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Celebrating the Afro Colombian guardians of the Atrato River

Our SolidariLabs team in Colombia is working on a multimedia storytelling project called “Guardianas del Atrato” (“Defenders of the Atrato”), part of which is to highlight the Afro Colombian women living along the Atrato River in the Chocó region, who are defending the ecological rights of the river. The Colombian government recently gave the Atrato River legal personhood, a development that is in line with the international movement for the rights of rivers, such as the right to flow and the right to be free from pollution. The Guardianas are up against powerful extractive gold mining and lumber corporations that are harming the river’s life.

“Guardianas del Atrato” is part of a broader initiative called “Narremos la Utopía” (“Let’s Narrate Utopia”), which uses storytelling to highlight the positive and visionary aspects of social and environmental justice movements and build solidarity with them in Colombian society. 

Led by Afro-Colombian filmmaker Heny Cuesta and cultural producer Vanessa Cuervo, the Skylight SolidariLabs team has partnered with the Center for AfroDiasporic Studies, a research center at ICESI University in Cali, and their Voces del Pacifico program to produce the films and podcasts with the Guardianas. In order to challenge the societal bias that Afro Colombian people are not perceived as caretakers of nature, the campaign seeks to position the stories of women guardians of the Atrato River as models of care and protection. 

While many people celebrate the historic ruling that declared this river as a subject of rights, in practice, those who ensure that it is fulfilled are Afro Colombian women who inhabit this territory. The campaign is being created to translate what is a legal protocol into daily actions that have an important impact beyond the legal. This makes the idea of “environmental justice” tangible in a way that can be communicated to connect and persuade sympathetic audiences for whom this concept is often abstract. 

*Thanks to Heny Cuesta, Vanessa Cuervo, and Estefanía Villa for their contributions to the project description of “The Guardianas of the Atrato” and Valentina Vargas for graphic design.  

Dora María Téllez is Freed!

Dora María Téllez free from Nicaraguan prison and in the United States, February 10, 2023. Photo by Miguel Andrés/ El País

Dora María Téllez and 221 other political prisoners are liberated and freed from prison! Our campaign, #DontLetDoraDie, was organized to get Dora María and all Nicaragua political prisoners freed. Our tiny grain of sand contributed to putting pressure on the Ortega-Murrillo regime to end their repression.

Dora has spoken about the 605 days she spent in hell, “I was forbidden from reading or writing. No books, papers, or pencils were allowed. We slept on a smooth mat, with no cover, on the cold floor. There was constant psychological torture. The most terrible thing was the isolation.”

Now in the United States, she says she plans to continue to fight.

Skylight Familia

Congratulations to Luis Moreno-Ocampo and team for their Oscar nomination for the legal thriller Argentina, 1985 – the story of the Junta Trials in Argentina, one of the great human rights battles of the 20th century.

Luis’ real life story is portrayed in the film by Peter Lanzani, who we watch build the basis for the prosecution of members of the military dictatorship.

Based on his experience in this groundbreaking case, Luis was named the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and was featured in our film, The Reckoning.


And kudos to Daniela Quiroz, who worked with us at Skylight from 2012-2015, beginning as an assistant editor, for receiving the 2023 Sundance Film Festival Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award for Going Varsity in Mariachi.

The Sundance jury cited, “A joyful edit that carries the heart of the characters while still exploring difficult and sensitive issues in a delicate and beautiful way. We deeply care for our heroes and the spirit of life on the border.”

At Skylight, Daniela edited the 24-episode web series Dictator in the Dock and Rebel Citizen, among other films.  

Paco de Onís

Paco is the Executive Director and Executive Producer of Skylight, a human rights media organization dedicated to advancing social justice through storytelling by creating documentary films and media tools that can applied in long-term strategies for positive social change.

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