Gloria Guardia will always be remembered as a distinguished Latin American writer, whose work moved between the worlds of Panama, Colombia, and Nicaragua in the times of Dario and Sandino. Above all, her writings engaged with the political history of Central America, its literary and even autobiographical territory.
When I was President of PEN International, she was one of our most dynamic members, and among the most fully committed to PEN’s humanist mission. As such she was a leading ally in the creation of the Executive Committee (now the Executive Board) and in the reform of PEN’s Regulations. One of the objectives of that reform was to enable PEN to become less Anglo-Saxon and Eurocentric, and more inclusive of countries with emerging literatures. To this end, Gloria founded the Iberoamerican Foundation of PEN International, financing it with her own funds, and she went to great lengths to activate dormant Centers in Latin America. With this in mind, she and I travelled to Buenos Aires to recuperate the Villa Ocampo and to revive and democratize Argentine PEN.
I will never forget her energetic lobbying for the inclusion of Spanish as the third of PEN’s official languages. Until then, delegates from Latin America were virtually excluded from discussions at PEN Congresses, which took place solely in English and French.
With Gloria Guardia’s death, PEN loses a leading light in its recent history, and my wife Betty and I lose a dear friend, whose loyalty and generosity was never in doubt.
International President Emeritus, PEN International