PEN International commemorates murdered journalists on the Day of the Dead

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San Miguel PEN Day of the Dead Altar

The Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) is an annual celebration that began in pre-Columbian central Mexico, but has spread to the rest of Latin American and areas of the US and Canada where there are concentrations of Mexican emigrants. The celebrations are often family get-togethers at cemeteries, where departed family members and friends are honored with “altars” decorated with pictures of the deceased, as well as offerings, such as sugar skulls and glasses of tequila.

This year, PEN International, and organization in support of freedom of expression that has been around since 1921, decided to make the Day of the Dead an occasion to remember journalists who have been murdered throughout Latin America. They organized events in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Chile, and Argentina.

Here are accounts of five of them:

San Miguel PEN Day of the Dead Altar

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: A large altar was constructed in the Jardin by Lauren Leonardi, Ernesto Espinoza Lopez, and José Juárez Montiel. It featured pictures of all 15 Mexican journalists that have been murdered this year. Included in this were two journalists previously documented on Daily Kos, newspaper correspondent Miroslava Breach Velducea and author Javier Valdez Cárdenas. Both of them worked for the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada. Judith Hill, President of the San Miguel Center, composed a poem for the occasion, which appears below. Slide show

Mexico City Day of the Dead

PEN Mexico organized a homage at the Casa Refugio Citlaltépetl. Featured were Francisco Valdez, son of Javier Valdez Cárdenas, and Magali Tercero, President of PEN Mexico. Valdez said, “you are the voice of thousands. I want to ask them not to forget those who have already been taken from us, and not abandon those brave people who, despite censorship, fear, and the stacks of bodies, have tried to transform our country.”

Managua, Nicaragua: This event, “Those who they did not silence, their ideas do not die” took place at Central American University. Gioconda Belli, a Nicaraguan writer and poet, said “independent media do not have access to public information. They are not allowed to enter press conferences. Every day there are greater restrictions from a Government that is not accountable, so we are in a situation in which we do not know what is happening.” Belli is featured in this video (in Spanish):

Guatemala City: This event, “Homage to the tragically disappeared writers”, was at San Carlos University. It commemorated Alaide Foppa, José María López Valdizón, Otto René Castillo, Luis de Lión and Roberto Obregón Morales, who disappeared during Guatemala’s civil war.






Argentina: Luisa Valenzuela on freedom of expression:

Song for the Dark Times

In the dark times will there still be singing?
Bertolt Brecht

The mariposas have arrived.
My vecino tells me they are the souls of the dead come to visit.
My mother has now the splendid body of the Amazon Swallowtail, my Father,
as he would have loved, a Monarch.

A neighbor in Jalpa says the butterfly’s migration is in danger,
their comida in east Texas decimated by drought and char,
forests overlogged,
corn and soy modified to resist herbicides, and those sprays
have taken out the milkweed.

The butterflies improvise, change tactics and appetite:
fill ditches with the milagro of their trembling color,
turn fall’s flower gardens into tableau vivants,
settle in boisterous clouds on maple and oak.

Here in the blue blue sky of October, that deep autumn shade,
they wing vivid, exuberant from their feast on cosmos,
also in final falling to seed.

Poetry is a farm of listening, grows the green of the Possible.

In an autumn of marigold and bee buzz,
Finality of nectars sweet as truth,
I say aloud the name of my mother, Suzanne Schack,
my father, Edward Schwartz.

