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It’s PEN Time Again

By Pat Hirschl

The 2016 Winter Series marks 30 years of San Miguel PEN events supporting freedom of expression around the world. Distinguished writers donate their time and talent; all proceeds go to PEN’s work internationally and in San Miguel.

PEN 2016 Winter Series
Tuesdays, 6pm
Bellas Artes
100 pesos

Jennifer Clement was president of Mexico City PEN when she read from her work-in-progress in 2013. The book that resulted, Prayers for the Stolen, has won numerous prizes and been translated into 23 languages. At an October meeting in Quebec, Jennifer was elected president of PEN International, with six San Miguel PEN members there to applaud. She joins a list that includes Arthur Miller and Mario Vargas Llosa.

PEN now fights not only government censorship, but also a catalog of other barriers. The 2016 PEN series reflects this reality, in its list of upcoming speakers.

Deborah Kent Stein, a writer who is blind, reports on obvious and subtle barriers to full human development.

César Arias de la Canal reminds us that without access to pure water we cannot stay alive, much less reach the point of expressing ourselves−freely or otherwise.

Mamie Spiegel recalls the gift from the grave of Sor Juana de la Cruz, the iconic 17th-century nun and early champion of human rights whose face is on the 200-peso note.

Sandra Cisneros, fabled for her chronicles of Hispanic-Americans, reads from her newly published book, A House of My Own: Stories from My Life. Her longing for home resonates with thousands of refugees around the globe.

Indigenous weavers from Oaxaca, whose livelihood depends on the dye from a snail in danger of extinction, tell their story of loss of home when outside forces threaten. Their mentor, a human rights activist, relates their plight to that of indigenous people everywhere.

In a break from PEN’s often sober discussions, Mark Saunders, the self-described “wordy cartoonist with a short attention span,” opens the series. His witty talk illustrates an old truth: Humor is a sure if subtle weapon−think Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, James Thurber. This “freedom fighter with his humor sword” speaks on “Humor, the Cutting Edge” on Tuesday, January 12, at 6pm in the Bellas Artes auditorium. The nominal 100-peso admission fee entitles the holder to a free glass of wine with dinner at Vivali, across the street at Hernández Macias 66. More importantly, your 100 pesos help to make freedom of expression a worldwide reality.


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