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November 27, 2022

Lights, Camera, Integration: Promoting Social Inclusion between Venezuelan Migrants and the Host Communities in Colombia

To improve the integration and social cohesion between Venezuelan migrants and the host communities in Colombia, the USAID-funded program Conectando Caminos por los Derechos (CCD), implemented by the consortium of ABA ROLI, Pact World, Internews and Freedom House, hosted the first edition of an Audiovisual Exhibition titled “Lights, Camera, Integration!” on October 25, 2022. As part of efforts to respond to human rights violations through communications and outreach, the exhibition aims to support local filmmakers to create and develop new migration narratives in Cartagena—one of the country’s most important tourist destinations and a cultural landmark in the Caribbean Region.

Cartegena, Colombia, October 25, 2022.

Cartegena, Colombia, October 25, 2022.

Colombo-Venezuelan Afro-Colombian musician Charles King (left); Lala Lovera, public speaker about xenophobia and integration narratives who is a Venezuelan migrant (middle); and Yenny Chaverra, director of the Audiovisual Circulation Office from the Colombian Culture Ministry (right)

The exhibition was designed to address and respond to the discrimination and xenophobic narratives the Venezuelan migrant population face in ‘La Heroica’ (the Heroic City), which has resulted in numerous human rights violations committed against this population, particularly targeting harmful narratives regarding gender-based violence and trafficking in persons. One of the Exhibition’s main goals is to promote audiovisual creations and to enhance the dissemination of integration narratives through a human rights approach. As a result, more than 24 audiovisual pieces were part of the Exhibition, three of which were selected to be awarded by the technical jury, consisting of Quellys Rodríguez, director of Fundación Dignitas; Manuel Lozano, representative of the Patrimony and Culture Institute of Cartagena; Juan Zarama, ABA ROLI’s Human Rights Response Lead; and Juan José Carbonell, cultural leader in Cartagena.  

The ceremony took place in the iconic Heredia Theatre, officially known as the Adolfo Mejía Theater, where the short films were presented to an audience of about 200 people alongside a panel of experts—including Charles King, a Colombo-Venezuelan, Afro-Colombian musician; Lala Lovera, a public speaker about xenophobia and integration narratives who is a Venezuelan migrant; and Yenny Chaverra, the director of the Audiovisual Circulation Office from the Colombian Culture Ministry. A symbolic integration gesture took place during the ceremony: as part of Cartagena’s Independence Festivities held every year to commemorate the city’s declaration of Independence in 1811, all 34 candidates of the local beauty pageant, representing the city’s host community, publicly awarded a migrant women’s organization for their efforts to promote social inclusion of migrants and refugees in the city. 

The local beauty pageant candidates award the migrant women.

The local beauty pageant candidates award the migrant women.

Cartagena, Colombia, October 25, 2022.

The exhibition fostered relationships between local organizations and social leaders that will continue supporting the creation and dissemination of audiovisual productions addressing migration and human rights challenges in Cartagena. The best pieces from the initiative will be projected in the 19 libraries throughout the city, each accompanied by spaces for reflection. The dissemination of the audiovisual pieces aims to contribute to the community’s understanding of the migratory context and social integration, paying mind to the lenses of intersectionality, human rights, and no-damage action. They also respond to a superior interest in mitigating xenophobia and promote the integration of Venezuelan migrants and Colombian returnees. 

The winning piece was “The Art of Living”, a short documentary film directed and produced by César Rafael Rico Rojano, who narrates the life history of Edward Betancourt, a Colombian-born but Venezuelan-by-heart artist. As a kid, he migrated to Venezuela with his family, but due to the economic crisis, he was forced to return to Colombia to search for new opportunities to provide for his family, particularly through his wooden crafts and art. 

“The Art of Living” by César Rafael Rico Rojano, winner of the Audiovisual Exhibition.

For the winning piece, as well as for the other contestants, the awards were a result of the collective efforts from the strategic cooperation with key local partners including Fundación Dignitas, Caribe Afirmativo, the Institute of Heritage and Culture of Cartagena (IPCC) from the Mayor’s Office, the Institución Universitaria Bellas Artes y Ciencias de Bolívar, the Instituto Tecnológico Comfenalco and the channel Canal Cartagena TV. Initiatives such as the “Lights, Camera, Integration!” exhibition demonstrates the importance of addressing migration and social integration from a multidisciplinary perspective by including audiovisual and artistic mediums, as each allows a more empathetic and human approach to addressing migration.

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Latin America and the Caribbean.