San José, Calif.—Sept. 23, 2011—Internationally acclaimed Mexican author Elena Poniatowska spoke Sept. 22 about “Literature that Rises from the Street” at The National Hispanic University (NHU) where she received an honorary doctoral degree from the university. A student at the university was also named the first beneficiary of the school’s Elena Poniatowska Civic Leadership Scholarship.
Poniatowska shared stories and experiences that came from her own documentary and journalistic work during the presentation on “La Literatura Que Sube de la Calle” or “Literature that Rises From the Street.” Poniatowska spoke about giving a voice to the victims and participants of some of Mexico’s upheavals over the past decades: The confrontation between students and government armed forces in 1968, the earthquake of 1985 that left thousands of people dead and the revolutionary leftist Zapatista uprising of 1994.
“Those who do not have a voice are those who possess the most powerful voice because it is unknown, unlikely…terrifying and unpredictable – a voice that has not been parsed by formalisms, a voice whose only modulation is the earth,” she said. “The literature that rises from the streets responds to a necessity, it reveals and documents the hidden, it writes the story of those who apparently don’t have one.”
Poniatowska encouraged students at The National Hispanic University to share their own stories and to give voice to those who are afraid to speak themselves. She said she was impressed by the warmth of students and faculty at The National Hispanic University. “They have left me dazzled, and I feel like I’m inside a diamond – it appears to be an extraordinary place,” she said.
During the event in honor of Poniatowska, the university also announced the first recipient of a scholarship started in the name of Elena Poniatowska, NHU student Patricia Carolina Ruiz who is a senior in the school’s Liberal Arts Studies program. Ruiz was chosen to be the first recipient of the scholarship because she “exemplifies the spirit of Elena Poniatowska in her tenacity, determination and desire to change the world for the betterment of humanity,”said NHU Provost Juan Necochea.
Poniatowska grew up in France, Mexico and the United States, but she developed her career as a writer and journalist in Mexico. Her work spans more than five decades, and she has published dozens of books, essays and short stories. Among her many acclaimed works is her documentation of the 1968 Mexico City confrontation between student activists and government armed forces.
The awards she has received for her work include the Premio Nacional de Periodismo and the Romulo Gallegos Prize. She was nominated this year for the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature (2012), which recognizes a writer’s entire body of work. Her latest book, Leonora, was published in Spanish this year.