Journalism at Borders: Covering Mexico in a Time of Pandemic, Migration and Violence

Oct 26, 2021, 5:00 pm6:30 pm



Event Description

Featuring three winners of the 2021 Maria Moors Cabot awards, honoring distinguished careers covering Latin America.

For journalists, reporting on Mexico and the borderlands with the United States is hard, complex and often dangerous, but it is centrally important to inform politics in both countries. Citing the pandemic, the Biden administration imposed broad restrictions at the border, yet migrants from Central and South America and from Haiti have continued to surge across Mexico towards the U.S.  Mexico has struggled to contain COVID-19, while an epidemic of narcotics-fueled violence also persists.  Three outstanding journalists -- a reporter, an editor and a photographer -- who are winners of the 2021 Maria Moors Cabot awards will discuss stories they've covered in Mexico and how their work has evolved to deepen their reporting.

Adela Navarro Bello, ZETA, México

Adela Navarro is a powerhouse of journalism in the Americas. As a reporter and editor of the weekly magazine ZETA, she exemplifies the best qualities of investigative reporting by holding authorities accountable and exposing their corruption and complicity with drug cartels rampant in the U.S.-Mexico border region. 

Nominated by the staff of ZETA for her courage and leadership, Navarro is known for her critical and independent stances. She and her staff have been the targets of attacks, intimidation and even extreme violence. In 1988, ZETA co-founder Héctor Félix Miranda was assassinated, and another co-founder, Jesús Blancornelas, survived an assassination attempt in 1997. In 2004, another staff member of ZETA was killed under Navarro’s predecessor, Francisco Javier Ortiz Franco. In recent years, the magazine has once again been the target of constant attacks and smear campaigns by various Baja California state governments. Despite these pressures, Navarro refuses to be silenced. Under her leadership, ZETA continues to independently and exhaustively cover corruption, abuses of power, organized crime and in particular the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

For her courage, and her contributions to understanding the complexities of the U.S.-Mexico border, the Cabot Prizes Board is proud to honor Adela Navarro Bello with a 2021 gold medal.

Mary Beth Sheridan, The Washington Post, United States
Over a career spanning nearly three decades at The Associated Press, The Miami Herald, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, Mary Beth Sheridan’s extraordinary dedication to coverage of the Americas became perhaps most strikingly evident when she made the decision in 2018 to leave her job as deputy foreign editor at the Post to return to reporting for the newspaper in Mexico and Central America. 

Sheridan has used her extensive experience to create nuanced stories that help explain the region in gripping narrative prose. For example, she has written about the wide appeal of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s presidency and simultaneous concerns about his leadership at a moment when many countries in Latin America are grappling with human rights violations, attacks on the press, corruption, drug trafficking, and the disappearances of tens of thousands of people. Sheridan has written about these issues not just in Mexico, but in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia and other nations. 

Through Sheridan’s watchful lens, at both a macro and micro level, and through her vivid storytelling, she has kept Latin America a vital region in every newsroom where she has worked. 

Adriana Zehbrauskas, Photojournalist and Documentary Photographer, United States/Brazil
Adriana Zehbrauskas is a U.S.-based Brazilian photojournalist and documentary photographer whose illuminating portraits of people in desperate circumstances are known for their intimacy and empathy. A freelancer published by major media across the region, her work greatly contributes to our understanding of the Americas.

Her photographs from South America, Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border are rich in color and humanity. Zehbrauskas sees beyond the poverty of Central American migrants on the move to the U.S. border, as she does with the mothers of Zika babies in Brazil and the families of the 43 students murdered in Ayotzinapa, Mexico. 

Following a year-long assignment photographing the family of one of the Ayotzinapa victims, Zehbrauskas launched a broader project called "Family Matters." She takes iPhone portraits of families in rural Guerrero State and makes prints for villagers who want them. It is an effort to preserve memory and culture in an impoverished region that has been under continuous assault from drug traffickers and state-sanctioned violence. It is an example of Zehbrauskas’ respect for the marginalized people she photographs, and her effort to give something back to them.

Julia Preston, The Marshall Project
Julia Preston is a contributing writer, covering immigration, at the Marshall Project, a non-profit journalism organization focusing on the justice system. Prior to the Marshall Project, Preston worked for 21 years at the New York Times. She was the national correspondent covering immigration for the Times from April 2006 until her retirement in December 2016. Among other assignments, she was a Times correspondent in Mexico from September 1995 to December 2001. Preston was a member of the New York Times staff that won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on international affairs, for its series that profiled the corrosive effects of drug corruption in Mexico. She is a 1997 recipient of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for distinguished coverage of Latin America and a 1994 winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Humanitarian Journalism. Learn more.

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Co-sponsored by the Program in Journalism and the Center for Migration and Development