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El Velador (The Night Watchman)

Take Action

Engage with the Issues in 'El Velador'

  • Visit a cemetery. Make note of any ways that El Velador (The Night Watchman) leads you to see the place in new ways. Consider what its artifacts tell you about your community, including the relationship of wealth to status, the nature of family structures, evidence of religious beliefs and so on. Think about what a cemetery or mausoleum might look like if it reflected your values.

  • Study current U.S. policy related to the Mexican drug wars and make recommendations to your political representatives about what you think the policy should be. Or, study the Mexican government's attempts to address the violence and assess the appropriateness of the methods currently being used.

  • The drug war and violence in Mexico are prominent topics on American news reports. Investigate whether or not that news coverage leaves an accurate impression of life in Mexico. Consider paying special attention to how the language used to describe events in Mexico--"war," "drug lord," "cartel" and so on--influences how we think about the issues and possible solutions. Share your findings with your community and with the journalists you rely upon for information. If appropriate, arrange to meet with reporters to offer strategies about how to improve the accuracy of coverage.

  • Organize a workshop for your school or a religious organization or civic group to which you belong to learn about border issues. Check with organizations like BorderLinks for workshop models, facilitators and ideas for community follow-up.

  • Hold a mini-film festival featuring the work of Natalia Almada. View all three of her POV films (El Velador (The Night Watchman), Al Otro Lado (To the Other Side) and El General), comparing and contrasting the methods and messages of each.

Get informed about the issues in the film and lead a discussion in your community.

Discussion Guide

Discussion Guide

Martin, the watchman (el velador in Spanish), surveys the cemetery. But this isn’t a typical cemetery. Located in Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, Mexico, the Jardines del Humaya cemetery is home to the extravagant mausoleums of some of Mexico's most notorious drug lords. El Velador (The Night Watchman) allows viewers to accompany Martin as, night after night, he guards the dead.

As an outreach tool, the deliberately paced film provides viewers with an opportunity to contemplate the contrasts: the calm of the cemetery and the violence that created it, the repetition of routine and the extraordinarily quick and wrenching nature of violent death, the simple living conditions of the watchman and the opulent lifestyles of those whose tombs he tends. In the labyrinth of the cemetery, this film about violence without violence reminds us how, in the turmoil of Mexico’s bloodiest conflict since the revolution, ordinary life persists, quietly and defiantly.

Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students will walk step-by-step through the process of creating place-based poems. They will first practice identifying sights, sounds and other sensory details presented in a video clip about a unique cemetery in Mexico. Students will also investigate how this cemetery inspired the content of two poems by Mexican poet Dolores Dorantes. Students will then list key details about familiar locations in their own community and write place-based poems of their own.

Reading List

Delve Deeper

This multi-media resource list, compiled by Sara Franqui of San Diego Public Library, provides a range of perspectives on the issues raised by the POV documentary El Velador.

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