Building peace in the minds of men and women

Laureates of the International UNESCO/José Martí Prize

The International UNESCO/José Martí Prize was created by UNESCO on the initiative of the Government of Cuba in November 1994. The Prize was established to raise awareness of equality, solidarity and human rights. It rewards outstanding contributions by organizations and individuals to the cause of Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration, based on respect for cultural traditions and humanist values.


2019 - Roberto Fernández Retamar (Cuba) 

Roberto Fernández Retamar (Cuba) is the laureate of the 2019 International UNESCO/José Martí Prize. He was chosen by an international jury of experts in recognition of his advocacy work for justice, the rights of children, ethical values, the dignity of each man and woman and the fight against racism.

Roberto Fernández Retamar is a Cuban poet, essayist, literary critic and President of Casa de las Américas*. His life has been dedicated to the study, teaching and dissemination of the works of José Martí, at the University and at the ‘Centro de Estudios Martianos” he founded, through his books and the José Martí Chairs that he helped establish. He was awarded Cuba's most prestigious literary award, the National Prize for Literature in 1989.

UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, named Fernández Retamar on the recommendation of an international jury of experts.

* Casa de las Américas is a cultural organization founded by the Cuban Government in 1959 to foster socio-cultural relations between the countries of Latin America, the Caribbean and the rest of the world. It received the UNESCO-UNAM/Jaime Torres Bodet Prize in social sciences, humanities and arts in 2017.


2016 - Alfonso Herrera Franyutti (Mexico) 

Alfonso Herrera Franyutti (Mexico) is the laureate of the 2016 International UNESCO/José Martí Prize. He was chosen by an international jury of experts for his longstanding contribution to promoting peace, solidarity and human rights among nations and people in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Prize was awarded on 28 January in Havana, Cuba, during the Second International Conference entitled “With all and for the good of all”, held from 25 to 28 January.

Alfonso Herrera Franyutti, physician and surgeon by training, has excelled in the field of public health. He dedicated his work and efforts to promote the ideals and heritage of José Martí outside of Cuba and throughout the world. Herrera Franyutti is the author of many books on José Martí. He is one of the founding members of the World Council of the José Martí Project of International Solidarity and is strongly engaged in the endeavors of the Centre for Martí Studies. His commitment and impressive academic achievements have been recognized by the Instituto Mexicano–Cubano de Relaciones Culturales José Martí.

UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, nominated the 2016 laureate on the recommendation of the international jury, which examined proposals submitted by Latin American and Caribbean countries.


2013 - Frei Betto, Dominican friar (Brazil)

UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, has designated the Brazilian Dominican friar Frei Betto as the laureate of the 2013 UNESCO/José Martí Prize for his exceptional contribution to building a universal culture of peace, social justice and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Ms. Bokova selected Frei Betto on the recommendation of an international jury. The prize was awarded on 30 January in Havana, Cuba, at the Third International Conference on World Balance (28 to 30 January). The conference marked the 160th anniversary of José Martí’s birth.

The laureate was selected in recognition of his work as an educator, writer, and theologian; his opposition to all forms of discrimination, injustice, and exclusion; and his promotion of a culture of peace and human rights.

The author of more than 50 books, Frei Betto was born Carlos Alberto Libânio Christo in Belo Horizonte (Brazil) in 1944.  He joined the Dominican Order at the age of 20 while studying journalism.  During the time of military dictatorship in Brazil, Frei Betto was imprisoned twice, once briefly in 1964 and again from 1969 to 1973.


2009 - Atilio Alberto Borón, political scientist (Argentina)

Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, has awarded the 2009 UNESCO International José Martí Prize to Atilio Alberto Borón, former Executive Secretary of the Latin American and Caribbean Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO). The Prize was presented during a ceremony in Havana (Cuba) on 17 July.

The José Martí Prize was conferred upon Atilio Alberto Borón to reward his tireless intellectual commitment to the unity and integration of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as his contribution to the study and promotion of José Marti’s thinking.

Atilio Alberto Borón is a professor of political theory at the Facultad de Ciencias Social at the University of Buenos Aires and a researcher at the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET). He runs the Programa Latinoamericano de Educación a Distancia en Ciencias Social (PLED) at the Centro Cultural de la Cooperación Floreal Gorini. He is also a member of the Scientific Committee of the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP), based in Bergen (Norway). 


2005 - H.E. Mr. Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela received the 2005 International José Martí Prize in a ceremony that took place in Havana (Cuba) on 28 January. The ceremony coincided with the anniversary of the birth, in 1853, of José Martí the Cuban humanist, writer, translator, diplomat, and teacher, who is known as the “champion” of Cuba’s independence.

The $5,000 Prize was awarded on the recommendation of a seven-member international jury, which included Nadine Gordimer, the South African Nobel Prize for Literature laureate.


2003 - Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, sociologist (Mexico)

Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura presented the 2003 José Martí International Prize to Mexican sociologist Pablo González Casanova on October 20. The event was part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Martí (1853-1895), the Cuban humanist, writer, translator, diplomat and teacher known as the “champion” of Cuba’s independence.

Professor and former rector of Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), Gonzàlez Casanova is reputed for his campaign against racism, apartheid and social exclusion and in defense of the values and cultural identity of the peoples of Latin America.

He is a well-known international scholar, coordinator of the “Prospects for Latin America” project sponsored by UNAM and United Nations University, and a member of institutions such as the International Committee for Social Science Information and Documentation, the International Social Sciences Journal and the New York Academy of Sciences. He has won several prizes and has honorary doctorates from eight universities around the world.

He has published 40 books on social and political science since 1948, including the celebrated Democracy in Mexico (1965).


1999 - Posthumous laureate: Oswaldo Guayasamín, painter (Ecuador)

In 1998, the Ecuadoran painter Oswaldo Guayasamín was in the midst of his great work, the Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Humankind) in Quito, when he created a medal for UNESCO designated to reward meritorious artists from all regions of the world. A great friend of the Organization, this major 20th-century Latin American painter had previously donated five years earlier a mural that to this day adorns the entrance of the Executive Board room.

When he died in 1999, he was posthumously awarded the UNESCO International José Martí Prize, a fitting tribute to an artist who had constantly shown concern for the dispossessed classes of Latin America and the Caribbean. The medal he designed was issued the same year and is now known as the Guayasamín Medal.

The irregularly-shaped medal follows the same style as Mothers and Children, his mural at UNESCO. The imagery is best described by a quote from the painter himself in 1976: “I have painted for half a century as if I were crying in desperation.” On the reverse is Guayasamín's signature, with the inscription Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint), 1999.

Honourable mentions: Milagros Palma Guzmán, researcher (Nicaragua) and Georges Anglade, university professor (Haiti)


1995 - Celsa Albert Batista, historian specialized in Latin American studies (Dominican Republic)

Celsa Albert Batista is a Dominican academic, writer and historian, whose research focuses on issues related to slavery and black identity in the Dominican Republic. Over the course of her professional life, she held various posts in the Ministry of Education, as Director to the Division of General Curriculum and Assessment and as Director of culture. She also served as Dean of the College of Humanities at the University California, San Diego (UCSD) and the vice-rector of UCSD.

Celsa Albert Batista published a number of articles and books, including "Los africanos y nuestra isla (Historia, cultura e identidad)" (The Africans and our Island (History, Culture and Identity), "Las ideas educativas de José Martí" (The educational ideas of José Martí) and a short story "La esclava Elena" (The Slave Elena) on enslaved women.


Go back to the International UNESCO/José Martí Prize page.