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Media outlets from Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and U.S. bring home 2019 Gabo Awards



In a traditional ceremony that celebrates the best of Ibero-American journalism, the 2019 Gabo Awards were presented on the night of Oct. 3 during the Gabo Festival held in Medellín, Colombia.

Reports published in media in Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and the United States were selected as the best in the categories of Text, Coverage, Innovation and Image from 1,730 applications and 12 finalists.

The report “La sangre nunca fue amarilla” (The blood was never yellow), by Mónica Baró Sánchez and published on the site Periodismo de Barrio, was the winner in the Text category. The article, which entailed two years of reporting, is about a case of poisoning in a neighborhood in Havana that, despite having started in the 50s, only started gaining attention in late 2006.

"It is a submission with a narrative pulse that recovers and claims the right of the journalist to invest time in her story, in times when we have lost this quality, subjected to metrics and productivity examined with a magnifying glass," the Gabo Awards jury said. “The text presents an overlay of images that reveal the dimension of an environmental and health disaster, while not forgetting to recreate the streets of Havana, thus offering a complete postcard of the island, without accentuating the drama of countries subjected to the bureaucracy and the constant siege of press freedom.”

Upon receiving her award, Baró thanked the organization "for highlighting, with this award, that we are also doing independent and quality journalism in Cuba."

A report that took a year and a half of work from a group of independent journalists in Mexico won in the Coverage category: “El país de las dos mil fosas” (The country of two thousand graves), published in A dónde van los desaparecidos (Where did the disappeared go) by Quinto Elemento Lab.

The “unprecedented” investigation, according to the award, shows the magnitude of clandestine graves in Mexico between 2006 and 2016 within the framework of a state strategy called “The war on drugs.” The group of journalists identified a lack of reliable information on the findings of these graves and bodies.

“Thus they uncover for the world a reality that was hidden underground, dissolved in acid, charred, thrown into the rivers, and that refers to the worst moments that humanity has lived. Journalism thus fulfills the functions that the public power has not wanted or does know how to fulfill, and on the contrary, it has tried to cover up,” the jury determined. “This work allows thousands of relatives of disappeared persons who are looking for their loved ones to have some information to be able to find them. It allows them to claim justice.”

“Telling stories is no longer enough. It is necessary to help understand the horror and avoid forgetting,” said Marcela Turati, one of the journalists who coordinated the work, upon receiving the award. "This work is an effort to prevent those killed by violence from simply being figures."

Together with Turati, Alejandra Guillén, Mago Torres, David Eads, Erika Lozano, Paloma Robles, Aranzazú Ayala, Alejandra Xanic, Mónica González Islas, Gilberto Lastra, Mayra Torres, Juan Carlos Solís, Ana Ivonne Cedillo, Gabriela De la Rosa, Sandra Ley, Pedro Pardo, Félix Márquez, Queso Rayones and Rafael del Río worked on the investigation.

The project “Mujeres en la vitrina, migración en manos de la trata – zonadivas.info” (Women in the showcase, migration in the hands of trafficking - zonadivas.info) carried out by the media outlets Pie de Página, Fusión and Enjambre Digital - from Mexico - and El Pitazo, TalCual and Runrunes – from Venezuela – won the prize in the Innovation category.

The investigation is about the trafficking of women in Mexico and Venezuela whose starting point was the murder of women of Venezuelan, Argentine and Mexican origin who were involved in the zonadivas.com site. According to the award, sites such as this "have benefited from the vulnerability of migrant women to co-opt them into trafficking networks." After the investigation it was revealed that the cases of the murdered and disappeared women were related to Zonas Divas.

For illustrative purposes, the investigation took the aforementioned site as a reference and created zonadivas.info, which maintains the graphic style as well as the information of the profiles that were there. Currently, the original site is offline, but similar ones still work.

