Author2017-02-12T16:07:15+00:00

Cristina Morató


The journalist, reporter, writer and television director Cristina Morató was born in Barcelona in 1961, and studied journalism at the Bellaterra Journalism Institute in Barcelona. She has been a traveller with her camera for more than twenty years, during which time she has spent long periods in Latin America, Africa and Asia. She has visited more than forty countries, and has written extensively about their culture and anthropology. She is a founder member of the Spanish Geographical Society (http://www.sge.org/). She is also a member of the prestigious Royal Geographic Society of London. In 2000 she decided to leave her television career for good in order to travel and write books about the great women explorers of the past, women who have largely been forgotten by history. She has published, to popular and critical success, the following books on this topic: Intrepid and Adventurous Women Travellers (Viajeras intrépidas y aventureras, 2001); African Queens (Las reinas de África, 2003); Ladies of the East (Las damas de Oriente, 2006) and Arabian Captive (Cautiva en Arabia, 2009), an enthralling biography of Countess Marga d’Andurain, a Franco-Basque spy who lived in Syria in the 1930s and attempted to enter Mecca. Rebel Divas (Divas rebeldes, 2010) is a change of direction for her writing career: it is a series of portraits of the more human, lesser known side of some of the greatest divas of the twentieth century, including Jackie Kennedy, Eva Perón, Maria Callas, Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn. In 1982, barely 20 years old, while she was still studying journalism at the Bellaterra Institute in Barcelona, Cristina Morató decided to travel to Central America to work as a war reporter. She travelled through Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador and wrote reports on the refugee camps there, as well as capturing with her camera the lives of the Miskito Indians in Nicaragua and the situation of Salvadorian refugees in Honduras. After this baptism of fire, she discovered that although she loved travelling, she did not have the stomach for covering wars as a reporter. At this point she decided to carry on travelling the world with her camera, dedicating herself primarily to reporting on the situation of women in developing countries. She has also spent more than ten years making a photographic record of the identity markers of indigenous peoples (especially the textiles woven by the Maya people, the Amazonian Indians and the tribes of northern Thailand). In 1983 she travelled to Africa for the first time, to Equatorial Guinea, where she spent three months in the interior city of Evinayong in Rio Muni carrying out a wide-ranging report on the lives of Spanish voluntary workers in this former colony. She also wrote and shot photographic reports attacking the difficult situation of women in the rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, where they are denied even the most basic rights. In 1985 she returned to Africa again, this time to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), where she spent nine months in the hospital at Buta, supervising the work of the Cooperación Sanitaria Española, a Spanish medical NGO. While on this trip, she developed an interest in the personality and achievements of Dian Fossey, and visited the habitat of the last remaining mountain gorillas in Virunga, and produced an in-depth article on the region and the country’s most important natural parks. This visit was followed by several others to the African continent in the footsteps of the great explorers of the nineteenth century. In 1987 she spent several months in Senegal, and lived for a while on the Île de Gorée, just off the coast of Dakar, taking photographs of the island and of the descendants of the African slaves who set off from there to America. She carried out an anthropological study of the signares, female inhabitants of Gorée and of Saint Louis. She also explored the Casamance region, where she lived in adobe impluvium houses and took a photographic record of this vanishing style of architecture. In 1992 she travelled through Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya in search of the white myth of the ‘dark continent’, accompanied by the writer Javier Reverte. As a part of this journey, at the invitation of the Ugandan government, she spent four months exploring the mythical source of the White Nile, the Murchison Falls: the landscape mapped and described by the most famous British nineteenth-century explorers, such as Burton, Speke and Stanley. After this journey she published a number of articles about these nineteenth-century explorers and also about their wives, who travelled with them on their daring voyages and helped them make history. In her book African Queens, Morató dedicates chapters to such unfairly forgotten women as Isabel Burton, the wife of the explorer Richard Burton, or Mary Moffat, wife of David Livingstone. Attracted by the indigenous Mayan culture and by their magnificent textiles, Cristina Morató has, over the course of more than ten years, visited various villages in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes in Guatemala and the Tierras Altas de Chiapas in Mexico, photographing their rituals and their elaborate ceremonial clothing. She has organised several exhibitions of Mayan textiles in Barcelona and Madrid. As far as South America is concerned, she has produced a number of photo-essays on Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama. In 1986 she travelled to Argentina and spent a year living there, travelling from Patagonia in the south to Salta and Jujuy in the north. During this time she travelled to Tierra del Fuego and from her base in Ushuaia managed to realise one of her dreams: circumnavigating Cape Horn. After a truly difficult journey on board a sailing ship owned by Jean-Paul Bassaget, who had once been the captain of Cousteau’s ship the Calypso, she managed to pause at Cape Horn and produce a photo-essay on this desolate spot, filled with shipwrecks and legends. A little after this she travelled to Colombia, where she spent four months travelling all over the country, in particular the La Guajira region on the border with Venezuela, where she photographed the landscapes which inspired many of the most famous novels of Gabriel García Márquez. A trip to Cartagena de Indias and the islands of Providencia and San Andrés gave rise to another article about the Caribbean and its citizens of black slave descent. And then, having fallen in love with Asia, from 1990 onwards she has visited, amongst other places, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and the northern part of Thailand, where she has spent long periods living with the local mountain tribes and photographing their rituals and impressive clothing. On three occasions she has won the Silver Pen Award (Pluma de Plata) granted by the Mexican Office of Tourism for the best article written in Spanish about the country. In 2003 she received the ‘Friend of Thailand’ award from the Thai Ministry of Tourism for her promotion of Thailand and Thai culture in Spain (she remains the only Spanish journalist to be awarded this prize). She has organised several exhibitions of her own photographic work in Spain, including Children of the Corn (Los hijos del maíz, 1993), about Mayan clothing and rituals, and Oaxaca: Land of Clouds (Oaxaca: País de las nubes, 1994), about the landscape and the inhabitants of this beautiful Mexican state. She has contributed to several publishing projects, including the book The Worst Journey of our Lives (El peor viaje de nuestras vidas, Plaza y Janés, 1998). Over the last few years she has dedicated herself to rescuing from oblivion the greatest women travellers and adventurers in history by publishing three very successful books that have introduced to the Spanish public many previously forgotten figures, including the greatest British travellers of the nineteenth century. Intrepid and Adventurous Women Travellers (Viajeras intrépidas y aventureras, Plaza y Janés, 2001), with a prologue by Manu Leguineche, is a long-form essay which describes the extraordinary adventures of the most famous women travellers in history, from early pilgrims and crusaders to the discoverers of the African continent. This book made accounts of female travellers a popular subject in Spain. In 2003 she published African Queens (Las reinas de África), an homage to the women who travelled across Africa from the nineteenth century to the start of the twentieth. And in 2005 she published her third book, Ladies of the East (Las damas de Oriente), seven biographies of great female travellers and explorers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most of them British, who, attracted by the Arab world, journeyed through the Middle East. Arabian Captive (Cautiva en Arabia, 2009) is her first full-length biography, an account of the little-known figure of Countess Marga d’Andurain, a spy and an adventurer who lived in the Middle East in the 1930s, where she ran a hotel in the desert by the Syrian town of Palmyra. Rebel Divas (Divas rebeldes, 2010) brings together the biographies of seven of the great myths of the twentieth century: Maria Callas, Coco Chanel, Wallis Simpson, Eva Perón, Barbara Hutton, Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy. Her most recent book is Tragic Queens (Reinas malditas, 2014), which is being translated into several languages. It describes the passionate lives of six queens and empresses who were all tragically unable to choose their own fates. As well as her great success in Spain, Cristina Morató’s books have been published in Portugal, Bulgaria, Poland and France. Over her career, Cristina Morató has alternated periods of travel with stretches spent working on radio and television as a presenter, reporter and director. Nowadays she dedicates herself to her writing and to public speaking; she also has a monthly opinion column in Mujer de Hoy, a supplement to the newspaper ABC. She also writes for the magazine ¡Hola!, to which she has contributed a number of biographical essays on travellers and adventurers, not to mention the great divas of the twentieth century. 

