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miércoles 13 enero 2021 - 6:19pm

Mike Halmshaw
PEN International

San Miguel Pen’ S 2020 Yearly Report


This report must begin by acknowledging the tremendous change which happened to every-one on the globe in March. San Miguel PEN had barely finished its winter series of lectures and solicited dates with Bellas Artes for the 2021 winter's series when the pandemic crisis hit. Bellas Artes closed and has never opened since then. Many issues suddenly became moot; and were replaced by a bigger issue: how do we pivot to operate effectively under these conditions?

The murder of journalists in Mexico did not stop, in fact, it increased. Journalists and writers world-round were more in danger than ever, as imprisonment often meant a death sentence from Covid 19.

So, the story of our year is framed by the sudden, never-before-experienced necessity to rise above the challenges brought on by a worldwide pandemic, and increased danger to literary freedoms.

Our 2020 lecture series took place as usual:

January 14 / 14 enero

M. M. McAllen

Maximilian and Carlota: Europe’s Last Empire in Mexico

Maximiliano y Carlota: El último imperio europeo en México

January 21 / 21 enero

Padre Alejandro Solalinde with / con Karla María Gutiérrez

Revelations of a Missionary: My Itinerant Life

Revelaciones de un misionario: mi vida itinerante

January 28 / 28 enero

Betty Londergan

The Two Sides of Betty Friedan: Feminist Icon & Complicated Woman

Los dos lados de Betty Friedan: ícono feminista y mujer complicada

February 4 / 4 febrero

Ruth Behar

The Search for Home: Reflections of an Immigrant Writer

La búsqueda de un hogar: reflexiones de una escritora inmigrante

February 18 / 18 febrero

John Phillip Santos

Ancestral Journeys to Now: Searching for Our Connections to Ancient Mexico

Viajes ancestrales hasta ahora: buscando nuestras conexiones con el México del pasado

February 25 / 25 febrero

Cori Ellison

To See Your Soul: Opera’s Transformative Power

Para ver tu alma: el poder transformador de ópera

March 3 / 3 marzo

Cristina Jiménez

Hope in a Time of Darkness: The Resilience of US Immigrants under Attack

Esperanza en tiempos de oscuridad: la resistencia de los inmigrantes bajo ataque en EU.

Our season was an enormous success. Many thanks to the speakers, audience, and everyone involved in producing and enjoying this series.

Changing to Zoom

When pandemic shutdowns occurred, San Miguel PEN barely missed a beat. Our PEN responded to a PEN International call to write and submit grants to grow our digital capabilities; we wrote and re-ceived funding from PEN International to change focus quickly.

We purchased a professional level of Zoom coverage and began to work on international events as well as local events and held frequent San Miguel PEN work meetings by Zoom:

Feb 24

July 23

September 9

October 14

November 18

December 16

The next scheduled meeting will be Wed. Jan 13 at 4 pm San Miguel time.

We hired a webmaster, built and maintained an impressive website and increased our presence on so-cial media: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

This radical change was spearheaded by President Judyth Hill, who, as it turned out, had the neces-sary technical competence and relationships with technical assistants.

PEN International also began a series of Zoomed events for Latin American PEN Centers.

Two-day Worldwide Women Writers Committee Conference

The PEN International Women Writers Committee held its annual worldwide meeting as a two-day online event on August 22-23. This had been scheduled to occur in Myanmar. When that became ob-viously impossible, Judyth Hill and Lucina Kathmann quickly became part of the steering committee for this event, a committee which still meets every two weeks by Zoom. Judyth Hill coordinated a very successful poetry reading which was a part of this international conference. Lucina Kathmann

helped provide a tape by Stella Nyanzi about her jail experiences for a keynote event and a tape by Fernanda Ferral about the homicide of her mother, Mexican journalist María Elena Ferral, murdered in March. This was for an “Empty Chair” presentation, a feature of all PEN conferences to honor those who cannot attend because they are in prison, or have been killed for the work they did.

