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Arts & Culture

VOCES: El Poeta

Javier Sicilia and the “Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity” in Arizona.
Courtesy of Loteria Films
Javier Sicilia and the “Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity” in Arizona.

Airs Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

VOCES, PBS’ signature Latino arts and culture documentary showcase, is the only ongoing national television series devoted to exploring and celebrating the rich diversity of the Latino cultural experience.

Katie Galloway, Javier Sicilia and Kelly de la Vega.
Courtesy of Loteria Films
Katie Galloway, Javier Sicilia and Kelly de la Vega.
Javier Sicilia
Courtesy of Peter Hapak
Javier Sicilia

Both heartbreaking and inspiring, “El Poeta” tells the story of renowned Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, who ignited mass protests and an ongoing international movement for peace after the brutal killing of his 24-year-old son Juan Francisco – collateral damage in a drug war that has left more than 100,000 dead or missing since 2006. A film by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway of Loteria Films, “El Poeta” premieres as part of VOCES, Latino Public Broadcasting’s arts and culture series on PBS, presented by PBS SoCaL.

After his son’s death in 2011, and with no end to the bloodshed in sight, Sicilia called on the Mexican people to protest the government’s policies, bringing more than 100,000 people to the capital to demand that the government address the devastating impact of the militarized drug war. The movement launched caravans throughout Mexico and then crossed the border to the United States, urging American citizens and lawmakers to acknowledge that America’s appetite for drugs (the U.S. constitutes 90 percent of the market for Mexican drugs) and loose gun laws have fueled the ongoing war.

As Senator Dick Durbin says in the film, “Mexico and America are in this together and there’s enough blame to go around.”

Filmed over the course of three years, “El Poeta” follows the journey of Sicilia and his movement as they make their way from Mexico’s most embattled cities – Juarez, Chihuahua, Durango and others – to the U.S. Inspired by the international movements of 1968 and the American civil rights movement, Sicilia’s “Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity” travel from the southwest to deep south cities including Jackson and Selma. Along the way, they meet with prominent supporters including Congressman John Lewis and UFW founder Dolores Huerta, who speaks alongside Sicilia in the national’s capitol.

Drawing on the philosophical, artistic and spiritual dimensions of Sicilia, a devout Catholic whose influences range from Ghandi to liberation theology to mystic poetry – and who was named one of Time Magazine’s People of the Year in 2011“El Poeta” transforms the hard news story of drugs, murder and corruption into a deeply personal examination of the impact of the ultimate loss on the human psyche – as well as the power of protest and the courage of conviction to inspire positive change.

VOCES was produced by Latino Public Broadcasting. VOCES is on Facebook, and you can follow @VocesMedia on Twitter. "El Poeta" is on Facebook.