Meet the First Generation of Awasqa Youth Scholars

It is with great joy that we want to introduce the first eight young Awasqa Youth Scholarship recipients!

The main objective of the Awasqa Youth Scholarship is to create networks across Latin America and to give visibility to the work of Black and indigenous youth who are leading in the fields of community journalism, communication organizations, and social movements. Aware of the great importance of communication in promoting a diverse set of rights and social justice, as well as the lack of investment in this area, Awasqa is committed to supporting young people who use communication as a means to generate change.

The grant funds are intended for research and the creation of three products, written, audio or video, which will be published on our platform and translated into English. Each grantee will also receive personalized editorial support from Awasqa, previous to publication of their material. The grantees of this first generation have experience in different fields –organizational, audiovisual, radio, academic, and community journalism–and varied interests, so we look forward to sharing their creations in the near future.

Our heartfelt congratulations to the following individuals:

Bernardino Pérez Herazo “Ashanty lawhier”, Palenquero, Cartagena, Colombia

Born in the land of Antonio Cervantes Kid Pambelé, Ashanty was raised in the micro-universe of the mohans and priestesses who understand the sound of the waters, in a space of resistance created by cimarrones (runaway enslaved people) who settled here, in the thicket of the Montes de María (PALENKE DE BENKOS). Ashanty is a cultural agent, musician, chagra community storyteller, co-founder of the youth collective Influencers Étnicos (ethnic influencers), a collective created to make the realities of ethnic communities visible through audiovisual content.

He was also a scholar of the Hay Festival Journalism Lab, where he wrote a journalistic article entitled “Las lenguas de Hay,” which offered a unique look at the linguistic diversity present at the event, highlighting the importance of intercultural communication and valuing different forms of expression.

Ashanty also wrote for Bacánika magazine about how urban artists transformed Palenque into a living canvas through colorful murals with powerful messages. These murals not only helped preserve the cultural manifestations of the region, but also became a tourist attraction, attracting visitors interested in learning about and who wanted to appreciate the cultural and artistic richness of Palenque.

Ashanty represents an inspiring example of how it is possible to ensure the generational transfer of ancestral knowledge and, at the same time, creatively take advantage of new technologies to strengthen culture and ethnic memory. His work demonstrates how youth can be key drivers in preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of their communities.

By using new technologies creatively, Ashanty and his collective are able to reach wider and more diversified audiences, disseminating their community’s traditions, stories, and cultural practices in an accessible and engaging way. This innovative approach not only helps to keep ethnic memory alive, but also contributes to empower ethnic communities by recognizing and valuing their cultural heritage.

Cinthya Lizbeth Toledo Cabrera, Zapotec (Binnizá), Oaxaca, Mexico

Born in Asunción Ixtaltepec, Oaxaca, in the Binnizá (Zapotec) community, Cinthya graduated with a degree in Communication from the Universidad Autónoma of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Mexico (UNACH) and is currently studying for a Master’s in Cultural Studies at the same university. Cinthya is an audiovisual director, scriptwriter, and producer at CHEGUIGO-Productora Audiovisual, based in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas.

In 2020, her documentary short film “Huachinango Rojo” was awarded by the ECAMC (IMCINE), the “Miradas” fund of Ambulante-Netflix, co-funded by the Sistema de Apoyo a la Creación de Proyectos Culturales (formerly FONCA), and is currently at the stage of being shown at different film festivals. This documentary talks about the virginity ritual in the Zapotec community of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

She has also participated in short films such as “La Balhána” by Xóchitl Enríquez, where she worked as a continuity editor and in “Se elige” (Na’racala’dexe ) by Yoari López and Patricia Matus, where she worked as a line producer, both projects managed by IMCINE. In 2022 her script “El telar de Hilaria” was one of the winners of the Nárralo en Primera Persona (Tell it in the first person) contest (IMCINE), which is currently in development.

In 2023 she published the essay “El silencio y el grito: la lucha de las mujeres zapotecas en los medios de comunicación” (Silence and the scream: the struggle of Zapotec women in the media), which is part of the book La perspectiva de género, discursos y representaciones en medios masivos (Gender perspective, discourses and representations in the mass media), published by Editorial Universidad Autónoma, Chiapas.

Evelyn Zerpa, Diaguita, Pueblo Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina

I am an student at the Faculty of Humanities at the National University of Salta, Argentina (UNSa). During my academic career, I obtained two research grants to work on a narrative about the daughters/sons political violence in Argentina and Peru: one awarded by the Faculty of Humanities (2019); and another, by the Research Council of UNSa (2021). Additionally, from 2017 until the end of 2022, I was part of the team of La Tibia Garra Testimonial, which brings together journalists, teachers, researchers, writers, etc.; interested in journalistic and literary chronicles, testimony, digital narrative, performance, among other poetics.

