neighborhoods, shantytowns, particular places, and particular characters from the suburbs. I earned that suburban identity,” he narrates with infectious energy. His content, though varied, has always been guided by the authenticity of the stories he tells.

Mauro sees YouTube not only as a means to make a living but as a true field for storytelling. With curiosity as his compass, he has become a digital storyteller, someone who knows that the authenticity and rawness of life are essential to connecting with his audience. His approach sets him apart from many others: he’s not just a YouTuber, he’s a communicator at heart, a narrator of real stories, who has found in YouTube the perfect medium to share his view of the world.

Entrepreneurial Counter-Culture: Mauro’s Grow Shop

As the conversation delves deeper, Mauro enthusiastically plunges into the topic of cannabis, displaying the same sharpness and fervor that distinguish him when speaking of the neighborhoods he loves and their inhabitants. He reveals his moderate use of cannabis with a perceptible smile in his voice: “I smoke very little weed, and often brick weed… well, it’s relative. But I smoke half a joint every three days.” His relationship with marijuana seems as natural as the Argentine custom of drinking mate. He shares openly: “Look, I drink mate as I smoke weed. Give me a mate cup, any kind of yerba mate, and I drink it. Brick weed… give me that; it always hits the spot.”

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Contrary to the stereotype that paints the cannabis user as unproductive, Mauro challenges this notion: “Weed makes some people more productive. Not me, that’s why I only smoke a joint a week, but for my friend, Augusto, who has a very scattered mind, it helps him focus more. So, it has a different effect on everyone. You have to know yourself. But it doesn’t make everyone less productive.”

Furthermore, Mauro considers cannabis not only from the perspective of his personal experience but also as a promising economic possibility. With conviction, he asserts: “Legalization would generate legitimate jobs and I feel like Argentina could produce some of the best marijuana in the world,” envisioning a prosperous industry on South American soil. “I’m not going to be hypocritical and talk about medicinal effects that I don’t know for sure. But being somewhat conservative, I can tell you ‘here’s the money.’ Then, if a top soccer player like De Paul appears on TV promoting a CBD cream, I have no idea what to make of it. Or if it once helped me with sciatica pain… that’s anecdotal.”

Indeed, Mauro has identified in this beautiful plant a business opportunity. “Tellman Grow Shop, which belongs to my friend Augusto Tellman – and I’m a shareholder, is an online grow shop, the ‘the people’s ‘grow shop’, we call it, because it teaches you how to grow your own, it educates you and delivers the product to your doorstep. The grow shop provides you with the supplies to start growing both indoors and outdoors. My friend wanted to start a business and couldn’t find financing. I put in a small investment.”

The money came, unsurprisingly, from his success on YouTube. Here, Mauro takes a second to explain his advertising strategy: “I helped him and said, ‘Look, I’ll be a shareholder and I can promise you this money and constant free advertising because people don’t buy a product because it’s better or worse. People buy depending on whether the seller is cool. They don’t say ‘This is sugar.’ They say ‘It’s Messi’s sugar. I want Messi’s sugar.’ And some might argue that another brand of sugar is cheaper and better. But people don’t care, they want Messi’s sugar… So let’s create a character, I tell him [Augusto]. You’re a great guy, you’re the oracle of Lanús [a jurisdiction in Buenos Aires], you’re the Rasputin of Lanús, you’re very particular. People will want to buy from you and besides you’re a born weed enthusiast and you’ve cut your teeth in California. You have your laurels and we can sell that.”

Mauro recounts the business’ success with satisfaction: “As a result, I saw a business opportunity and the truth is that it’s working. I mean, my friend lives off Tellman Grow… I even help unload the bags of substrate or soil or whatever it’s called when the truck arrives. I don’t know what it is, but I do know how my body aches afterwards. Today Augusto is living off the grow shop and for me, it’s a pleasure because he’s a very valuable person who doesn’t have to work a 9-to-5 job to live. He can manage his time, help me make videos that I have to go and shoot. Or wanting to meet up with him to hang out and for him to be free… It’s a win-win, dude, and that makes me happy.”

As has become clear, Mauro’s preferences are certainly unusual. Brick weed, the well-known “Paraguayan,” is exquisite to him. He evokes with a nostalgic tone a Paraguayan joint smoked in its country of origin, recalling that “special flavor” that makes it distinctive. He also criticizes consumers who are overly rigid, the marijuana snobs: “I can’t stand the weed purist,” he says, expressing his disdain for those who get lost in elitisms, even in something as enjoyable and relaxing as cannabis consumption.

The conversation takes a serious turn when the topic of legalization is broached. Mauro is decisive: “I think it should be completely legal, without restrictions.” This resolute stance comes from his experiences in New York and Amsterdam, cities where marijuana is legal. He advocates for a sincerity and social awareness that accepts regular cannabis consumption and accompanies it with educational campaigns that highlight both its risks and benefits.

Speaking of his younger brother, Mauro displays a brotherly care mixed with pragmatism: “I recommend starting to smoke after the age of 18. Even then, I’d start with cannabis that has low levels of THC. Maybe that’s where brick weed comes in handy.”

