R.I.P. Christian Poveda

Several people have asked me about the death of Christian Poveda (see here or here or here), the French-Spanish photographer and documentary maker who was shot dead this week, apparently by members of the very El Salvadorian street gang he was making a film about. Their main question was whether this fate could await me at all…

Until the news of his death I hadn’t heard of Poveda, nor his 2008 film “La Vida Loca” about one of two rivalling “maras” (street gangs) rooted in El Salvador but with tentacles all over Central and South America and even into the United States – the so-called Mara 18. He spent years filming with them, and during this period witnessed no less than seven murders (three of the victims were protagonists of his film). He himself was shot inside his car 16 kilometers outside of the capital San Salvador with four bullets in his head.

These are very dramatic facts and, besides feeling very sorry for a man who appeared to be doing important work, truth is I couldn’t help but think about the possible dangers in Nicaragua myself. Yet I am not working with street gangs nor is my project based in a country as dangerous as El Salvador. What’s more, Nicaraguans won’t let a chance go by to remind visitors that it is the safest country in Central America. That’s relative, obviously, but truth is that I have not felt in danger yet (unlike in Guatemala for instance, where I did most of the research). During the preparations, we did spend a lot of time talking about security, both with the production people as well as local people who should know (embassy people, NGO’s, etc). So I am not worried, but we are always alert.

Besides about security, a different question is how we can honor Christian Poveda’s work, and that, I believe, we can do by watching his film. I am not sure where yet, but I’m going to find out. I didn’t know him, but I think he’d like that.

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