During 2021 and 2022, I worked at the Coordination of Intercultural Bilingual Education, at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology in Salta. I participated in lines of action toward the reintegration and strengthening of young people’s educational trajectories in the Rivadavia department; to accompany the process of requesting cultural and educational declarations from academic and literary books by authors belonging to indigenous peoples; and the production of digital educational materials on culture, indigenous worldview, and native languages.

In the aforementioned instances, I wrote articles on the Latin American chronicle of Rubén Darío, the emerging narrative of indigenous peoples of Salta, and reviews of books dealing with the military dictatorship in Argentina.

Karla Vanesa Ordoñez Sánchez, Guatemala City, Guatemala

Vanesa is a documentary filmmaker and photojournalist, born in 1997 in a marginalized urban neighborhood on the outskirts of Guatemala City. When she was about 10 years old, a program called “Rincón Joven” (Youth Corner) arrived in her neighborhood with the objective of providing training spaces for young people. It was here that Vanesa joined circus workshops in performance art, theater, dance, juggling, and stilt-walking, which ran parallel to a process of sensibilization and training in violence prevention and human rights. This space was fundamental in Vanesa’s life, forming her as a woman who is aware of her reality and that of others.

With aspirations to work as a journalist, but with economic difficulties and few options to choose from, Vanesa graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences with a focus on radio broadcasting at the Montenevado Educational Center, a place that her parents paid for with their hard work. Although her parents were able to attend only the first few grades of elementary school, they always emphasized the importance of education to improve one’s living conditions, which is why they always encouraged Vanesa and her siblings to continue their studies.

Vanesa begam to venture in the world of documentary filmmaking as a student in 2017 at the Casa Comal Film School, obtaining a diploma in “Film and Television,” where she made her first audiovisual project, in addition to winning her first award in the film competition “Métele un gol al machismo” (Score a goal against machismo). In 2019, Vanesa wrote and directed, in partnership with Edgar Tuy, the short film “Charlotte” about the LGTBIQ+ community, winning second place in the film competition “Exprésate con otro rollo sin odio” (Express yourself with another roll without hatred).

In 2020, Vanesa won a scholarship to study documentary film at the Colectivo de Cine Punta de Maguey in Mexico. For her final project, she made a documentary called “Silence also has stories,” which is about the life of her maternal grandmother who from a young age suffered multiple types of violence, and throughout her life continued living them, but never knew how to denounce or externalize what she suffered. Winning the third place with this project.

In addition to these projects, Vanesa has worked as a consultant for several NGOs, carrying out institutional projects to document activities, processes, and the implementation of projects and programs. She is also an active member of the Colectivo Festivales Solidarios, as a member of the communication commission, as a photojournalist and journalist, where her main function is to cover key events about social struggles in Guatemala not covered by the national press.

Maholy Gabriela Garcés Guatatuca, Amazonian Kichwa, Puyo, Ecuador

My name is Maholy Gabriela Garcés Guatatuca, I am 23 years old, and I was born in the city of Puyo, Pataza province, in the year 2000. I have always lived in the community Unión Base, learning from our community and communal lived experiences. I attended primary school in the Juan Montalvo educational unit located in the same community and finished high school in the bilingual educational unit Amauta Ñampi. This allowed me to remain connected to our ancestral knowledge and those social organizations that have fought for our collective rights. I attended university at the Universidad Estatal of Bolivar, located in Guaranda, where I studied social communication until the fourth semester, but it was painful for me to be that far away from my community. I am currently studying agroecology and food sovereignty, in a hybrid in-person and virtual program at the Amawtay Wasi University.

My passion for communication was born after I participated in a march to the capital of Quito, in which I saw how conventional media failed to communicate to the public, the reasons for the march called by indigenous leaders of the CONFENIAE. As time went by, I became more involved in the field of community communication and participated in workshops and courses to learn more about media communication. In 2019, I became a member and reporter for the digital media Lanceros Digitales, where I had the opportunity to broadcast for a radio educational program.

Subsequently, in 2022, I wrote an article on environmental pollution for the UK’s Daily Mirror. I have also led communication workshops for the recording of informative and education radios spots in the Kichwa language. As part of this passion, I am also interested in capturing moments with photography and hope to have the opportunity to continue my training in this area.

As part of this knowledge, the current moment in which we see how Ecuador is suffering in all aspects of social, cultural, and environmental issues, I would like to share and inform about the social struggle of social organizations, women and children, to uphold the Sumak Kawsak or buen vivir in their communities, so as not to lose their customs, nor lose our sense of connection in this space that is the Earth and Nature.

I consider myself a restless and creative person, it causes me anxiety not to know and understand things, and I always try to fill those gaps with learning and research. We can be the best communicators regardless of whether we have earned a degree or not, the important thing is that we do it with a lot of passion and love for the work we do.

María de la Luz Delgado Gómez, Otomí, Xiquipilli, Mexico

They call me Luchita, and I am originally from a town called Xiquipilli, where almost all my ancestors are from; most of them Otomí like my grandmother Luz. In this town we grew up among plains, ravines, forests, and milpas, and it was there where I learned to observe with deep admiration the bodies of the earth and its beings, each animal, fungus, plant, flower, fruit, stone, as well as to perceive the rain, before it arrives.

