Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Back Story (Maya Poetry panel)

The PUC campus where LASA is being held in Rio has its own rainforest....

Guatemala’s own Nobel and Pulitzer prizes for Literature rolled into one, the Miguel Angel Asturias prize, named after the country’s Nobel novelist (and father of guerrilla chief Gaspar Ilom), was presented to Humberto Ak’abal in 2004. He declined to accept it This shocked the country’s intellectual elite.

As a young writer, Asturias had opined on the majority Maya as a lesser kind of people, with passions and proclivities that signalled they were inferior to Guatemalans of European roots. His Social Problem of the Indian encouraged racism, Ak'abal said.

As I've said, I've known Humberto for years. In January, in Antigua, he told me he couldn't accept an honor named after Asturias. Humberto is gentle, peaceable; internationally and at home, he has accepted honors as a way of bringing light to Maya history, aesthetic, and living conditions. But even illiterate (but not uneducated) Maya know about this writing of Asturias, and there was no way he could accept, because he answered to his community.

“I am one of my people,” he said.

Arturo Arias has received the Miguel Asturias prize.

Coming: Marketing Memory, and Was there Genocide in Latin America or Not?

It's pouring like crazy in Copacabana as I write…