Festival de la Palabra

NYC Hosts ‘Festival de la Palabra’

By 09 October, 2012

New York City will play host to the third annual Festival de la Palabra / Festival of the Word—an event that celebrates Spanish language writers.

The event began on Oct. 4 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It now continues with more than 30 diverse writers from Spain and Latin America at various venues across New York City from Oct. 8-11.

La Festival de la Palabra is an international literary festival that brings together some of the most exciting contemporary authors writing in Spanish with diverse academic and non-academic community audiences to debate, explore, and celebrate writing from Latin America, Spain and its Spanish-speaking diasporas, including the United States, says Mayra Santos-Febres, a Puerto Rican author, poet, novelist, professor of literature, and literary critic who has garnered fame at home and abroad for her first two collections of poetry, Anamu y manigua and El orden escapado.

“We know Puerto Rico is a natural destination for so many kinds of tourism,” she says. “Three years ago we asked ourselves, why not host a literary festival in order to attract even more people?”

This year’s festival will bring writers from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guadaloupe-France, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Spain to New York City to participate in readings, presentations, for a, debates, and workshops. (See schedule here.) Most events are free and open to the public.

At Fordham University in midtown Manhattan on Oct. 11, for example, there will be readings and discussion on, “Writing (in) the Hispanic Caribbean,” with Anna Lidia Vega Serova of Cuba, Pedro Antonio Valdez of the Dominican Republic, and Luis Negron of Puerto Rico.

Writer Charlie Vázquez, author of the novel Contraband and the bilingual poems Meditations, coordinated the New York City portion of the festival and helped choose the writers along with Febres and a colleague in Lisbon.

“It’s an interesting development and outcome because almost all the presentations in Puerto Rico are, for the most part, conducted in Spanish, but in New York, it becomes a bilingual affair,” he says.

As an active writer, Vázquez says he felt honored to invite friends who are actively writing and publishing to participate in the festival.

“And they, in turn, get to meet writers from around the world,” he says. “I love to listen to writers talk about their creative processes, their industry experience, and so forth. We also produce readings and lectures. So overall it’s a very fulfilling experience.”

Vázquez says the festival has inspired him to start writing in Spanish.

“I was educated in English in New York City public schools and brought up in bilingual homes where some of my older relatives only spoke Spanish. One of the things I’ve learned as a result of all of this is that Spanish is more than just a beautiful and popular and inherently poetic language, it’s also a passport to a large portion of the Earth’s readers, on different continents. I have grown as a writer because of it, and that, in itself, is a priceless education,” Vázquez says.

Santos-Febres says participation and attendance at the festival has increased each year, something she hopes will continue.

“We want to be the point of departure. We’d like for it to go beyond Spanish or English. I wish we could include more someday, such as authors of works written in indigenous languages,” she says.


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