Meet the Fellow: Patricia Clarembaux

Patricia Clarembaux is an award-winning reporter for Univision – and one of the most relentless, hardest working journalists I’ve ever met. Between long, non-stop reporting days, she recently shared how her experiences have shaped her as a journalist, from her early career in her native Venezuela to more recent grant-funded work in El Salvador. Read on to discover why I admire her so much:

Q: Why did you become a journalist?

A: I don’t remember, but all I can tell you is that I couldn’t be anything else but a journalist.

Q: What recent work are you most proud of?

A: We are about to publish a story on the suicide of girls in El Salvador. We often cover why Salvadorans are running away from their country. But when I visited San Salvador for this story, I heard their voices and witnessed their realities. It was so powerful to me. It gave me a strong sense of the problems they have, and now when I write about Salvadoran women, I can understand the brutal violence they face at home, at school, in the streets, everywhere… and in some cases they are so used to it.

The story will reveal how girls attempting suicide are getting younger and younger. Many of them are desperate and can’t find any help from institutions. We interviewed a 6-year-old girl who tried to commit suicide when her parents – both gang members – were arrested. All of these stories were totally heartbreaking. This is a story that really needs to be told.

Q: Tell me more about your book!

A: My book A ese infierno no vuelvo (“I won’t return to that hell”) was published in 2009. For the first time, it told the story of how inmates in Venezuela were living in jail. The book is a story on their rules, on how they survive the extremely violent environment inside the prisons, and on how the leaders decide everything that can or can’t be done.

The book shows how someone who entered prison as a thief could become a murderer or a terrorist while in jail. Venezuelan jails are not helping prisoners reintegrate into society under the impunity and the lack of justice that is rampant in Venezuela; jails tend to be factories that turn out more criminals.

For me, reporting and writing that book was the most amazing experience that I have lived. I found my voice as a writer and a journalist, and I deepened my interest in covering justice issues. I was so young then – I was 25 years old when I started working on the book – but when I read back those pages, I rediscover my commitment to journalism and why I love what I do so much.

Q: If you could change one thing about the journalism industry, what would it be and why?

A: I would like for women to have the same opportunities as men in our industry. I want to see women reporting the hardest stories, because we can do it – and at the same time, I want to see women being editors and decision makers. I hope that women journalists can be respected as mothers, and that they can’t get fired because of their responsibilities at home. I dream of the day when women journalists will receive the same salary and recognition as men. I think that the industry needs to understand that being a woman is not a weakness.

Corinne Chin, 2019 U.S.-Mexico Border Fellow