Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mexico’s Poniatowska Wins Cervantes Literature Prize

On Tuesday Elena Poniatowska won the prestigious 2013 Cervantes Prize, which is considered as the top literary award in the Spanish-speaking world.

The selection jury praised the Mexican writer and journalist for “her brilliant literary trajectory over numerous genres, her unique narrative and exemplary dedication to journalism.”  The panel also complemented her many works for showing a “firm commitment to contemporary history.”

Jose Ignacio Wert, Spain’s Education Minister, called Poniatowska “one of the most powerful voices in Spanish-language literature today” and commended the eighty-one-year-old for her “admirable activeness for someone of her age.”

I did not expect this and it has been a huge surprise,” Poniatowska said to the Mexican press earlier today. 

“Long ago (Colombian author Gabriel) García Márquez said .I write so that they like me.’  I think that I write because it justifies my existence on Earth,” added the person who became the first Mexican woman to win the distinguished literary honor.

Born in Paris in 1932 to a Polish-French father and a Mexican mother, Poniatowska began her writing career at the age of eighteen as a reporter for Mexican newspaper Excélsior.  Over thee past five decades she has penned more than forty books that primarily focus on social and political issues.

Perhaps her most famous work is “Massacre in Mexico,” which examines the infamous Tlateloco Massacre of 1968 and the government’s repression against student protestors days before the Summer Olympics in Mexico City.  In a recent interview, she claimed that the anniversary of the killings should be “commemorated as a national holiday.”  Yet the event in Mexican history that most moved her was the inspirational response to a tragedy nearly three decades ago:

On the front lines of contemporary Mexican history, the moment that most moved her was the mobilization of Mexico City resident after the earthquake of 1985.  “It was one of the few instances where Mexico looked inside herself and, above all, overcome tragedy.”  From the ruins a strong civil unity emerged and marched forward in a capital city in ruins by a tremor that clamed thousands of lives.
Among the previous winners of the yearly Cervantes Prize are Nicanor Parra of Chile, Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and renowned Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges.

Poniatowska will received the €125,000 prize next April 23, the anniversary of the death of acclaimed Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes.

She has received numerous awards for her varies works including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women's Media Foundation and the Rómulo Gallegos Prize in 2007.

Video Source– YouTube via user Tate

Online Sources – Prensa Latina; RTVE; El Universal; El Pais; The Latin Americanist

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