Pulitzer Center Update

Gael García Bernal: Giving Voice to Central America's Voiceless


Gael Garcia Bernal in Washington. Image by Aria Curtis. Washington, 2011.

Gael García Bernal is trying to find new ways of talking about migration. For him, it’s about social justice. Alternative to the political, economic, and electoral discourse on migration, he is trying to give voice to the migrants themselves. “They have a lot to say,” he says.

García Bernal, an internationally acclaimed actor, directed Los Invisibles, or The Invisibles, with Amnesty International and Marc Silver. The four-part documentary follows migrants subjected to violence and abuse on their journey through Central America and Mexico. Some selections can be viewed below.

“When we started doing these documentaries, we knew very little about the migrants’ situations, coming from Central America to the United States," García Bernal told the Pulitzer Center. "There was an understanding that they were the ‘last ones on the pyramid’ – that they were the pariahs of Mexico, and that they cross in a way that’s invisible.”

García Bernal, along with Diego Luna, Pablo Cruz and Elena Fortes, founded Ambulante, a Mexican non-profit organization promoting documentary work as a vehicle for social change. Through their traveling film festivals and training workshops, the organization not only promotes under-told stories but also brings those stories to where they wouldn’t otherwise be seen.

“In the beginning, the romantic idea behind Ambulante was how to bring stories back to where they were born, how to share them with their protagonists, and how to bring them to whom or wherever had inspired these stories,” said Elena Fontes, executive director of Ambulante “In the context of Mexico, and Latin America in general, most communication or traditional communication channels are largely monopolized so there are very few independent channels for expression. So the idea for Ambulante was to create those for the voices that hadn’t been heard.”

García Bernal and Ambulante were in Washington DC to receive the The Washington Office on Latin America Award for Human Rights for their documentary work on migrant issues in Central America. Garcia Bernal and members of Ambulante later spoke to members of Congress. CEDECO--a Costa Rican development organization, focusing on sustainable agricultural development--was also honored.

“We are here to highlight what is not visible--the harsh realities of poverty and rising violence that cause people to flee their home countries looking for a better future, and the dangers they face along the way,” said WOLA’s executive director Joy Olson. “They become invisible to survive. And because they are invisible, their rights are more likely to be violated.”

The award comes at a time of escalating drug violence in García Bernal’s native Mexico, where just last month suspected drug cartel members stormed a Monterrey casino, setting the building ablaze and killing 52 people.