Lucina Kathmann also provided contacts for the round table coordinated by Tanja Tuma from Slove-nia.

Many San Miguel PEN members attended this conference as well as colleagues from the whole world. There were more than 1000 viewers for the Facebook version of the conference, and over 200 viewers for the online poetry event, Free the Word, Locked Down Locked In, which featured poets from around the world, as well as our president, Jennifer Clement, and Ugandan hero, Stella Nyanzi. Our Empty Chair for this event was the Uyghur poet, Gulmira Imin, currently sentenced to life in prison. To everyone's surprise it turned out that PEN International had to ask for and use San Miguel PEN's more professional level of Zoom to run the event.

Día de Muertos

On November 1, the PIWWC also organized a well-attended Free the Word poetry Zoom event, We Grieve, and We Celebrate, for Day of the Dead, also organized by Judyth Hill. This event featured Iranian Human Rights activist, Nasrin Sotoudeh, as our Empty Chair.

San Miguel PEN also did a spectacular online Día de Muertos exposition on its regular website, Many other PEN centers also did events and expositions for Day of the Dead.

Sister Centres

Other PEN Centers hastened to organize Zoomed events. PEN of Nicaragua, despite the very bad sit-uation in their country, began transmitting literary events as early as May. There was –and is – such a proliferation of Zoomed cultural events that San Miguel PEN member Alicia Quiñones, who is also PEN International's coordinator for Latin America, said we had all become “Zoombies.” This move-ment has opened publishing possibilities for San Miguel PEN members and associates: Eleven have texts accepted for an anthology to be produced by PEN of Puerto Rico, Letras desde el encierro. Ali-cia Quiñones was heard recently on PEN Argentina's radio station.

PEN World Congress

On September 2-6 the PEN International World Congress, planned for Uppsala, Sweden had to be vir-tual. San Miguel PEN members were able to attend it in greater numbers than ever. The Writers in Prison Committee meetings on November 4 and 5 were particularly popular. Tony Cohan presented the report for San Miguel PEN.

After this congress Tony Cohan, who has chaired San Miguel PEN's Freedom to Write Committee for decades, said he would like to be relieved of this post.

Dennis Conroy, who has successfully represented San Miguel PEN at some Writers in Prison Conferences in the past, is now willing to take more responsibility for this part of San Miguel PEN's work, and thus has become chair of this committee.

We thank Tony Cohan very much for his longtime excellent service. We really owe him a debt of gratitude.

Holiday Party

On December 13,with Judyth as technician, Lucina hosted a first-time-ever virtual holiday party for all the Latin American PEN Centers. This event was widely attended by colleagues up and down the Americas. Since there is a perennial shortage of attention for Spanish-speaking PEN members, it may well become a tradition.

Support for Local Projects

In 2020, San Miguel PEN was a potent emergency financial resource for Mexican, and Latin and Central American journalists at immediate risk. To further protect them, we will not list their names here.

The center also supported our Vice-President Emeritus, Victor Sahautoba’s, long-standing San Miguel literary project, FELISMA scheduled for February 2021. Apart from a financial contribution San Miguel PEN has offered to promote this event on our social media, emails to membership, as well as provide any digital assistance required.

We also contributed to San Miguel Casa for the purchase of library books, to support their three-pronged library outreach to encourage local children to develop the habit of reading and a love of the written word, along with the forms of knowledge that come with it.

Upcoming Event

Leading off the San Miguel PEN 2021 winter Lecture Series, on Tuesday Jan 26, at 6 pm, CST, Al-fredo Corchado will speak live via Zoom about My Homelands, the US-Mexico region, and its chal-lenges for the Biden administration: This event is free of charge for everyone.

The rest of the series is not yet defined.

We look forward to a heartily productive year ahead, able to use our new digital capabilities to take on any distancing challenges, while eagerly awaiting the opportunity to meet and work in person again!