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Richly Varied PEN Winter Lecture Series Speaks to Our Times

Baldemar Velasquez

By Signe Hammer

The 32nd annual San Miguel PEN Winter Lecture Series may be our most wide-ranging and relevant. We’ll discover the culture behind functioning, 400-year-old communal New Mexico waterways and visit an international writing school in a Pueblo Mágico. We’ll learn about the unlikely relationship of Teddy Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, explore current US-Mexican relations and view the history of Guanajuato through writers’ eyes.

Six of the seven presentations will be bilingual. There’ll be multimedia, poetry and song. And the audience can continue the discussion at dinner afterward with the presenters.

The series kicks off on January 16 with Benjamin Valdivia, philosopher, poet, professor and Renaissance man, who, in tracing Guanajuato history through its writers, playwrights and filmmakers will show that the best historians may be storytellers.

Next up, on the 23rd, veteran writer Gerard Helferich will discuss his new book about Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan. The two titans occasionally put aside their differences to rescue the country from disaster, thereby changing the way government and business work together.

MacArthur winner and Aguila Azteca recipient Baldemar Velasquez will speak, sing and screen a short video on the 30th. We’ll find out how labor and community groups are creating policies to resist the inequities of US-Mexico trade agreements.

On February 6, Magda Bogin and Luisa Valenzuela will address “The Responsibility of the Word.” President Luisa Valenzuela has transformed PEN Argentina from a writers’ club to an active chapter, on the watch to defend freedom of expression and promote literature. Magda Bogin shares her vision for Under the Volcano, the bilingual writing program in Tepoztlán: to identify, inspire and train the next generation of border-crossing writers.

February 20 brings “Up against the Wall: US-Mexico Relations from NAFTA to Trump” with Laura Carlsen, Director, Americas Program, Center for International Policy, Mexico City. How did relations between these two neighbors—the most integrated nations in the world—reach the current crisis? It’s not entirely Trump.

Bilingual poet Levi Romero’s multimedia presentation on February 27 will explore acequias, the traditional community waterways that weave water, land and culture into querencia, the New Mexico homeland. In our era of diminishing water resources, could such traditions save the future?

Finally, around the world, the conversation about undocumented and “low-skill” immigration sounds a lot like the conversation in the United States about Mexicans. On March 6, journalist Macarena Hernández’s multimedia presentation will look at what it means to say, “We Are all Mexicans”.

San Miguel PEN is a chapter of PEN International, the organization of writers that fights for freedom of expression around the world. The 150-peso admission helps fund local activities and includes a free glass of wine with dinner after the event at Vivali’s, across the street from the Bellas Artes at Hernandez Macias 66. Tickets will be available at Ticket Central in the Biblioteca or at the door. For more information, visit our website at


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