The dramatic journey of central Americans seeking exile in Spain

In the autumn of 2017, Alberto Senante, Director of Communications for the Spanish NGO “CEAR” (Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado), shared with me his team’s idea: to raise awareness and pressure the Spanish government to recognize the victims of Mara Salvatrucha violence seeking refuge in Spain as political exiles.

The proposal was to leverage the popularity and notoriety TV drama is acquiring as a cultural vehicle to launch a campaign in which we would announce a proposed series about the victims of Mara Salvatrucha and their difficulties in finding support in Spain.

The drama relates the terrible reality facing thousands of Central American families, who for years have been forced to flee gang extortion and abuse which in the best case scenario results in having to pay in exchange for protection and, in the worst, in all types of physical violence, including the rape of the daughters and sisters of those who do not agree to join and even the murder of closest relatives. All this in a climate of complete impunity.

The drama occurs when they escape from that terrible reality to our country, and as existing legislation in Spain does not protect them or grant them asylum status, as a consequence, very often, these people are immediately returned to the hell they just escaped from.

Victims cannot bring their case either to the police or government officials as the gangs have managed to get on their payroll all those who should defend their fellow citizens. 

The only way out for many is to escape abroad and to a destination where they are recognized as citizens with rights and beyond the reach of the gangs’ long tentacles…

The drama occurs when they escape from that terrible reality to our country, and as existing legislation in Spain does not protect them or grant them asylum status, as a consequence, very often, these people are immediately returned to the hell they just escaped from, a hell they will hardly survive.

To sensitize society and pressure politicians, the idea of ​​a teaser campaign was announced for a television series on social networks and mass media. The aim was to bring society’s focus on the tragedy of the victims of Mara violence and make it central to topical debate in the end uncovering that, more than a drama, this was a terrible reality.

After juggling several ideas, we agreed to organize two actions: the agitation campaign announcing a series, and the development and production of a short film that could give visibility to the topic with continuity beyond the first action.

The General Secretary of CEAR, Estrella Galán, managed to bring together screenwriter Alejandro Hernández (Todas las mujeres, Cannibal, and The Motive, a film that won the Goya for the best adapted screenplay); to director Salvador Calvo (Niños robados, 1898: Our Last Men in the Philippines) and myself, to create an audiovisual vehicle to condense the message CEAR intended to communicate; to extend the necessary application of the condition of refugees to all those fleeing the Maras.

Alejandro met with victims and built a brief but heart-breaking story featuring the intertwining stories of two families destroyed by the Maras activities and converging at the same point, the only one possible: escape.

In August 2018, thanks to the sensitivity of Globomedia (THE MEDIAPRO STUDIO) in their support of the production providing all the material resources, as well as to those who participated in an altruistic way (technicians, actors, producers, screenwriters, director, etc.,) Maras. See, hear, silence was filmed.

Starring Cristian Paredes, José Juan Rodríguez, María Isabel Díaz, Edgar Vittorino, Belén López and Raul Prieto, casting by Luis San Narciso and Andres Cuenca, and under artistic supervision of Salvador Calvo, the short features the artistic team lead by Fernando González, who knew how to convert natural scenarios in Madrid into the streets of San Salvador or Guatemala. Music was by composer Roque Baños and Manu Sánchez as director of production.

Of course, at the helm were Estrella Galán and Paloma Favieres, two of the driving forces among the many souls at CEAR who year after year, defend all those fleeing extortion who seek a brotherly and sisterly welcoming embrace in Spain.

We mustn’t forget that in Central America Maras cause more victims than other newsworthy conflicts, such as Syria. Hopefully, after the numerous awards at national and international festivals, Maras. See, hear, silence has achieved its goal, which isn’t to win the Goya for the Best Short Film or the Forqué for the Best Cinema Short Film (which would also be of great relevance), but to offer all the victims of that terrible reality hope for life and for the future.

Javier Pons is General Director of Globomedia and Director of Content at THE MEDIAPRO STUDIO Spain. His extensive professional career began in radio, where in 1991 he was appointed station director and later general director of the French music channel M40. Back in Spain in 1994, he worked as director of the M80 chain and in 1996 he was appointed Head of the 40 Principales chain, where he launched the Principales Solidarios initiative and the daily breakfast show Anda Ya.
In 2001, he swapped radio for television, joining the El Terrat team as general manager, from where he developed outstanding programs such as Dos rombos, Homo zapping and Una altra cosa. From February 2007 to January 2010, he continued his professional career as Director of Spanish Television. From 2010 to 2012 he was CEO at Prisa Radio.