• PEN International commemorates murdered journalists on the Day of the Dead

    News and Commentary

    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 Continue Reading »

  • Aline Davidoff 1957-2017

    News and Commentary

    The legacy that Aline left this organization is profound and invaluable. Thank you, Aline, for the generosity and dedication you used to lead this fight for one of the most important freedoms for human beings, freedom of expression. You fought for our rights every minute of your life.

    Aline Davidoff (1957-2017) was President of PEN Mexico from 2013 to 2015. She studied literature in the New School in New York. Among her books are the novel El sueño correcto, and a book of short stories, Sólo un cerro. Her poems and prose have appeared in various anthologies like Memoria poética de la Alhambra. Aline also worked for theater and movies.

    We offer our condolences to her friends and family; we hope they will all find solace soon. We offer as well our thanks, our love and our very good memories.
    Continue Reading »

  • Condolences for the journalists killed in March 2017

    News and Commentary

    The following letter from San Miguel PEN was published in Atención on April 21, 2017:

    PEN San Miguel expresa su más sincero pésame a las familias y colegas de los tres periodistas asesinados en el mes de marzo de 2017 por su reportaje sobre eventos políticos y criminales en México y su profundo sentir por el subsecuente cierre del periódico Norte (Ciudad Juárez), un golpe a la libertad de expresión.

    San Miguel PEN expresses its most sincere condolences to the families and colleagues of the three journalists assassinated in the month of March 2017 for their reporting on politics and crime in Mexico and its profound regret for the subsequent closure of Norte newspaper, a blow to freedom of expression.

    • Cecilio Pineda Brito, La Voz de Tierra Caliente, Guerrero: 2 marzo/March 2
    • Ricardo Monlui Cabrera, El Político, Veracruz: 19 marzo/March 19
    • Miroslava Breach Velducea, La Jornada y/and Norte (Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua): 23 marzo/March 23

    Jane Onstott
    PEN recording secretary

  • A crime against freedom: Miroslava Breach, woman and journalist

    News and Commentary

    Miroslava Breach Velducea

    A translation of an article by Olga Alicia Aragón that was published in La Jornada on March 25, 2017

    Miroslava Breach Velducea was murdered in cold blood; eight shots fired at her by a professional murderer, in a calculated act of extreme violence. His action deeply wounded the best journalism of Chihuahua and showed the seriousness of the breakdown of a state that bleeds from the impunity with which the corrupt and the criminal have acted for years.

    It is not the death of one journalist. It is the death of our society, which has gradually gotten used to the killing of its best people, silencing them in many different ways. As the writer Carlos Lazcano put it, expressing his heartfelt condolences “for you, for me, for the Miroslava family, for all who love justice and truth, for all that we want in this country.”

    There were many bullets, clearly intended to send a written message in blood and fire.

    Eight shots, too, to mow down a woman who wielded critical journalism with great neatness, armed only with her intelligence, her professional ethics, and the power of words.

    Miroslava Breach, correspondent for La Jornada and a contributor to the newspaper El Norte de Juarez, was gunned down at 7:06 AM on Thursday, March 23, in her van when she left her home to go to school with her son Carlitos, 14, and get an early start on her journalistic work, as always. Continue Reading »

  • 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women: Pushback Year

    News and Commentary

    Lucina Kathmann (left) and Elizabeth Starcevic (right)

    by Lucina Kathmann

    United Nations, New York City, March 17, 2017

    Pushback is a word I barely knew till this year. Here at the United Nations in New York attending the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women, someone reports receiving reactionary pushback against the pro-women agenda every 15 minutes: pushback about reproductive rights, pushback about home care, pushback about equal pay, pushback about just about everything. The delegates sent by conservative governments evidently have been instructed to object to everything. Continue Reading »

  • Mexican Journalists Stand in Solidarity with US journalists

    News and Commentary

    March 6, 2017

    To our colleagues in the United States of America,

    At this time of an unprecedented, relentless assault on the free press of the United States by the Trump administration, we Mexican journalists, writers, and publishers stand in solidarity with you as you do your crucial work.

    For decades you have stood by us as successive governments and criminal gangs have targeted our press and assassinated our journalists for doing work in the public interest – uncovering crimes and corruption. And so many times we have only known the truth about our own country by reading the stories followed and uncovered in the US press. We urge you to continue to uphold freedom of expression as your society, institutions, and values depend upon it.

    You have stood with us during the darkest hours of press freedom in Mexico and, although we never could believe this day would come, we now stand with you. Continue Reading »

  • Jorge Ramos lecture, February 21, 2017

    News and Commentary

    Univision Spanish-language news anchor and reporter Jorge Ramos is best known in the English-speaking world for being forcibly removed from a Trump press conference. On February 21, 2017, he made an appearance in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico as part of the annual lecture series organized by the San Miguel de Allende Center of PEN International.

    Ramos has lived in the United States for 30 years, primarily in Miami and Los Angeles, and is a US citizen. He talked about how journalism is a dangerous occupation in Mexico. By comparison, he feels safe in the US, despite his high profile and the widespread anti-Mexican sentiment.

    He said that we cannot remain neutral, that works against our interests. As for himself, “I am not going to sit down, I am not going to shut up and I am not going away.” Continue Reading »

  • David Lida on prejudice against Mexicans, and visiting San Miguel

    News and Commentary

    Since I began to work as a mitigation specialist, it became clear to me that in many communities prejudice against, and racism toward, Mexicans was pretty much “our daily bread,” among at least some whites. It would be very clear when I interviewed white people in those communities — teachers and school administrators, for example — and listened to their opinions and viewpoints about the Mexicans living in their midst. It occurred to me that many white Americans form their ideas about blacks, Mexicans, other Latinos, Muslims, and virtually anyone who is not white, without actually knowing anyone in that group. What they “know,” or think they know, comes from what they hear on Fox News, or read on the Breitbart web site, or from similar sources. Most towns and cities in the US no longer have downtowns, or downtowns where people hang out and get to know their neighbors. Most white Americans, therefore, live in isolation, in suburbs and strip malls. I believe things might be different if they actually knew people from those groups and realized how many values they shared with them.

    Ever since I became a mitigation specialist, lawyers always stressed that the defense team wants to do everything in its power to avoid a trial and reach some kind of a settlement with the prosecution. Because you never know who you might end up with on a jury — some members might be very racist and very uneducated, and very eager to sentence our client to death. Now more than ever this seems crucial to me, especially in cases where we are working with a client who is Mexican. The jury pool has absorbed a message that Mexicans are criminals — from the President of the United States, no less. Continue Reading »

  • PEN resolution on the abduction of school-aged girls

    News and Commentary

    This resolution was passed at the 82nd PEN International Congress in Ourense, Spain:
    —–

    Violence against women and girls has long threatened freedom of expression, and the wider global context of gender inequality continues to be a very serious threat to the participation of women and girls in literature, and to the education and literacy of girls.

    In particular, the abduction of school-aged girls is an ongoing global issue and – as well as being an act of gender-based violence in and of itself – typically marks the end of an individual’s education: prohibiting her participation in, contribution to, and access to global literature both as a reader and a writer. Continue Reading »

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