Guillermo Monteforte Bazzarello

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1998


This profile was prepared when Guillermo Monteforte Bazzarello was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Guillermo Monteforte believes that the only way to respond directly to problems like indigenous migration, loss of traditional customs and identities, and the neglect of indigenous culture at the global level, is to integrate voices from these communities into national-level policy debate, without obliging them to abandon their traditions. This process implies a need for access to existing means of communication as well as the creation of new channels. Guillermo has seen how effective video can be as a communication tool for Mexico's indigenous population, based on his experience at the Center for Indigenous Video in Oaxaca (affiliated with the National Institute for Indigenous People) and in the Latin American Council for Cinema and Video of Indigenous Villages, among other organizations. He now seeks to exploit an opportunity to broaden the isolated use of the medium into a comprehensive training process for young people from traditional communities across Mexico that will enable them to produce and distribute their own material, meant to be viewed by indigenous people and to be useful and entertaining for them.

While others have made films about the history and culture of indigenous groups, these have generally been for consumption by outsiders. Indigenous people themselves have occasionally attempted to document their customs, but usually lack the technical skills necessary to produce high-quality videos. Guillermo combines technical expertise with a network of indigenous contacts throughout the country, which he uses to identify the next generation of community leaders, and to train them to use video to build bridges within and beyond their groups.

Guillermo's idea responds to an emerging awareness among indigenous leaders that without access to modern technology and communications, their population will not be able to win an active role in Mexican society, at least not while retaining their own identity. He discovered a strong interest on the part of these groups to test the new medium as a means of preserving intergenerational memory, and of observing and critiquing their own way of life. Guillermo realized that the positive response was based on a belief that, properly used, video could testify to and define their existence, traditions, and forms of work to principally indigenous audiences. By helping indigenous groups to document their history and traditions, Guillermo enjoys their confidence, and although they do not permit him to witness all of their rituals, they have given him access to many customs and traditions.

Guillermo's work is especially important since many indigenous villagers customarily speak distinct languages or dialects different from Spanish, and are often illiterate because many of their languages do not possess a script. Therefore, knowledge and customs have been passed down through the centuries via oral communication and imagery such as stories, legends, music, weavings, and painting. This makes audiovisual taping a very useful tool that allows indigenous people to continue using the sounds and words of their traditions, while recording them in a modern format.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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