Activist community

Pita Juarez combines her love of journalism and community to create films

Pita Juárez, originally from Guatemala, pero criada en Arizona, ha logrado que las voces de la comunidad sean escuchadas, ya se a través de un reportaje, una interviewta or un documentary de cine.
Cortesia Pita Juarez

Telling people’s stories, especially those of immigrants living in Arizona, is a passion that has driven Pita Juárez to do great things, both in journalism and advocacy work.

Born in Guatemala and raised in Arizona, Juárez has made a name for herself by sharing the voices of immigrants like her.

“During my time as a journalist, I began to see the people I interviewed as friends. Later, I realized that I could use this talent to tell stories. I wanted the community to consider us as immigrants not as victims, but as the leaders we are,” said Juárez, storyteller, filmmaker and national director of communications and creative strategies for CHISPA, a Phoenix-based organization that promotes civic engagement and environmental justice in the Latino community.

As a journalist she left her mark, but in her new role as a filmmaker she managed to send a message to her community and the world about the importance of protecting the environment, with a focus on the immigration and civic engagement.

Among his films are “You Racist, Sexist Bigot”, an award-winning documentary feature produced alongside Matty Steinkamp, ​​which examines prejudice, racism and intolerance across the United States.

In 2022, she was named a member of the Grist 50 Fixers for Arts and Mediaa prestigious recognition given to people working for climate justice and sustainability through the arts and media.

A storybook dream come true

Juárez was a 6-month-old baby when in 1989 she and her mother traveled to the United States from Guatemala, seeking new opportunities in Phoenix. She remembers growing up in a neighborhood near Seventh Street and Indian School Road.

Pita Juárez, originally from Guatemala, pero criada en Arizona, ha logrado que las voces de la comunidad sean escuchadas, ya se a través de un reportaje, una interviewta or un documentary de cine.
Pita Juárez, originally from Guatemala, pero criada en Arizona, ha logrado que las voces de la comunidad sean escuchadas, ya se a través de un reportaje, una interviewta or un documentary de cine.
Cortesia Pita Juarez

“Since I was little, I love talking to people. That’s why my relatives weren’t surprised when they learned that I wanted to be a journalist. Since I was little, I was already interviewing people “, Juarez said.

She graduated in 2005 from Washington High School in Phoenix and went on to earn a journalism degree from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School.

“My love for cameras started in college. I started doing professional internships at an early age. I really wanted to be the media curious,” she said.

While studying at ASU, Juárez cleaned houses with his mother, a job that paid for his education.

Her mother, Lilian Aracely Juárez, said Pita Juárez set very clear goals for herself from an early age, which is why it was essential to trust and support her daughter’s process.

That process involved a 20-year-old Juárez walking into the South Phoenix-based Univision station in 2008 — while out shopping for tortillas in her neighborhood — and landing an internship there.

“I never doubted her big ideas…supporting our children and seeing their dreams come true is the best feeling for a mother. She was always a person with a purpose in her life,” her mother said.

After Univision, she interned at Telemundo Arizona and worked at other outlets such as Mixed Voces, a Spanish-language news portal for the La Raza Development Fund, as well as the digital community show of the local animator Mary Rábago.

Journalist turned community activist

Pita Juárez, originally from Guatemala, pero criada en Arizona, ha logrado que las voces de la comunidad sean escuchadas, ya se a través de un reportaje, una interviewta or un documentary de cine.
Pita Juárez, originally from Guatemala, pero criada en Arizona, ha logrado que las voces de la comunidad sean escuchadas, ya se a través de un reportaje, una interviewta or un documentary de cine.
Cortesia Pita Juarez

Juárez was assigned to cover stories from the days of SB 1070 in Arizona, raids orchestrated by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, protests for minimum wage increases, and the President’s era. Donald Trump.

Although journalism is her passion, Juárez said some assignments generated identity conflict for her, particularly when she was sent to cover pro-immigrant protests in which she had to tell both sides of the story. story to keep his stories neutral.

“I am an immigrant. I have an undocumented family. I’m a woman. All these people I interview are fighting for is the rights of my family and myself,” Juárez said.

It was then that she decided to work for a local organization and apply her innate talent for speaking and connecting with people in order to help her community.

From 2013 to 2018, she worked for ONE Arizona Coalition, an organization that works to improve the lives of Arizonans, especially people of color and youth, by building a culture of civic engagement.

“There I worked with a lot of children and undocumented people, helping them tell their story, training people to use their story for political power, whether it was on video, for a newspaper or a TV news “, she said.

She then worked for a campaign in Arizona that aimed to grow clean energy by 50% by 2020-2030. environment, and that was the moment when it made me want to continue working on this subject, as we are doing today with CHISPA.”

For Nuvia Enríquez, who has known Juárez for more than five years, Juárez is a very emotional and talented woman who pursues her dreams until she realizes them.

“When I met her, we were both producing on the radio. I have always seen her as a very driven person and everything she imagines, she pursues and achieves,” said Enríquez, assistant director communications from CHISPA.

Combining his passions to make movies

Already an experienced storyteller, Juárez transferred all her knowledge to film production, which made her stand out locally and nationally.

Pita Juárez, originally from Guatemala, pero criada en Arizona, ha logrado que las voces de la comunidad sean escuchadas, ya se a través de un reportaje, una interviewta or un documentary de cine.
Pita Juárez, originally from Guatemala, pero criada en Arizona, ha logrado que las voces de la comunidad sean escuchadas, ya se a través de un reportaje, una interviewta or un documentary de cine.
Cortesia Pita Juarez

“One of the things I love the most about my scene as a filmmaker is that we can have videos of people talking. Getting people to tell their own story in a comfortable way is key to developing documentaries. “, she said.

Something that strikes Enríquez is how Juárez mixes his passion for environmental justice, immigration and community.

“She is interested in telling our stories, and the benefit of having someone like Pita is that she is part of the community, she knows the history of migrants and that, coupled with her talents, makes his interesting projects,” Enríquez said.

“My Vote, My Community” is one of his most recent works, which premiered to media in Phoenix on June 26. This documentary depicts the life of Masavi Perea and his long journey as an undocumented immigrant. He recounts with emotion how he became a citizen in order to register to vote and become a representative voice of his community.

From undocumented to registered voter: Documentary chronicles the journey of an immigrant activist from Arizona

“We have seen many negative stories from our people… We should elevate our positive messages and show the good things that are happening, like Masavi’s story,” Juárez said. “There is a lot of pain in the fight, but there is also a lot of joy and a lot of good things that need to be shown to the world.”

To date, she has produced eight documentaries, which have tackled issues related to immigration, climate change, art, racial discrimination, civic participation, among others.

“Last month at a film festival, I thought it was interesting to see that they were showing documentaries about orcas, plastics. And I was there with films of undocumented people” “I care about animals and plastic, but I care more about the humanity of people, and if we tell these stories on a national platform so that we can find solutions, the unity and support is worth twice as much,” Juárez said.

“La Morena”, a film based on the Phoenix muralist Lucinda Hinojosand “Community Power Arizona: En Nuestrxs Manos” are short films produced by her, showcasing local Latino and Native talent and their advocacy work.

Join La Voz journalist and editor Javier Arce at [email protected] or on Twitter @javierarce33.