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This past fall, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese had the honor of hosting the esteemed Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska on her visit to the University of Maryland. From Monday, October 30 to Wednesday, November 1, 2017, the celebrated guest led and participated in a series of events that marked the 2nd annual José Emilio Pacheco Distinguished Lecture Series with a public lecture titled, “Poniatowska in Dialogue with José Emilio Pacheco.” The visit by Distinguished Lecturer Elena Poniatowska follows that of the renowned novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and chronicler Juan Villoro, who launched the Series’ inauguration in the fall of 2016. In addition to the Series, Elena Poniatowska gave a lecture in Spanish at the Mexican Cultural Institute titled, “En México siempre tiembla…” as well as a seminar in Spanish at the University of Maryland titled, “Retratos de Mujer.”

The José Emilio Pacheco Distinguished Lecture Series / Catédra José Emilio Pacheco, in collaboration with the Mexican Cultural Institute, serves as a forum for exceptionally great writers, thinkers, philosophers, and scholars who articulate their creative work around Mexican and Latin American literary and cultural tradition, and on the aesthetic, ethnical, and human values that José Emilio Pacheco championed. Pacheco was a Distinguished University Professor at Maryland from 1984 to 2006, and he taught and trained a long list of prominent Mexican writers and intellectuals and an international cohort of students.

Monday’s event began with opening remarks by Dr. Eyda Merediz, Head of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese; Dr. Bonnie Thornton Dill, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities; Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz, Director of the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; and Alberto Fierro Garza, Director of the Mexican Cultural Institute. Dr. Merediz welcomed attendees, and Dr. Thornton Dill started off the event by recognizing the leadership of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Dr. Keshavarz highlighted Pacheco’s legacy by reading his poem "Los elementos de la noche" in Persian, followed by a reading in Spanish of the same poem by Dr. Mehl Penrose of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Dr. Ryan Long, also of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, followed the opening remarks with an overview of the Mexican writer’s work. Elena Poniatowska is a journalist, novelist, essayist, and short-story writer whose work reflects her remarkable talent at combining fact and fiction and her interest in navigating the complex socio-economic and cultural divisions that define modern and contemporary Mexico. Poniatowska is especially well known for her decades-long commitment to representing marginalized and persecuted populations in her nonfiction and testimonial literature. Poniatowska has won a number of prizes, including the highly prestigious Premio Cervantes Literature Award in 2013. She started writing in the 1950s, and has published more than 40 works, including the testimonial novel Hasta no verte, Jesus mío (1969) and La noche de Tlatelolco (1971), a collective testimonio about the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico City. Her most recent work, Dos veces única (2016), a fictionalized biography of Lupe Marín, continues her tradition of writing about important but underrepresented figures in Mexican cultural history, many of whom were women.

This Series is a joint effort by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Maryland, and the Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington, D.C., to serve as a forum for intellectuals whose work focuses on the literary and cultural traditions of Mexico and Latin America. The week’s events were sponsored by The Department of Spanish and Portuguese (SLLC), University Libraries – UMD, and The Mexican Cultural Institute.

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