South Texas native Michelle Garcia won 2021 American Mosaic Journalism Prize

Robin Bradshaw
Alice Echo News Journal

South Texas native Michelle Garcia was nationally recognized this month with the American Mosaic Journalism Prize for her work profiling often overlooked communities: immigrant families and detainees in the U.S. West and at the border.

The Texas and New York-based journalist grew up in Alice and graduated from Alice ISD. .

Alice native and AISD graduate, Michelle Garcia was recognized on Feb. 5 with the American Mosaic Journalism Prize for her work profiling often overlooked communities: immigrant families and detainees in the U.S. West and at the border.

García’s work that won her the prestigious award includes a 2019 feature in Adi Magazine, “Hand of Terror,” about the degrading and inhumane conditions of U.S. detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border, reminiscent of Guantanamo Bay, and a story in Bon Appétit, “In the Midst of a Border Crisis, Cooking Is About More Than Survival,” exploring how families seeking asylum have built community and found comfort through food.

"I was on a Zoom meeting and when I was told I won the award and I was shocked, I had to take a few minutes to get my composure. It was such a surprise," Garcia said. "When events like this happen it makes me feel the work is important and is a sign to keep moving ahead." 

The award, announced by the Heising-Simons Foundation, includes an unrestricted cash prize amount of $100,000. The prize to recipients was chosen by a panel of 10 judges including journalists from NPR, NBC News, CBS News, Telemundo, the Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, and the Oxford American. 

Michelle Garcia photo (left) alongside sister Marina, and mother Aurora Gonzalez Garcia at the family ranch in Palito Blanco

Garcia spends her time as a freelance print, audio and broadcast journalist writing about issues related to U.S. identity, race and national histories, specifically in the U.S. West and border.

Her recent work  has shed a light on human rights abuses and on  those living in limbo at the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Oxford American, Guernica, the New York Times, and Columbia Journalism Review, among others.

She was a 2018 Soros Equality Fellow and recipient of the Jesse H. Jones Writing Fellowship through the Dobie Paisano fellowship awarded by the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Institute of Letters. She's also on the advisory committee for IDAR/E, a project of the Women’s Media Center named for fearless Tejana journalist Jovita Idár. She curated and edited Re/Writing the West, a series published in partnership with Guernica, that re-narrates myths and histories about the U.S. West.

The award's mission is to support journalism’s ability to foster understanding and empathy, with the aim to support freelance journalists. The prize is based on nominations invited from more than 150 leaders in journalism throughout the country.

"What a surprise to get this call as a recipient to this award and to be recognized by these judges. It's an honor," Garcia added. 

Michelle Garcia, the photograph was taken en route from Premont to Sarita, Texas.

Garcia is working on a book about borders and their influence in shaping the nation's identity and race relations. She divides her time between New York City and Texas.

“We’re in a critical moment, when our nation is reckoning with its foundational injustices, and I believe that journalism can provide us with possibilities to better understand each other and dismantle the walls that have divided us for centuries," Garcia said.