After the death of Michael Jacobs in 2014, Fundación Gabo and the Cartagena Hay Festival - which have enjoyed a decade-long partnership - decided to jointly organize the Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant as an homage to the British writer. The Grant is again primarily financed by the Michael Jacobs Foundation, an independent charity set up by Michael's widow and brother in order to honor his memory, and to promote travel writing on Spain and Latin America.
This grant's purpose is to provide an incentive for travel journalism. Its eighth edition will award 7,500 American dollars to a travel book or article project that takes Spanish Latin America or Spain for its subject, to be published in Spanish or English.
In selecting the winner, the jury will consider the narrative quality and the journalistic depth of the projects. For Michael Jacobs, travel journalism was not just a matter of simple anecdotes, and this grant, therefore, seeks work capable of awakening the five senses and opening the mind of the reader.
The winner will be announced during the Hay Festival Cartagena, which takes place from January 22nd to 30th 2022, and which includes both virtual and face-to-face activities.
» The grant
- 7,500 American dollars as an incentive to finance the research and writing of the article or book. The sum includes the taxes to be paid by the beneficiary and the sponsoring institutions. It will be disbursed in the following way: a third ($ 2,500) when the winner is announced and two thirds ($ 5,000) once the work is finished and has been handed over to the publisher.
- The winner will be invited to serve as jury for the next edition of the Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant.
- If the winner accepts, they will receive a courtesy offer from the Manolo el Sereno Association (MAELSE) in collaboration with the Inquietarte Foundation, both located in Frailes, to stay in the town for a month. It should be noted that flights, food, and personal expenses are not included.
*Note: This benefit depends on the prevention measures imposed by the health authorities of each country against the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Journalists and writers of any nationality may apply as long as their work covers travel writing set in Spanish Latin America or Spain, and written in either Spanish or English.
- A personal background note of a maximum of 800 words (in Spanish or English) in which the writer describes their experience in travel journalism and their motivation for requesting the grant. Conventional resumes or curriculum vitae will not be considered.
- A detailed presentation of the project (article or book) that includes a project description, timetable, and expected itinerary. The article or book must be written in Spanish or English. The project does not necessarily have to be finalized, since the project seeks to support a project in development. However, at least some part of the work must be submitted for the jury to evaluate the author's narrative dexterity.
- A piece by the author published in print or digitally. The candidate must have at least one article or book published at the moment of applying.
IMPORTANT: Applications will be accepted until January 7th, 2022 at 11:59 pm (Colombian time). They must solely be made through the application form on the Fundación Gabo's website.
Santiago Wills (Colombia)
He studied philosophy at the National University of Colombia and has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, in New York, where he wrote about the magicians and illusionists of the city, the companies of animal actors, about rats, space junk, the oblivion of chess in the United States and the psychologists and professionals who tortured an Afghan teenager in Guantánamo.
He was an intern in the Investigative Unit of Univision, headed by Gerardo Reyes. There, he reported for a special on Operación Rápido y Furioso that won a Peabody Award and an IRE Award.
He returned to Colombia to do freelance work. Since then, he has traveled through Colombia and the United States writing stories - several of them awarded or financed with international funds or scholarships - about shipwrecks, gasoline smuggling, illegal gold, post-traumatic stress in soldiers, missing persons, the marijuana market, guerrillas, the African-American dancer Misty Copeland and the jaguar, an animal that always haunted his journalistic work.
In 2016, he wrote a profile on the director of the NGO Panthera in Colombia titled “Todo Tiene Tigre”. Out of a branch in his research came Jaguar, his first novel, written as part of a master's degree in Creative Writing at New York University, which he studied between 2017 and 2019 thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship. Jaguar was a semi-finalist for the Herralde Prize in 2020 and will be published in 2021 with the publisher Random House.
Wills was one of the ten nominees for the 2020 Gabo Award, in the Text category, for “Almanegra”. This profile published in El Malpensante about an unknown tree, belonging to the Magnolia polyhypsophylla species, of which only 37 specimens remain in the world, seeks to explore humanity's relationship with plants and the plant world.
Jon Lee Anderson (United States)
He began his career as a journalist in Peru in 1979 as a member of the weekly The Lima Times and since then has specialized in Latin American politics and modern conflicts, including those in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has developed his own school of profile writing, having developed portraits of important global personalities such as Fidel Castro, Gabriel García Márquez, Augusto Pinochet, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, and Hugo Chávez. His books include Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (1997), The Lion's Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan (2002), and The Fall of Baghdad (2004). He has also written articles for The New York Times, Financial Times, The Guardian, El País, and Harper's Magazine.
In 2013, Jon Lee Anderson received the Maria Moors Cabot Award which every year is granted by Columbia University in New York. Since 2000, he has been a teacher at the Fundación Gabo and since 2014 a member of the jury of the Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant.
Daniel Samper Pizano (Colombia)
He began his career at the age of 19 writing for El Tiempo, a paper where he later became a columnist. He has a PhD in law from the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, a masters in journalism from the University of Kansas, and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. In 1986 he was forced to exile himself to Spain. There he has been a correspondent, reporter, columnist, and editor of the magazine Cambio 16 and collaborated with other publications.