To wrap up the topic of weed, Mauro delves into the realm of the hypothetical and personal wishes. Faced with the question about the joint rotation of his dreams, the reporter responds with vigor: “Diegote. Diego Maradona, the legendary soccer player, is the GOAT. And I won’t compare him to Messi. I like them both. But Diego… the stories he could tell, the things that will never be told. Diegote in Cuba. That’s where I would want to go.” Yet he quickly surprises with an unexpected turn: “And Berlusconi too. Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister… because he conceived of life the way I like it: partying, money, power, being conservative… I like that.”

Thus, Maurito, with that unique mix of realism and idealism, of the street and dreams, gives us a glimpse into another facet of his world, a world where cannabis has its place, without prejudice or taboos, as just another element of culture and everyday life.

His Trips To America: Between Wonder And Disenchantment

Mauro narrates his journeys through the United States with unvarnished transparency, maintaining his sharp sense of observation. “I went twice this year, to Miami, New York, and Philadelphia. The experience was incredible,” he shares, allowing us a glimpse into his enthusiasm for these urban environments so different from his usual backdrop. However, he clarifies that his fascination does not stem from a desire to lay down roots there. “I love the United States, but I wouldn’t love living there. Not a chance. It’s a mess, a total lack of mental health awareness, sheer consumerism,” he declares with a frankness that is both startling and illustrative of his stance.

With the discernment that characterizes him, Mauro perceives the United States as a “trashy first world,” a blend of advancement and disarray that cannot be overlooked. Although he acknowledges that “the United States is a necessary evil because it allows all of us in the Western World to live in freedom,” he does not hide his dissatisfaction with certain traits of American society.

Circling back on YouTube, Mauro is aware of the influence and dominance the United States has over this platform. “What YouTube has is that it was the first to monetize, with the best system of all social networks. It’s very simple to meet certain criteria and start earning money,” he notes, demonstrating his understanding of the mechanism. Yet his outlook remains deeply rooted in Argentina: “Argentina is a world apart. First, because it’s money that comes from Google, from the United States, and you know that bringing dollars into Argentina is tricky.”

Thus, Mauro provides us with a heterogeneous portrait of the United States, a country that inspires as much fascination as it does rejection, that plays a central role in the digital economy of his career, and that, at the same time, embodies a culture and values with which he does not fully align. His foray into the northern part of the continent adds to the collection of experiences that shape his worldview, a vision he shares with us through his characteristic critical and deeply personal lens.

‘A YouTuber Forever:’ Mauro Contemplates His Future

In a moment of introspection about his trajectory and what fate holds, Mauro confides in us a revealing dialogue with a friend that made him reconsider the permanence of his role on YouTube. “A friend said to me: ‘Do you realize you’re going to be a YouTuber forever?’ It wasn’t a malicious comment, but it made me think. At first, I saw it positively, I thought, ‘How great would it be to be a YouTuber for life, to make a living making videos? That would be ideal.’ But then, certain fears began to surface. Nonetheless, in the near future, I plan to continue traveling the world, seeking out unusual corners or places that excite and arouse me, like conflict zones, and marginal neighborhoods. I want to go only to places that deeply move me. That is my philosophy. Nothing attracts me less than the monotony of drinking juice at a park.”

In his words, we sense a creator facing the vastness of the unknown, with the firm purpose of following the path marked by his fervor.

As he speaks of his ventures and future investments, Mauro becomes reflective about his abilities and ambitions. “I admire a boxer who recognizes he’s bad at business and prefers to leave it in the hands of others. I identify with that. I’m usually not the best at business; I will continue to create content, sticking to the rule of spending less than I earn. If a business opportunity arises, I’ll explore it, but I don’t aspire to amass a fortune. That’s the valuable part. In Argentina, humility is imposed by scarcity, though sometimes we believe we are more than we are. I would like to diversify, but business is not my forte.” Here, Mauro shows vulnerability, revealing a creator who values genuineness and passion for his work over the accumulation of wealth.

He finishes by leaving us with a profound thought on life and the importance of taking action. “The American dream, the South American dream, or whatever you call it, is inspiring because it encourages action. Meritocracy seems like a myth to me since not everyone starts from the same place. But it’s crucial to do things. Avoid ideologies that seek enemies: better to listen and make more friends than enemies. That’s my philosophy. And act, just act. My advice is simple: do things. In this world, there are a lot of people, but few who really act. If you act, you already stand out enormously. So act, be persistent, don’t constantly complain and don’t take things personally. That’s my message: celebrate your achievements. Thinking about death gives me peace. I swear, I think… ‘if I die, I’ve lived a great life.’ There’s no room for complaints. Not everything is possible in life, that’s true. But celebrate every moment, enjoy it.”

Mauro also reflects on the influence of social networks in our lives, offering a balanced piece of advice as a conclusion: “Don’t get obsessed. Use social networks, but don’t give them more importance than they deserve. It’s fine to be connected, but it’s also essential to live your life, to go out, to interact. That’s also fundamental. By going out and exploring, you’re already living a different experience.”

With this thought, he urges us to find balance, to not fade into virtuality, and to remember the importance of living in the present and in the tangible world.

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