The PEN Series: A Long Run

By Patricia Jean Browne

Lucina Kathmann, speaking at PEN conference

When CM Mayo takes the Bellas Artes stage on Tuesday, January 13, she follows a long line of distinguished speakers in San Miguel PEN’s winter series. Mayo, an icon in Mexican historical fiction, has spoken for PEN many times before. She joins other literary stars like Sandra Cisneros, and two late greats: Joseph Persico and W. D. Snodgrass. Like all of them, Mayo donates her talents; PEN pays no honorarium, not even transportation for out of town presenters.

PEN Series 2015
Tuesdays at 6pm
Bellas Artes auditorium
Jan 13, C M Mayo, Madero’s Secret
Jan 20, Alfredo Corchado and Angela Kocherga, Still Midnight in Mexico
Jan 27, Christine Wade, Revolutionary Fictions: Who Wins?
Feb 3, Deborah Kent Stein, Seeing Clearly: Human Rights for All
Feb 17, Alberto Aveleyra, 1491 to 2015: A 524-Year Conversation Between Cultures
March 3, Jon Sievert, Sing Out! Music and Protest in the Street

The matriarch of San Miguel PEN, Lucina Kathmann, knows where PEN’s money goes. She has been part of the local PEN center for 28 years, almost from its founding in 1979. San Miguel PEN is one of more than 100 worldwide centers of PEN International, a London-based organization that supports freedom of expression around the world, often by assisting writers in trouble with the law. As vice president of the PEN International, Kathmann has fielded requests for help from writers in trouble for years, as has Tony Cohan, another local member active on PEN’s Freedom to Write Committee.

One Christmas Eve, Kathmann received an urgent email from Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo, president of PEN Guinea. A coup had swept the government out of power and put the army in charge. The constitution and civil liberties were suspended. Two rap singer/songwriters whose songs blasted the army were in imminent danger. Who could help? Lucina thought of the PEN Emergency Fund; its purpose is getting help quickly to desperate writers. Kathmann located the fund’s chair, a Dutchman vacationing in the Adriatic. He wired funds on Christmas day to the endangered Guinean rap singers, who escaped into Senegal one step ahead of the soldiers on their trail.

This year’s lineup includes CM Mayo, who reveals a little known side of Francisco I. Madero, the Mexican revolutionary hero; Alfredo Corchado and Angela Kocherga report on Mexico’s dangerous climate for journalists; Christine Wade weaves a family’s tragic mystery into the backdrop of the American Revolution; Deborah Kent Stein illuminates a particular area of human rights; Alberto Aveleyra elucidates the cultural intertwining in the Americas that changed our world forever; and Jon Sievert closes the series with a tour through music as protest.

All presentations are in the upstairs Miguel Malo auditorium at Bellas Artes on Tuesdays at 6pm. Admission is 100 pesos, which includes a complimentary glass of wine with dinner at Vivali’s, across the street at Hernandez Macías 66.


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