Cristina Morató (Barcelona, 1961) studied journalism and photography. From an early age she has travelled the world as a reporter and has written many articles and in-depth reports. After spending long periods of time in various countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa (where she worked for the NGO Cooperación Sanitaria Española in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), she visited the Middle East for the first time in 2005 and travelled to Syria and, later, Jordan. During these years she alternated her travels with periods of directing programmes for television, a job that she decided to give up in order to dedicate herself full time to writing the lives of the great women explorers and travellers, most of them forgotten by history. In search of their traces she has travelled to more than forty countries. The documents, books and facts that she found on her travels gave her the material to write Intrepid and Adventurous Women Travellers (Viajeras intrépidas y aventureras, 2001), African Queens (Las reinas de África, 2003), Ladies of the East (Las damas de Oriente, 2005) and Arabian Captive (Cautiva en Arabia, 2009). 

Her interest in discovering the human, lesser-known side of the great divas of the twentieth century, Maria Callas and Coco Chanel among them, led her to write Rebel Divas (Divas rebeldes, 2010). 

Her most recent book is Tragic Queens (Reinas malditas, 2014). It describes the passionate lives of six queens and empresses who were all tragically unable to choose their own fates. 

As well as this, Cristina Morató is a founder member of the Spanish Geographical Society (www.sge.org) and belongs to the Royal Geographic Society of London.

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