Federico Guzmán Rubio wins the 2022 Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant
1 de Febrero de 2022

Federico Guzmán Rubio wins the 2022 Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant

The Mexican writer was chosen as the winner thanks to his project “Yes, There Is Such a Place: a Journey to the Ruins of Latin American Utopias.”

Mexican writer Federico Guzmán Rubio was chosen as the winner of the 2022 Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant, awarded by the Gabo Foundation, the Hay Festival, and the Michael Jacobs Foundation for Travel Writing.

For the 8th edition, the jury was comprised of Santiago Wills (Colombia), winner of the grant in 2021, and Jon Lee Anderson (United States) and Daniel Samper Pizano (Colombia), master lecturers at the Gabo Foundation. They chose Guzmán Rubio’s proposal among 254 entries. 

With his winning project, “Yes, there is such a place: a journey to ruins of Latin American utopias,” Guzmán Rubio proposes a book of long-form travel chronicles to narrate the way through the ruins left behind by some Latin American utopias. 

The unanimous choice of Guzmán Rubio’s project, according to the grant’s judging report, reflects a piece of journalism written with strong language, structure, and clear and powerful narratives. According to the jury, it is a very interesting proposal that inspires us to reflect on the new worlds that were founded in America, the ideas that drove them, and what is left of them.

Francis Jacobs, Michael’s brother and the chair of the Michael Jacobs Foundation for Travel Writing, gave his reaction to the award of the Prize to Federico Guzman of Mexico: “On behalf of the Foundation I can express our satisfaction with the outcome of this 8th edition of the Prize, which is going from strength to strength. The number of applications (254 this year) has remained at a very high level and it is particularly encouraging that the number of participating nationalities has increased sharply to 37 and that the jury has noted a further improvement in the overall quality of the applications”.

He added “the winning entry covers a broad and fascinating theme and includes locations in a number of countries in most of which Michael travelled extensively. We greatly look forward to the successful implementation of this project and the further promotion of our central objective of advancing the art of travel writing in the widest sense of the term.”

Jaime Abello Banfi, general director of the Gabo Foundation, expressed his satisfaction for the great success of this edition of the Michael Jacobs Grant, which “continues to find ways to travel, see, and tell stories about Latin America from different angles.”

“It is rewarding to see the enormous curiosity and narrative pulse that the international jury found in the proposals submitted for the grant. Especially Guzmán Rubio’s proposal of an interesting journalistic quest to understand the region’s utopias and what remains of them,” added Abello Banfi.

Since 2015, the Michael Jacobs Grant has been won by Álex Ayala Ugarte (Spain-Bolivia), Federico Bianchini (Argentina), Diego Cobo (Spain), Sabrina Duque (Ecuador), Ernesto Picco (Argentina), J. S. Tennant (United Kingdom), and Santiago Wills (Colombia).

What the winner receives

With the US $7,500 reward provided by the grant, Guzmán Rubio will travel to some of the places that witnessed an attempt to build a real utopia. This project will take him to Michoacán (Mexico), Martín García Island (Argentina), Paraná and Santarem (Brazil), Solentiname (Nicaragua), and Santa Fe (Mexico). 

In addition, Guzmán Rubio will be invited to participate as a jury member in the next edition of the Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant and, thanks to the Manolo El Sereno Association (MAELSE), he will enjoy a one-month stay in a house in Frailes, Andalusia (Spain), which is where Michael Jacobs wrote some of his last books.   

About “Yes, there is such a place: a journey to the ruins of Latin American Utopias”

For Guzmán Rubio, this is a geographical trip, but also a journey through time and ideologies, through the attempts made to establish perfect communities in Latin America to live a peaceful, prosperous, and harmonious life. 

The author also aspires to traverse the history of Latin America through a 

perspective that is rarely explored: the attempt to bring the most generous and the most terrible dreams to reality. 

About Federico Guzmán Rubio (Mexico)

He is the author of the book El miembro fantasma, the novel Será mañana, and the book of short stories Los andantes, as well as numerous works of literature for children and young audiences. He studied Hispanic Literature at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, where he has also taught several courses, and received his doctorate from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, with a thesis on the Spanish-American travel story. He currently teaches writing at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México and is a contributor at the El Cultural supplement.

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