THE STORY, THE BOOK, THE DOCUMENTARY
An ambitious project embracing the long and oft-neglected history of the relationship between the peoples of Ireland and Latin America, from the earliest folk memories to contemporary times.
A major overview of the Irish experience in Latin America & the Caribbean – an intellectually rigorous, narrative history, drawing upon leading academic research and “on the ground” contemporary exploration.
The project will consist of a handsomely illustrated book, written by Alan Gilsenan, a documentary film series (produced by Yellow Asylum Films) as well as a comprehensive inter-active website.
The history of the Irish who left Ireland to make a life in South and Central America – as well as the Caribbean – is often forgotten amongst the many tales of Irish emigration.
Today, there are at least half a million Latin Americans who claim Irish ancestry and heritage. For obvious reasons, this history remains largely outside the traditional narrative of Irish emigration. For the Irish at home, these emigrants still appear exotic and remote, and unlike their counterparts elsewhere in the Anglophone world, their descendants no longer speak Irish or English, so their connection to the homeland is less easily articulated or understood, despite being as deeply felt.
Therefore, it seems timely to tell this untold story of slaves and buccaneers, of mercenaries and revolutionaries, of missionaries and presidents. THE IRISH OF LATIN AMERICA will attempt to trace their story, interweaving these tales with the unfolding and dramatic history of that turbulent region.
The book will, of course, examine the reality behind the mythology of key iconic Irish figures who have shaped Latin American history – amongst them, Bernardo O’Higgins, Admiral William Brown, William Lamport and Che Guevara – as well as influential native Irish who have hugely impacted upon that history such as Father Thomas Reid, Eliza Lynch and Roger Casement. But it will also focus upon the unknown and surprising stories of the Irish who led remarkable lives in the region: the ordinary Irish emigrants – missionaries, soldiers, journalists, engineers, farmers, doctors – the notable successes and the oft-forgotten failures.
This story of the Irish is, of course, inextricably linked with the long and turbulent history of Latin America, and the broad strokes of that epic tale will act as a dramatic and informative backdrop to the central narrative.
The book – and accompanying documentary – will be a popular, narrative history. However, interwoven through this chronological arc, there will be unique elements reflecting on the geography, the folklore and the unique cultural inheritance on this story.
It will be thoroughly researched, both academically and through on-the-ground field research and interviews, and illustrated by contemporary and archival photographs as well as other visual documentation – letters, diary extracts, maps, and sketches.
Prof. Laura Izarra
Writer & Film Director
Project Co-ordinator & Researcher
Patricia de Aquino
Writer & Director: Alan Gilsenan
A graduate in Modern English and Sociology from Trinity College Dublin, Alan Gilsenan writes and directs for both film and theatre, and has also made a number of landmark historical, social and cultural documentaries on a variety of Irish and international subjects.
With a long-standing interest in Latin America and the Caribbean, he has written and directed two feature-length documentaries there: The Ghost of Roger Casement and Eliza Lynch: Queen of Paraguay.
Alan Gilsenan has served on the Board of RTÉ, the Irish Film Board and as Chairman of the Irish Film Institute.
Production Company: Yellow Asylum Films
Established in 1987, Yellow Asylum Films is one of Ireland’s leading documentary production companies.
Their wide-ranging film work has appeared on RTÉ (Ireland’s Public Service Broadcaster), BBC, ITV, Channel 4, PBS, SBS Australia, the History Channel and CNBC amongst others.