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Alma Guillermoprieto

Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities 2018

Born in Mexico City in 27th May 1949, Alma Guillermoprieto moved to New York in her teens to live with her mother. Trained as a dancer, she travelled to Havana in 1969 to teach dance classes and it was there where, in 1978, she first began to work as a freelance journalist. She started her career as Central American reporter for The Guardian newspaper, moving later to The Washington Post, where she was a staff writer in the 1980s. After a period as South America bureau chief for Newsweek, she decided to continue her career as a freelance writer. Since 1989, she has written about Latin America for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, as well as for several publications in Spanish. In 1995, Gabriel García Márquez invited her to give the inaugural workshop of the Foundation for New Ibero-American Journalism (Spanish acronym, FNPI), since which she has held workshops for young journalists. She has been visiting professor at the Universities of Harvard, Chicago, California in Berkeley and Princeton, among others. She is a faculty member of the FNPI and serves on the Advisory Board of the Latin American Program of the Open Society Foundations, founded by the tycoon George Soros.

In a career now spanning almost forty years, Alma Guillermoprieto has managed to convey the complex reality of this region through her chronicles and books on politics and culture in Latin America, especially to the English-speaking public, achieving international recognition. Her narrative journalism is written “with deep knowledge and exquisite detail”. She began her career covering the Nicaraguan insurrection in the 70s for The Guardian. It was in 1982 when she came to the fore as one of the two journalists who broke the story, in The Washington Post, of the slaughter of civilians in El Mozote (El Salvador) by the Salvadoran Army. Official channels finally admitted the massacre, the details of which were corroborated many years later when the mass graves were unearthed. Among other topics, she has written about the Shining Path in Peru, State terrorism in Argentina, civil conflict and drug trafficking in Colombia and the drug wars in Mexico. Her first book was Samba: The Making of Brazilian Carnival (1990), about her time in a school in Mangueira, near Rio de Janeiro, which was followed by several others that bring together her chronicles, such as The Heart That Bleeds: Latin America Now (1994), Los años en que no fuimos felices [The Years in which We Were Not Happy] (1998), Las Guerras en Colombia: tres ensayos [The Wars in Colombia: Three Essays] (2000) and Desde el país de nunca jamás [From Neverland] (2011), a selection of texts written between 1981 and 2002. Her other books include Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America (2001), Dancing with Cuba: A Memoir of the Revolution (2004), in which she describes everyday life during the revolution, 72 migrantes [72 Migrants] (2011) and Pleasures and Days (2015).

Guillermoprieto is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds an honorary degree from Baruch College, City University of New York. Among other distinctions, she has received the Maria Moors Cabot Prize (USA, 1990); the Association of Latin American Media Studies Award (USA, 1992); the MacArthur Fellowship (USA, 1995); the George Polk Award (USA, 2000); two Overseas Press Club of America Awards, one in 2008 and the other in 2010 (shared with Shaul Schwarz); the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation (USA, 2010); and the Ortega y Gasset Career Award from the newspaper El País (Spain, 2017).

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