Miguel Velárdez Wins the 2024 Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant
30 de Enero de 2024

Miguel Velárdez Wins the 2024 Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant

Argentinian journalist Miguel Velárdez was chosen as the winner of the 2024 Michael Jacobs Travel Writing Grant, awarded by the Gabo Foundation, the Hay Festival, and The Michael Jacobs Foundation for Travel Writing.

In the tenth edition of the grant, a panel of judges comprising 2023 recipient Abraham Jiménez Enoa (Cuba), Jon Lee Anderson (United States), Mar Abad (Spain), and Teresita Goyeneche (Colombia) chose Velárdez's proposal, 'Migrant Workers,' as the standout choice among 316 submissions of book or journalistic article projects centered on travel within Hispanic America or Spain.

Velárdez's envisioned narrative revolves around the laborers hailing from various corners of Argentina and neighboring nations, all in pursuit of employment in the remote province of Santa Cruz, nestled in the heart of Argentine Patagonia. Across a 1,100-kilometer odyssey through the province during its harsh winter, he aims to illuminate the tales of laborers, employees, traders, and even recent high school graduates, each grappling to carve out a livelihood in an unforgiving environment, far removed from the embrace of their families.

The judging panel underscored Velárdez's project for its proposal of an in-depth exploration into the southward migratory dynamics, challenging the conventional narrative fixated on northward migration. "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.”

Empowered by the $10,000 incentive accompanying the grant, Miguel Velárdez is set to travel across the province of Santa Cruz amidst the unforgiving Patagonian winter, delving into the narratives of migrant workers. His journey will commence in Río Gallegos, the capital of Santa Cruz province, where a majority of the settled migrants reside. From there, he plans to visit places such as the coal mines of Río Turbio, the oil wells of Caleta Olivia, and the wind farm of Pico Truncado.

Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions were extended to journalists Bruno Galindo (Argentina) and Sara Zuluaga García (Colombia). Galindo's 'El surco y la rueda' aims to recreate the extraordinary journey of Guillermo Isidoro Larregui (1885-1964), who traversed nearly 22,500 kilometers across Argentine terrain, drawing praise from the jury for its meticulous planning and interweaving of themes such as 20th-century migrations, the author's familial history, and the life of a compelling character. Meanwhile, Zuluaga's 'Algo que no recuerdo nadó a mi costado' presents a series of chronicles delving into the intricate relationship between Colombians and water. The jury lauded Zuluaga's profound understanding of the subject matter and her distinctive narrative approach, which significantly enriches the overall research.

Since 2015, the Michael Jacobs Grant has honored nine other journalists, including the Álex Ayala Ugarte (España-Bolivia), Federico Bianchini (Argentina), Diego Cobo (España), Sabrina Duque (Ecuador), Ernesto Picco (Argentina), J.S. Tennant (United Kingdom), Santiago Wills (Colombia), Federico Guzmán Rubio (México), and Abraham Jiménez Enoa (Cuba).

About Miguel Velárdez

Hailing from Tucumán, Argentina, Miguel Velárdez is a seasoned journalist and journalism teacher. His journey began in 1995, with his first collaboration at La Gaceta, a newspaper he joined in 1997. Over a span of twenty-five years, Velárdez made significant contributions across various sections, including Politics, Police News, Travel, and the paper’s digital edition. Beyond his newspaper endeavors, his chronicles have graced the pages of publications such as the magazine Brando and Tucumán Zeta. He secured the first prize in the 2022 Relatos sobre Malvinas contest, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War. He has been a fellow at the Gabo Foundation and the Institute of the Americas (San Diego, United States).


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