Volunteering for San Miguel PEN

A guest blog by Laura di Giuseppe, who volunteered for San Miguel PEN in January-February 2015.

“I’ve always been fascinated by international literature and thought that if we only read literary works created in our own country we wouldn’t be able to understand foreign cultures.

The importance of literature in translation and protecting minority languages brought me to PEN International, a global organisation which promotes freedom of expression worldwide.

I’m Italian and I’ve been living in London for the past 10 years. In London I had the opportunity to graduate from a Master’s Degree in International Journalism. Surrounded by a group of international journalists coming from China, Iran, Egypt, South Africa, the US and more, I started to look into the issues of censorship, self-censorship and freedom of expression. The work I currently do for a publishing house fits with my idea of spreading the importance of literature and bringing books (in whichever format, from ebooks to audio and print) to the widest possible audience.

PEN International, a non-political organisation promoting freedom of expression and protecting journalists and writers in danger, stands for everything that has become important for me over the years.

I volunteer for English PEN in London and when I decided to travel to Mexico I wanted to do it in a meaningful way. And for me ‘meaningful’ means being able to belong to a community even for a very short period of time. For me, travelling is not simply visiting the largest number of sights and temples. For this reason, English PEN put me in touch with San Miguel PEN and I’ve been volunteering for Lucina Kathmann and her team in San Miguel.

In this very short period of time, I’ve met wonderful people and discovered things about Mexico which I would have never found out about if I was simply travelling from the North to South of Mexico.

I had the opportunity to listen to the lecture by Alfredo Corchado talking about his book Midnight in Mexico. It’s probably still midnight in Mexico, where more than 97 journalists have been killed since 2012 and more than a dozen have disappeared.

But I’m convinced that thanks to people like Lucina Kathmann (Vice-President of PEN International, Secretary of San Miguel PEN and Board Member of PEN International Women Writers Committee), Elizabeth Starcevic (President of San Miguel PEN), Pat Hirschl (Chair of the Lecture Series for San Miguel PEN) , Victor Sahuatoba (Vice-President of San Miguel PEN), and organisations like San Miguel PEN and PEN International it won’t be midnight in Mexico forever…

Pat Hirschl organised an event at her beautiful house in San Miguel so that I could meet a number of San Miguel PEN members. We talked about Mexico, assassinated journalists and the dangers in the Northern border. But we also spoke about literature and the beauty of the Mexican country and culture. The event was also meant to be a farewell party as it was my last Sunday in San Miguel.

But I know this is not a farewell. It’s only the beginning of a beautiful friendship with the PEN ‘family’ in San Miguel, Mexico and worldwide.

I will be forever grateful for this experience at San Miguel PEN and from now on I will do my best to increase its visibility in Mexico and abroad.

As a starting point, you can now follow San Miguel PEN on Twitter and Facebook to see the amazing work they do.

All I can say now is: Thank you, everyone! Thank you, San Miguel PEN!’

Lucina Kathmann and Victor Sahuatoba
Event with PEN members at Pat Hirschl’s house
From left: Laura Di Giuseppe, Lucina Kathmann and Victor Sahuatoba

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