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AP PHOTOS: 2023 images show violence and vibrance in Latin America

David Biller
Friday 08 December 2023 06:05 GMT

A little girl perches on the shoulder of her mom, whose eyes fill with trepidation as she wades through waist-deep water in the jungle of the Darien Gap.

Another woman sits beside railroad tracks as she and her husband head north through central Mexico. Covering her eyes with her fingers, the woman could be weeping. But the photograph shows her holding bright yellow flowers that her husband just picked.

She’s laughing.

Associated Press photographers documented violence and vibrance throughout Latin America in 2023, creating vivid portraits of ability to keep moving forward despite suffering.

Gangs expanded their control of Haiti, terrorizing civilians. One image shows a police officer on the back of a motorcycle holding a man slumped after being shot in the head.

Brazil’s newly sworn-in President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands atop the ramp of the presidential palace alongside an Amazonian leader wearing a feather headdress. Days later, the shattered windows of that palace frame a cluster of riot police on that same ramp; they had arrived too late to prevent an unprecedented uprising that sought to oust Lula from power.

In Peru, protests continued demanding the resignation of Dina Boluarte after President Pedro Castillo’s ousting and arrest, and police killed dozens of demonstrators. A photograph shows their coffins lined up, displayed on the street for hundreds of mourners.

Seen from the sky with an AP drone, a whirlpool of fish swirls in a net in clear blue waters. Increasingly, fisherwomen have taken up the profession to carve out a living in Venezuela’s hobbling economy. On the coast a few dozen miles west, conservationists watch as a hatchling of the world’s largest species of sea turtle scrapes its way to the water.

Tiny hummingbirds, too, have found their chance to survive and thrive in — of all places — a Mexico City apartment. About 60 of the sick, injured or infant birds feed from eyedroppers and flit around the makeshift clinic until they are fit for release into the wild.

Across town in the National Arts Museum, a hulking lucha libre wrestler observes a painting of Claude Monet’s water lilies. He is the embodiment of forceful aggression yielding to delicate grace, and the blurred blue and yellow-green of his mask perfectly reflect the painting’s water and reeds.

Such serenity contrasted with the climate chaos elsewhere in the region.

Hurricane Otis thrashed the resort city of Acapulco on Mexico’s Pacific coast, killing at least 51 people and launching yachts onto the beach in piles. Defying usually reliable computer models that forecast a tropical storm, it rapidly transformed into a Category 5 monster that, with 165 mph (266 kph) winds, had the strongest landfall of any East Pacific hurricane. Over a month later, residents are still clearing debris and picking up the pieces.

In Bolivia, indigenous women in multilayered skirts guiding a climb up Bolivia’s 6,000-meter Huayna Potosí mountain had to traverse fresh whitewater from a peak once covered in snow, now melted. The Aymara women fear climate change could sweep away their jobs.

With so many struggles at home, many set off in search of a better life, even when that’s a gamble.

A baby swaddled snugly inside a small suitcase is held aloft by a man negotiating a steep descent to the Rio Grande’s southern bank. He hasn’t yet entered the water.

A fragile tranquility — for now — endures.


Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at

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