UCSB held its 15th annual colloquium celebrating Mexican literature, which consisted of a three-day series of events beginning last Thursday and continuing until Saturday.
The colloquium took place on campus and in downtown Santa Barbara and discussed the works of Mexican feminist author and journalist Elena Poniatowska and the late Mexican novelist and essay writer Carlos Fuentes, who passed away last May. The conference featured a keynote address by Poniatowska at UCSB on Thursday and a discussion session with community members on Saturday.
The colloquium was organized by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese as well as the UC-Mexicanistas, an intercampus research program of professors and scholars.
According to UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, who spoke during the opening ceremony address in the McCune Conference Room, the diverse group of 50 faculty members, writers, alumni and other intellectual scholars who presented during the events were responsible for the conference’s success.
“I [would] like to say thank you to all [of] our participants,” Yang said in his speech. “We are truly honored to welcome such a distinguished group of international scholars. We appreciate all the knowledge, ideas and creative insight that you bring to this colloquial.”
Other opening speakers included Spanish and Portuguese Department Chair Silvia Bermúdez, UC-Mexicanistas Director and Spanish and Portuguese professor Sara Poot-Herrera, Graduate Division acting dean Carol Genetti and David Marshall, the Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts.
Following the opening ceremony, Michael Schuessler, author and professor at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City, presented a speech reflecting on Poniatowska’s childhood and adult life. Hernán Lara Zavala, professor at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, continued with a discussion of Fuentes’s life and work, detailing Fuentes’s impact on Latin American literature.
Poniatowska then presented her keynote speech, entitled “We Are All Writers.” Poniatowska said she takes pride in having lived 80 years, having ten grandchildren and publishing books in opposition of the Mexican government. She concluded her address with a poetic description of herself and was received with a standing ovation from the audience.
“Because I can swim in infinity. Because I am the wise medicine woman. Because I am the woman who looks within. Because I am the Jesus Christ woman … Because I am life,” Poniatowska said in her keynote presentation.
The colloquium also stands as the 15th anniversary of the formation of UC-Mexicanistas and addressed various research topics concerning issues of economics, culture, migration and border issues.
Other sessions of the colloquium took place on Friday in the McCune Conference Room, the Crowell Reading Room and the Graduate Student Lounge in the MultiCultural Center. On Saturday, a series of presentations continuing over the span of the entire day began at 9 a.m. at Casa de la Guerra in downtown SB and ended at 5 p.m. with Poniatowska engaging in interactive discussion with the community in the event, “Diálogo entre Elena Poniatowska y el púlico.”