"Women in the showcase, migration in the hands of trafficking stands out for the choice of a bold, surprising and very relevant format to tell the scheme of trafficking and murder of poor women in Latin America," the jury said. “The use of an interface that emulates one of the main prostitution sites in the region – designed to stimulate the desire of clients – forces a contrast with the tragic stories revealed by this investigative work, disturbing and attracting the attention of the audience and showing that the experimentation was one of the team's bets.”

“The story is very strong. Raising the voice for all those women who migrate and suffer from abuse and violence,” said Mónica González Islas, from Mexico.

Along with her, the winners included César Batiz (Venezuela), Jaled Abdelrahim Aranda (Spain), Fernando Santillán (Mexico), Jacobo Nájera (Mexico), Lydiette Carrión (Mexico), Sheyla Urdaneta (Venezuela), Gloria Betsabe Piña (Mexico), Marco Antonio Gutiérrez (Mexico), Landybel Pérez (Mexico), Alfredo Domínguez (Mexico), Amit Dorenbaum (Mexico), Mario Báez (Mexico), Diego Aguilar (Mexico), Héctor Cárdenas (Mexico), Marco Jasso (Mexico), Hugo Muñoz (Mexico), Edgar Villeda (Mexico), Tatiana Cañón (Colombia), Aida Quintanar (Mexico), Beatriz Vernon (Mexico), Alejandro Elizondo (Mexico), Alejandro Meléndez (Mexico), Javier García (Mexico), Liz Gascón (Venezuela), Nadeska Noriega (Venezuela), Lorena Bornacelly (Venezuela), Alma Ariza (Venezuela), Elsy Torres (Venezuela), Andrea Tosta (Venezuela), Gabriel Batiz (Venezuela), Christian Mijares (Venezuela), Claudia Lizardo (Venezuela), Christopher Colmenares (Venezuela), Marian Piñango (Venezuela) and Alexis Navarro (Venezuela).

The 42-minute bilingual and documentary multimedia special “America First: The legacy of an immigration raid,” published by Univision (United States), won in the Image category.

Following one of the biggest raids in the history of the United States that occurred 10 years ago in a town in the state of Iowa, the project aims to contextualize the increase in arrests of undocumented people and raids carried out by the government of Donald Trump.

That raid deported 389 migrants, mostly Guatemalans. The journalistic team worked for six months to see if, in effect, the objective of this policy is met, that is, that the jobs went to Americans. In the specific case of this town, the meat company went bankrupt, the positions left by the migrants could never be filled, and the situation could only be mitigated when Somali refugees arrived “making it an even more immigrant town than it was 10 years ago.”

The ability of this work to take its narrative progression to a final point must be specifically highlighted, demonstrating, based on eleven years of history, the result of the fight against immigration, that is, the damage to the U.S. economy and the inability to eliminate both legal and clandestine immigrants,” the jury said.

"We dedicate this award to the residents of Postville, Iowa, a divided and restored community that managed to fight to restore the economy of its people," said Almudena Toral, of Spain, during the awards.

The others behind the project included Andrea Patiño Contreras (Colombia), Mauricio Rodríguez Pons (Venezuela), Gerardo del Valle (Guatemala), Ronny Rojas (Costa Rica), Juanje Gomez (Spain), Ricardo Weibezahn (Venezuela), Anna Clare Spelman (U.S.), Nacho Corbella (Argentina), José F. López (Colombia) and Selymar Colón (Puerto Rico).

During the ceremony two additional prizes were also awarded. The Recognition for Journalistic Excellence went to the Colombian photojournalist Jesús Abad Colorado. For more than 25 years, Colorado has portrayed the faces of that country's armed conflict.

"The open and pluralistic look of his photography, which has led him to becoming a witness of the recent and painful history of the country [Colombia], through snapshots that portray the actors, moments, places and historical events of the armed conflict," the Governing Council of the Gabo Foundation said in the judging record, regarding its selection.

The Clemente Manuel Zabala Recognition, which is given to an exemplary Colombian editor, was awarded to Luis Enrique Rodríguez, director of the alternate service of Caracol Radio.

The Gabo Festival is held annually for three days in Medellín, Colombia. This edition ended on Oct. 4.



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