Diego Buñuel has a history of taking the less traveled road. Grandson of Luis Buñuel, the father of cinematic Surrealism, Buñuel chose journalism over the family business. A native of Paris, Buñuel started out with a police beat in Miami before covering the globe as an award-winning French foreign news correspondent.
And now as host of Don’t Tell My Mother (No le Digan a mi Madre), the international hit Nat-Geo Mundo, Diego Buñuel takes you to places that are not for the faint of heart: cities under fire, in some of the most dangerous places on earth.
Recently, I had a chance to catch up with Diego Buñuel on the phone.
How dangerous are these places?
Don’t go. Even for seasoned journalists, it’s a dangerous world out there. But I realized after years as a war correspondent covering the same old stories – Taliban, burkas, and opium in Afghanistan; cocaine, kidnappings, and the FARC in Colombia – that I was only talking about 1% of the population. So I had the idea of doing this program to show the people around me, and especially my mother, that the world that she saw was not as bad as she imagined from the evening news.
Who has moved you?
In Pakistan, I met a wealthy woman, owner of 27 beauty shops, who only hires women with no faces. She developed a network for women burnt with acid by the men in their lives. These women were rejected by their families, they can’t get jobs, and they end up on the streets. She gives them jobs and the ability to have a life again.
I met another woman who headed a police section in Kandahar, Afghanistan because when the police raid homes, a female cop goes in first in case there are women inside. She was an interesting, intelligent woman who was hoping to get a proper education for her daughters, but she was killed a couple of years ago by the Taliban. These are the kind of people who fascinate me.
Which places have marked you?
Somalia is the only country in the world with no government that has any control over the land; it’s really the wild, Wild West. In Mogadishu, we met the Admiral of the Somali Navy, who is supposed to fight pirates. The only problem is that he only has two wooden rowboats to go after pirates; obviously, they won’t be catching anyone soon. And yet, Somalia is an incredibly beautiful country, with 3000 kilometers of pristine coastland and turquoise waters. It could be an incredible tourist destination if the war would end.
In the United States, I found a story that I couldn’t have imagined possible. They have built an anti-immigration wall near Brownsville, Texas that shoots steel beams 25 feet into the sky. But not along the river, which would add billions to follow the natural undulations of the river to the billions that it already cost. So now there are 60,000 acres where American citizens and their property have ended up on Mexican territory.
What’s on your bucket list?
I just got back from accomplishing one of my lifelong dreams – a month in Antarctica. The South Pole was one of the last destinations on earth left on my bucket list; all that’s left is to go into space. Antarctica is like going to another planet – so wild, so empty, so cold, and so windy that you really feel that you’ve made it to where few people have gone.
What my show tries to do is to tell people to look at the world we’re living in – the incredible people and stories that are out there. People need to get involved in their community, politics, and foreign affairs. We can’t hope for things to happen in themselves if we don’t participate.
What does being Latino mean to you?
Well I’ve got a real mixed background – French, Spanish, and Mexican. For me, being Latino is one third of who I am and yet it’s an important third because thanks to the knowledge of Spanish I have access to hundreds of millions of people. The language is very vibrant, adapted and assimilated and mixed up with English.
Here in the United States you can see the strength of the Latino community. And I think that being Latino is not going to be a minority word anymore. More and more it’s going to be a majority issue and the years to come will be very interesting for Latinos, and for being Latino.