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National Medal of Arts Awarded to Cisneros

By Pat Hirschl

Distinguished author and San Miguel de Allende resident Sandra Cisneros received a National Medal of Arts on Thursday, September 25, 2016. The ceremony at the White House recognized acclaimed poets, filmmakers, artists, musicians, playwrights, broadcasters, and an organization, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

Before presenting the medals, President Barack Obama noted, “The arts and the humanities lift up our identities and make us see ourselves in each other. And today’s honorees each possess a gift for this kind of creative empathy—a gift that allows us to exchange a sense of what’s most important and most profound in us and to identify with our collective experience as Americans.”

The US Congress created the medal in 1984 as the highest honor for achievement in the arts bestowed on an individual artist on behalf of the American people. The National Endowment of the Arts cited Cisneros for “enriching the American narrative. Through her novels, short stories, and poetry, she explores issues of race, class, and gender through the lives of ordinary people straddling multiple cultures. As an educator, she has deepened our understanding of American identity.”

She has enriched the San Miguel community as well by her presence as a keynote speaker at the Literary Sala’s Writers’ Conference and through her active participation and presentations to San Miguel PEN. Members of San Miguel PEN and the Literary Sala gathered to watch the ceremony live from the White House at La Cocina restaurant, where a room and screen were graciously provided. Cisneros was glowing in a traditional Mexican huipil as Obama hung the medal around her neck. The whole room at La Cocina cheered.

The president’s complete remarks and a full list of those honored are available at


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