I add the names of Los Muertos, the Ones who dared to write,
disclosed secrets kept in the pockets of Power,
the Ones that stood with what they knew:

Roberto Javier Mora García ~ Francisco Ortiz Franco ~ Francisco Arratia Saldierna ~ Raúl Gibb Guerrero ~ Hugo Barragán Ortiz ~ Enrique Perea Quintanilla ~ Misael Tamayo Hernández ~ José Manuel Nava SánchezRoberto Marcos García ~ Adolfo Sánchez Guzmán ~ Raúl Marcial Pérez ~ Saúl Noé Martínez Ortega ~ Gerardo Israel Garcia Pimentel ~ Francisco Ortiz Monroy ~ Bonifacio Cruz Santiago ~ Alfonso Cruz Cruz ~ Candelario Pérez Pérez ~ Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila ~ Miguel Angel Villagómez Valle ~ José Armando Rodríguez Carreón ~ Carlos Ortega Samper ~ Eliseo Barrón Hernández ~ Martín Javier Miranda Avilés ~ Ernesto Montañez Valdivia ~ Norberto Miranda Madrid ~ José Bladimir Antuna García ~ José Alberto Velázquez López ~ Valentín Valdés Espinosa ~ Jorge Alberto Ochoa Martínez ~ Jorge Rábago Valdez ~ Evaristo Pacheco Solís ~ Enrique Villicaña Palomares ~ Juan Francisco Rodríguez Ríos ~ Hugo Alfredo Olivera Cartas ~ Carlos Alberto Guajardo Romero ~ Susana Chávez Castillo ~ Noel López Olguin ~ Pablo Ruelas Barraza ~ Miguel Ángel López Velasco ~ María Elvira Hernández Galena ~ Ángel Castillo Corona ~ Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz ~ Humberto Millán Salazar ~ Ana María Marcela Yarce Viveros ~ María Elizabeth Macías Castro ~ El ‘Rascatripas’ (pen name) ~ Raúl Régulo Garza Quirino ~ Guillermo Fernández García ~ Héctor Javier Salinas Aguirre ~ Javier Moya Muñoz ~ Regina Martínez ~ René Orta Salgado ~ Marco Antonio Ávila García ~ Víctor Manuel Báez Chino ~ Ramón Abel López Aguilar ~ Adrián Silva Moreno ~ Jaime Guadalupe González Domínguez ~ Mario Ricardo Chávez Jorge ~ Alberto López Bello ~Miguel Ángel Guzmán Garduño ~Gregorio Jiménez de La Cruz (“Goyo”) ~ Jorge Torres Palacios ~ Octavio Rojas Hernández ~ Víctor Pérez Pérez ~ Jesús Antonio Gamboa Urías (“El Tony Gamboa”) ~ María del Rosario Fuentes Rubio ~ José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo ~ Filadelfo Sánchez Sarmiento ~ Ismael Díaz López ~ Juan Mendoza Delgado ~ Gerardo Nieto Álvarez ~ Marcos Hernández Bautista ~ Anabel Flores Salazar ~ Francisco Pacheco Beltrán ~ Manuel Torres González ~ Elidio Ramos Zárate ~ Zamira Esther Bautista Luna ~ Pedro Tamayo Rosas ~ Aurelio Cabrera Campos ~ Jesús Adrián Rodríguez Samaniego ~ Cecilio Pineda Birto ~ Ricardo Monlui Cabrera ~ Miroslava Breach Velducea ~ Maximino Rodríguez Palacios ~ Filiberto Álvarez Landeros ~ Juan Carlos Hernández Ríos ~ Javier Valdez Cárdenas ~ Jonathan Rodríguez Córdova ~ Luciano Rivera ~ Edgar Daniel Esqueda Castro ~ Javier Lucero ~ Salvador Adame Pardo ~ Candido Ríos Vázquez ~ Marcela de Jesús Natalia ~ Juan José Roldán Avila

Let us remember the names of these Taken Ones.
Become the Ones that continue on.
Tell this Story:

No single butterfly makes the entire journey.
The navigational clues mysterious, ancestral, magnetic.
Flavor of milkweed, scent of future.
Gathered together, the many as one,
flowers in flight: they arrive in Michoacán.

I wrap myself in the Tallit of Remembrance.
Stand, say the Kaddish of Butterflies.

– Judyth Hill

Magali Tercero, Adriana Díaz Enciso, Francisco Valdez, and Eduardo Vázquez Martín at the PEN homage in Mexico City

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