2014 — professional winner
Wars do not mark the beginning of the 21st Century in Latin America. Acts of violence, however, have taken the lives of so many men, left so many women widowed and so many children orphaned, just as the conflicts in other parts of the world the television chooses to portray.
Everyday life and social change in Latin America has never been immune to violence. The conquest was violent, slavery was violent, independence was violent, and land acquisition and expropriation of natural resources are violent. Even political revolutions within recent decades have been violent.
Violence continues to be a common denominator in the region, although now manifested in different ways. Today, the issue of violence and crime is not a result of politics, but devoid of any ideological end. Although not perusing political power, the specific benefits that are sought seriously compromise peace and governance in the region.
Despite the fall of military rule and the restoration of democracy, the statistics show that in the last two decades crime rates have soared considerably, making Latin America the world’s most violent region.
As a sociologist and documentary photographer, I have been conducting in-depth research on the
growth and transformation of violence in Latin America for the past five years and have since developed some chapters of my project. I started this project working in the favelas of Brazil and from there I go to the ungoverned territory of the Amazon forest, and then to the growing violence during the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and its corrupted penal system.
With the support of the Alexia Grant I wish to complete this long-term project in Latin America, developing its final chapter. This part of the work will focus on the new culture of violence that lives and thrives throughout the continent. The closure of this project will take place between Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The communities in this region of the world have endured years of endless bloody violence, living amongst the drug wars, criminal gangs, and the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons and people. Violence has become routine in the region, while targets of violence have become so blurred they cease to make sense. The loss of social dialogue has made it so that acts of violence seem the only way to resolve conflicts within these societies. Violence transgresses all strata of society to the point where the value of life is that of a bullet and one can be killed for any reason. Like other aspects of the new culture that lives amongst these societies, violence is trivial.
This new violence mostly affects young, second generation urban dwellers, who are exposed to high consumer expectations fueled by advertising and mass media contemporaries. The young people are not able to meet these expectations by conventional means prescribed by society and therefore turn to force. The actors in this new kind of violence see the use of firearms as a way to construct their identity as men and achieve the financial means to fulfill their aspirations. Moreover, this process of criminal violence is accompanied by an increase in police violence, both of which have major psychological and economic consequences on the population; costs and damages which are exacerbated by mistrust and inefficiency of the existing criminal justice system in Latin America.
My goal is to create a visual map of the new culture of violence in Latin America so that the public can gain a better understanding of the new forms and dimensions that violence is taking on in Latin America. I seek to create a visual document that condemns and raises awareness of the gravity of the current situation that millions of citizens are facing living under an impending fear in every corner of the region.
With this grant I wish to be awarded the time and resources required to better understand the situation and the roots of crime, punishment and security in Latin America. I am interested in developing new ways to understand the complicated situation the population of Latin America and their civil society is facing to build a strong democracy. The Alexia Grant will allow me to work long enough to do a thorough and compelling job which I hope will alert political and media leaders on this important issue.