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Elena Poniatowska, 85 years of passion and commitment

Published: 2017.06.06 - 13:28:41   /  /  Miguel Darío García Porto  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

We have lived a lot in Mexico
and everything is treasured in your books.
Its blinding light illuminates our night and gives it a meaning*

Due to a great extent to the ideaesthetic wealth, sensibility, intelligence, trade and intellectual honesty of the Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska, her figure and work have captivated the most diverse admirers.

Today, she is celebrating 85 years of a fruitful and hyperactive life. She was born in Paris, France, on May 19, 1932, the people of the Spanish-American region, including her most fervent readers, pay homage to the unspeakable Red Princess.

For those who do not know her best literary and journalistic work in the Latin American context, Elena Poniatowska is one of the great chroniclers of Mexico and has portrayed her most remarkable events ('La noche de Tlatelolco'), and given voice to the voiceless ('Hasta no verte, Jesús mío').

She has interviewed the most lucid, talented and active members of the last 60 years of Mexican culture (Juan Rulfo, Carlos Monsiváis, Alfonso Reyes, Diego Rivera, Octavio Paz, David Alfaro Siqueiros) and written dozens of articles on the subject as well as books that go from the novel with journalistic rigor to articles with literary prose.

Elena Poniatowska is a descendant of the royalty of Poland, the Poniatowski Family, was born princess and baptized with the name of Hélène Elizabeth Louise Amélie Paula Dolores Poniatowska Amor; she not only diminished importance to that historical fact granted of cradle, but also put it aside, ignored it, and acquired Mexican nationality and she knows so much of the land that she calls "my country", which makes her enjoy the most rooted "mexicaneidad" through her writings.

And the one that was born princess has never been one because in spite of her aristocratic origins, Poniatowska has politically supported the left wing and is a defender of the human rights, which has influenced with her points of view on the most prominent intellectual sectors of Mexico.

As some critics have expressed, she is a "committed journalist and writer who has put her pen to the service of the most just causes."

From 1953 to the present time, her professional life has been at the service of literature and journalism, areas of creation to which she has given masterpieces.

The international recognition came with her books of testimony: ‘Hasta no verte, Jesús mío’ (1969), a novel based on a long interview with a washerwoman named Josefina Bórquez, and especially with ‘La noche de Tlatelolco’ (1971), about the massacre of students in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas on October 2, 1968.

However, Ponitowska is not only a writer who pays attention to major events, such as the events of Tlatelolco Square in 1968 or the earthquake of Mexico in 1985, but also events that penetrate the life of the muted people.

The drama and the fight against silence will not only be present on a political and social level, but also personally, as shown in ‘Querido Diego, te abraza Quiela’, a collection of letters that only get silence as a response. In that work, the author narrates the fruitless romance between the painter Diego Rivera and his first wife, Angelina Beloff, through a myriad of imaginary letters from poor Angelina hoping to be loved by her Diego more out of compassion than an extinct love.

With the novel ‘Tinísima’, she makes us travel through a Mexico in which Tina Modotti lives trapped in the historical gales, tied, with ardor to the lovers and to the Revolution.

But, undoubtedly, both her many novels and urban chronicles capture a representation of the silence of thousands of inhabitants of Mexico City, but also of the whole country, whose voices are silenced, in the opinion of the author, by a cultural tradition and political life that denies the word to the marginalized population.

Another feature of her work is the mixture of reality and fiction. As Truman Capote wrote ¨In cold blood, relating from characters to whom he interviewed, Poniatowska elaborates her works of fiction using testimonial literature.

For her dazzling work, Elena Poniatowska has won such an infinity of awards, one of those most recent laurels is the 2013 Cervantes Prize, the highest award of Spanish letters.

The creative corpus of Poniatowska has been described, according to the same panel of judges of Cervantes Prize, as "a brilliant literary career in diverse genres, particularly in the narrative and in her exemplary dedication to journalism. Her work stands out for her firm commitment to contemporary history. She is the author of emblematic works that describe the 20th century from an international and integrated perspective. Elena Poniatowska is one of the most powerful voices in Spanish literature these days."

* José Emilio Pacheco: "Tres sonetos a Elena Poniatowska ante el primer tomo de sus obras reunidas”, in the Revista América Sin Nombre.

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