The jury of the 2024 Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant, comprising Jon Lee Anderson (United States), Mar Abad (Spain), Teresita Goyeneche (Colombia), and Abraham Jiménez Enoa (Cuba), convened on January 26, 2024, with the mission of selecting the standout proposal from a pool of 316 book or article projects centered around travel in Hispanic America or Spain.
In this milestone tenth edition of the grant, the jury underscored their inclination toward projects that manifest tangible progress, underpinned by meticulous research and prior fieldwork experiences. Conversely, they expressed reservations towards proposals lacking clarity or direct engagement with the specified locations. Additionally, the jury articulated a preference for works that offer a robust narrative, steering clear of a mere accumulation of visits and interviews.
Following careful deliberation, the jury unanimously selected Miguel Velárdez (Argentina) as the winner for his project titled 'Migrant Workers.' Velárdez envisions a compelling book spotlighting the stories of workers from across Argentina and neighboring countries who seek employment in the remote province of Santa Cruz, nestled in Argentine Patagonia. Over the course of a 1,100-kilometer journey through the province, Velárdez will weave the narratives of laborers, employees, merchants, and even recent high school graduates making a livelihood in coal mines in Río Turbio, oil wells in Caleta Olivia, or the town of Pico Truncado, a key player in the wind industry.
In the eyes of the jury, 'Migrant Workers' distinguishes itself by proposing a profound exploration of southward migratory flows, challenging the conventional narrative focused on migration from south to north. The narrative promises an engaging scenario, enriched by the diverse origins of the characters, prompting uncommon questions about adapting to an extreme and hostile natural environment essential for survival and the identity of a territory where the locals constitute a minority.
Following their deliberations, the jury awarded honorable mentions to the projects of journalists Bruno Galindo (Argentina) and Sara Zuluaga García (Colombia), acknowledging them for their exceptional interest, creativity, and journalistic depth.
'El surco y la rueda' (The Furrow and the Wheel), by Bruno Galindo, aspires to recreate the extraordinary journey of Guillermo Isidoro Larregui (1885-1964), who towed his cart for nearly 22,500 kilometers across Argentine terrain. The proposal was lauded for its meticulous planning and its skillful interweaving of various themes, including 20th-century migrations, the author's familial history, and the life of the captivating character known as 'The Basque of the Cart.'
'Algo que no recuerdo nadó a mi costado' (Something I Don't Remember Swam Beside Me), by Sara Zuluaga García, puts forth a series of chronicles delving into the intricate relationship of Colombians with water. The jury commended Zuluaga for her profound interest and expertise in the subject matter, along with her distinctive narrative approach that significantly enhances the depth of the research.