Documentary Film and Photography

If the Mango Tree Could Speak

Ten teenagers tell their stories of growing up in the midst of the civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador.



“Very moving… Children should not be pawns of war, or victims of war, or soldiers in war … No adult of conscience or faith should be silent about this.”
Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund

“Show’s children’s strengths in the face of adversity. An excellent contribution to understanding the realities of Central America for both adults and teenagers.”
Deborah Menkart, Teaching for Change

“Clear and compelling…these remarkable children challenge us to work harder for justice and peace not only in Central America, but everywhere there is violence.”
Michael Delaney, Oxfam America




Ten boys and girls (ages 12 – 15) growing up in the midst of war in Guatemala and El Salvador talk about war and peace, justice, ethnic identity, friendship and marriage. In a series of touching vignettes, they share their dreams and hopes as well as their pain and loss. The children’s stories are disturbing but their resilience toward the harsh reality around them brings hope. 

Director's Statement

I made this video to give children a chance to speak about their own personal experiences growing up in the midst of war and violence. They happen to be from Central America, yet their experiences are similar to those of millions of other children worldwide living in countries in conflict or neighborhoods tense with violence.

Through this video, I want to present the situation of children in a part of the world where the U.S. has exerted great influence and to help U.S. audiences be aware of that historical connection. I hope young people will feel a personal connection as well with the characters in the video, especially if they are Latino themselves or if they have fellow students, friends, neighbors or relatives who came from Central America.

I wish for children in Central America watching this video to hear from their peers about their countries’ recent history. Many young people today, especially those coming from families not directly affected by violence,  know little about these kinds of experiences. If the Mango Tree Could Speak was never intended to be a factual history of the conflicts, it is the stories of how children who were living it saw themselves and their surroundings.

It’s not easy to watch other people’s pain; understandably, it makes those of us spared such pain uncomfortable. But I hope by acknowledging the pain and sharing it we will find the strength to confront it by working for social change so that future generations will not be forced to yield their childhoods to violence and war. My wish is that this video can inspire all young people to become more tolerant of others, more concerned about world events and more engaged in finding ways they can make a difference in their schools, their communities, and the world.


Silver Apple, National Educational Film and Video Festival
Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival
Educational Jury Award for Enhancing Global Awareness, Chicago International Children's Film Festival
Judges Honorable Mention, New England Film and Video Festival
Award of Merit in Film, Latin American Studies Association
UNICEF Award, New England Children's Film and Video Festival
Silver Plaque Award, INTERCOM
Cine Acción Festival Latino
Chicago Latino Film Festival
Vermont International Film Festival