Reports from Cuba, Mexico, Colombia and Honduras win 2017 Gabriel García Márquez Journalism Awards

The Gabriel García Márquez Journalism Festival in Medellín, Colombia recognized four Latin American journalism reporting projects from Cuba, Mexico, Colombia and Honduras on Sept. 29 as part of the 2017 Gabo Awards.

The winners in the categories of Text, Image, Coverage and Innovation were selected from 1,383 entries and 12 finalists as the best journalistic works from Ibero-America in the last year.

The winner in the text category was “Historia de un paria” (History of a Pariah) by Jorge Carrasco of El Estornudo, an independent magazine concentrating on narrative journalism in Cuba. The project is a profile of Farah, a 53-year-old cross-dresser who lives in Havana.

According to jurors, the award recognizes Carrasco's "narrative talent," which, "through the story of an outcast, ensures that we understand the seams of a society that excludes them” and brings "a broad and versatile portrait of life in Cuba today.” The journalist was not able to attend the awards ceremony and was represented by editor Carlos Álvarez. "Just two years ago, El Estornudo was just an idea, and today we win. It's comforting," Álvarez said.

“Buscadores en un país de desaparecidos” (Seekers in a country of the disappeared), of the Mexican site Pie de Página, was the winner in the Image category. The series documents how family and professionals, such as lawyers, researchers and experts have been dedicated to finding some of the 30,000 people that have gone missing in the last 10 years in Mexico.

It is very difficult to make an image of what there is no image, to make visible the invisible, and this work did it. The feeling of desolation, but also of trust and solidarity, that the characters of the piece conveyed, is valued,” the jurors said of the Mexican project.

“It is an award for many disappeared journalists,” said Daniela Pastrana, director of Periodistas de a Pie and one of the authors of “Buscadores,” upon receiving the award. In addition to Pastrana, the other authors of the project were Consuelo Morales Pagaza, Prometeo Lucero, Ximena Nátera, Marcos Vizcarra, Iván Medina, Félix Márquez, José Ignacio de Alba, Fernando Santillán, Victoria Helena, Daniela Rea, Mónica González, Rafael Pineda “Rapé”, Adriana Tienda, Erik Kuru and Lucía Vergara.

In the Coverage category, the winner was “El mapa de la muerte: 15 años de homicidios en Cali” (The Death Map: 15 Years of Homicides in Cali), by Ossiel Villada, Ana María Saavedra, Hugo Mario Cárdenas, Germán González and Lina Uribe for the Colombian newspaper El País. The journalists used database management tools, georeferencing and 360-degree video along with traditional reporting techniques to explore urban violence linked to drug trafficking in Cali, where 27,000 people were murdered between 2001 and 2015.

For the jurors, "El mapa de la muerte" brings an innovative approach to a theme that is very present in the press and "shows a great effort of a local outlet and becomes a model of coverage to be replicated." Produced over two years, the work "shows that in the midst of a complex social context, with the crisis of the press and the challenges of the technological transition, journalism reaffirms itself as a space for reflection and understanding of citizens," they said.

The special report "El hábito de la mordaza” (The custom of the gag) by Germán Andino for the Spanish newspaper El País was the winner in the Innovation category. The work is a multimedia comic book dealing with urban violence in Tegucigalpa, Honduras that focuses on the life stories of gang members.

With this work, the familiar theme of violence and drugs in Central America takes on a new force by using an encounter between the drawings of an artist on the street and the tattoos of characters whose suffering and that of their victims has never been revealed so honestly,” the jurors said.

In addition to the four journalistic works, the 2017 Premio Gabo also awarded Mexican-American journalist Jorge Ramos in the "Recognition of Excellence" category. Ramos is the main anchor of news broadcasts at the Spanish-language Univision television network in the United States. The Colombian Fernando Ramírez, of the local newspaper La Patria, won the Clemente Manuel Zabala Award for Best Editor.

Each winner received a diploma, a copy of the work "Gabriel" by the artist Antonio Caro, and 33 million Colombian pesos (about US $ 11,200). In addition to the awards, the 2017 Festival Gabo promoted debates and journalism workshops and brought more than 90 speakers from 20 countries to the Medellín Botanical Garden from Sept. 28 to 30.

According to Jaime Abello Banfi, director of the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation for New Ibero-American Journalism (FNPI, for its acronym in Spanish), the Festival is part of “a project with global ambitions: to promote journalists and Spanish- and Portuguese-language outlets in the Americas, Spain and Portugal, under the aspiration of making the best journalism in the world,” according to Colombian site Eje21.

Colombian singer Totó La Momposina closed the festival with a concert in honor of Gabriel Garcia Márquez (1927-2014), writer, journalist and founder of FNPI.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.