He is a professor of journalism and frequently participates in courses and workshops. He is also a television screenwriter, the official biographer of the group Les Luthiers, and a member of the Colombian Academy of Language. He has published over thirty books and obtained numerous awards for this journalism, among them Maria Moors Cabot, Rey de España, Simón Bolívar, and honors from the Madrid Press Association.
» About Michael Jacobs
“Travel literature can enhance our understanding of the world in a unique way. Having the potential to span so many different forms of writing - from fiction to autobiography, from journalism to history - it allows authors to explore ideas and disciplines with a freedom that would not be possible within a more academic context. "
This is what Michael Jacobs had to say about the great passion to which he dedicated a great portion of his life: travel writing. Jacobs was born in Italy in 1952, spent his youth in England, and later travelled to different parts of the world, investigating and writing about Spain and Latin America. He became a notable Hispanist and a passionate devotee of Spanish culture.
Although he studied art history at Courtauld Institute, he decided to leave behind that career to become a full-time writer. After writing several books on art, he wrote a book on Andalucía, the first of many books dedicated to this region of Spain. He later took up residence in a small town called Frailes in the province of Jaén, the subject of The Factory of Light: Tales From My Andalucian Village, an account of his first five years in this village of two thousand people.
In 2003, he wrote Ghost Train Through the Andes, a tale of his journey through Chile and Bolivia, on the train track on which his grandfather worked between Antofagasta and Potosí and on to Cochabamba..
Michael Jacobs' appeal in the Spanish-speaking world was so great that the small town of Frailes became his Macondo. Perhaps that explains why the day that he met Gabo at the Cartagena Hay Festival influenced his life. They spoke about Gabo's memories of the Magdalena River, an obsession of Jacobs'. That meeting with García Márquez moved the Englishman to travel along the waterway the next year, a journey recorded in his book “The Robber of Memories”. This, his last completed book, is not only a portrait of the most important river artery in Colombia but also a nostalgic reminiscence of his relationship to his parents and his childhood.
Today, Jacobs is a global benchmark when it comes to travel writing and his work is well-established in travel writing canons. Michael Jacobs died in London on January 11, 2014, leaving behind an unmatched and evocative legacy.
» Selected bibliography
- Between Hopes and Memories: A Spanish Journey
- In the Glow of the Phantom Palace: Travels between Granada and Timbuktu
- The Factory of Light: Tales from my Andalucian Village
- Ghost Train Through the Andes
- The Robber of Memories
» Winners of the Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant
2015 - Álex Ayala Ugarte (Spain)
Rigor Mortis: Normal is death
This book of sixteen stories gives an account of a journey across the Bolivian plateau after the footprints of death. From the region of Chaco to the high waters of the Titicaca, Ayala paints a portrait of death and how human beings accept it in the midst of Bolivian cultural diversity. The book was published in 2016 by Editorial El Cuervo.
2016 - Federico Bianchini (Argentina)
“Antarctica: 25 days locked in ice”
Making it to Antarctica is hard, but it's much harder to make it out of Antarctica. Bianchini writes about the uniqueness of the lives of the men and women who carry out research on one of the Argentine bases on that frigid, virgin continent. What was meant to be a weeklong stay turned into an almost month-long confinement. The book was published in 2017 by Editorial Tusquets.
2017 - Diego Cobo (Spain)
“Black Footprints: the Trail of Slavery”
This work of journalism comprises a series of pieces on the consequences of the trade of African slaves in places such as Gambia, Jamaica, Colombia, and Cuba.
2018 - Sabrina Duque (Ecuador)
VolcáNica, chronicles from an erupting country
VolcaNica—which combines the word volcanic and the Central American nickname for Nicaraguans, nicas—is an acute, intense, insightful travel book, which offers a double-layered vision of the country’s volcanic nature, also reflected in its history of shake-ups, explosions, and outbursts.
2019 - Ernesto Picco (Argentina)
Dreaming of the Islands: a chronicle of the Falklands beyond the war.
This book is an immersion in the reality of the islands and paints a picture of how people live in this small archipelago lost in the Atlantic, who inhabits it, what are their personal stories and what remains of that war that left more than 900 dead.
2020 - J. S. Tennant (England)
Mrs Gargantua and the Idea of Cuba
A book that eschews the often over-exoticised narratives to give an unconventional, deeply researched meditation on the revolutionary island of Cuba and its relationship with the outside world. Combining travel, history, biography and reportage, the author reveals an island that has too often been, to outsiders, an imagined or fantastical space, as much as a real one. From Columbus’ distortions to the Missile Crisis, the Castros and Guantanamo, the book reveals previously unknown aspects of the country and explores its enduring ability to harbour secrets.
2021- Santiago Wills (Colombia)
The Shadow of the Jaguar: Capturing the Spirit of the Americas
For Wills this project is the opportunity to materialize, in a non-fiction book, the ubiquity of the jaguar on the continent, its life and its relationship with the places and people that surround it. The author aspires to build a work that allows us to understand the life of the jaguar and how its existence has transformed those who share its territories.
»How to apply
To apply for the Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant, please carry out the following steps :
- Click here to apply to the grant (make sure you change the language to English).
- Begin your session on our new application platform. If you do not yet have an account, sign up with your email address, Facebook, or Google account.
- Fill out the form on the platform and attach the documents mentioned in Requirements.
- Click "Send".