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Tijuana Migrants Lose a Lion of a Man

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Raoul Ngaha Wandji (“Leo”), right, briefing lawyers Mulu Alemayehu and Meritxell Calderón Vargas, and human rights worker, Maria Galleta, in Tijuana, Mexico, June, 2020. Photo: Nancy Bonilla for Las Abogadas

Today we received the heartbreaking news that a dear friend and colleague was shot and killed yesterday in Tijuana, Mexcio.

Raoul Ngaha Wandji (“Leo”) worked with our team as a field producer in Tijuana over the past year, getting us exceptional access to individuals and locations. Leo was a native of Cameroon and had traveled the world as a lion trainer for many years before surviving being mauled by one of the tigers he was working with in Mexico. From there, he became an omnipresent force in Tijuana in the migrant communities. Leo assisted news crews, documentary teams and non-profits and could literally find anyone and anything within minutes. He was fearless and caring. He was always smiling and laughing and telling his fascinating life stories.

When a group of 80 Haitian migrants were attacked in Tijuana, Leo sent me dozens of video testimonies he collected so that I could publish them to help get the word out as to the dangers for black migrants in Tijuana. Leo then raised money to feed and house dozens of the venerable Haitians.

Leo was a beautiful human who was constantly looking to help others, even as he struggled to survive and care for his family.

Today we mourn for our friend and colleague, and are even more committed to doing the work to document people like Leo and our film subjects, Las Abogadas, who put their lives on the line, often in very dire circumstances, to help make lives better for others.

Leo taking a selfie of our crew and film subjects. Tijuana, Mexico. June 2021.

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