I had to migrate to the city to continue my academic training; it has been painful to understand the complexity of the historically imposed political/economic/cultural system and its ecological and social consequences, but the spirituality of my people keeps me strong, with vision and conviction.

I have a degree in Political Science and Public Administration from the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México and later studied for a second degree in Intercultural Development and Management at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. because I wanted to know more about the Mesoamerican peoples and learn a non-Western language, Maya.

Also, I have dedicated much of my life to explore my body and sensibility through the arts such as drawing, music and dance, martial arts, and team sports. However, what I have most enjoyed doing is writing and sharing what I feel from my heart, in a tender, critical, and informed way.

Part of my professional experience has been writing opinion articles for La Jornada Maya newspaper, where I have spoken on issues of gender, human rights, racism, and urbanism. I have also written short stories for children on socioenvironmental issues for the Asociación Mexicana de Ecología and have published research articles for UN Women and the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) on territorial defense, ecofeminism, and the web of life.

Currently, I am writing about the philosophical knowledge of indigenous peoples, specifically Mayan women, a research I am conducting at the Universidad Autónoma of Yucatán. Finally, as a cultural agent, I periodically organize and promote projects on community participation, cultural festivals and bazaars, literary gatherings and study circles. I have been a cultural promoter for La Meiga bookstore, and I have coordinated intercultural educational immersion processes for students from different countries in the International Student Agency, TSIKBAL.

Paola Gabriela Quispe Quispe, Aymara, El Alto, Bolivia

Of indigenous Aymara roots, daughter of farming parents and resident of the city of El Alto, Paola studied Educational Sciences at the Universidad Salesiana of Bolivia, and is currently finishing her degree in Social Communication at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés.

For the past four years, she has worked as a coordinator of socioenvironmental projects, such as the “Guardians of Nature 2.0” project. In the audiovisual field, she won a scholarship with Residencia Fotográfica Warmis de Luz, a photography residency, and was winner of the competition: “From our roots we tell stories” with the short film “Cuando Florezca el Chuño” (When the chuño blossoms). She was also director of the best documentary of the year in the “UNICINE” competition with the documentary “Warmis, guardianas del agua” (Women, water guardians). As a writer, she has published articles such as “Warmis, guardianas del agua luchan contra la escasez de recurso hídrico en Huarina” (Women, guardians of water fight against the scarcity of water resources in Huarina) in a digital magazine “La Nube,” and the article “Píldora de sabiduría” (Pill of wisdom) in the Agencia Joven de Noticias.

Passionate about art (photography, audiovisual) and writing stories, Paola has the convinction that art is a tool for social transformation.

Theo Valenzuela Quiñeñir, Mapuche, Temuco, Chile

I am a nonbinary trans Mapuche photographer and journalist, currently living in Temuco and Huichahue. I graduated in social communication and journalism from Universidad de La Frontera, Chile. I have participated in Digital Security workshops with Akahatá and Mujeres al Borde, problematizing digital divides from a transfeminist approach. I am currently part of Transversal Temuko, a territorial organization that brings together the local and surrounding trans communities in order to provide accompaniment, meeting spaces, and to raise awareness about the experiences and needs of sexogenic identities in Gulumapu.

In the time I have been developing as a journalist, I have been interested in various community and human rights projects, which has allowed me to add an intercultural and gender approach that I identify with when I am working. Among them, I have collaborated with Radio Kurruf to cover issues that pertain to indigenous communities in the territory, understanding the importance of protocols and a reciprocal bonds of trust in reporting, press releases, and communication support for different struggles.

My interest in the Awasqa scholarship is also related to this constant search: community and collaborative spaces, and in pursuit of the defense of the territories and bodies that inhabit them and that, generally, have no place in the journalistic guidelines of traditional media. At the same time, it is linked to our own experience of being a Mapuche trans marika identity that, like other pulamgen/hermanxs, needs references and representations within spaces that historically have been denied to us.

It is difficult to find a systematization as such that speaks about gender diversity in indigenous peoples, but that does not imply that our existence has not been present in the past. Thus, several artists and activists in the territory argue that those identities that escape heteronormativity do exist in the stories of Mapuche historicity and again we can see them in a diaspora that resurfaces in the midst of dispossession.


Citlalli Andrango Cadena

Citlalli Andrango Cadena. Productora Cine/Gestora Cultural Kichwa. Es productora de AylluRec Films y es parte del colectivo artístico HUMAZAPAS. Productora del largometraje HUAHUA 2018. Productora del proyecto de formación en cine comunitaria HUMAZAPAS 2022 y del proyecto de largometraje “VACACIONES” (POSTPRODUCCION). Además, es productora del Largometraje Docuficción AKCHA SAPI (DESARROLLO).

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