Elena Poniatowska II

I am back in Mérida (happy sigh).  It was wonderful to be away for ten days but as “Dorothy” said when she clicked the heels of her ruby slippers:  “There’s no place like home… There’s no place like home… There’s no place like home…”

However, before I get back into the groove here in Mérida, let me finish telling you about last Thursday with Elena Poniatowska…

At 10 years of age Elena moved to Mexico. WW II had made life impossible in her native Paris. She learned English at the British high school in Mexico City and a boarding school the USA. She says that she mastered Spanish through her heartfelt conversations with the people who worked in her home. In 1953, she took her first job as a reporter, and she also began writing novels.  She soon gained a reputation for her tenacity and honesty.

Elena spoke to me about her life in Mexico City as a young married woman. Like all working mothers, she always felt       stressed by the demands of her work, social commitments, writing and activism.

She became well known for her social consciousness, and she received threats. “It is difficult,” she said, “and you must be careful all the time.”

But she could not remain silent, especially after the student massacre at Tlatelolco in 1968. Her book gives voice to the everyday people who were involved in the tragedy. The book has been translated into English under the title, “Massacre in Mexico.” I highly recommend that everyone read this chronicle. Our knowledge about Mexico should also include the controversial and painful past.

As Elena and I sat together, other people drifted in and out… her son, a person for whom she’d written a prologue, a delightful physical therapist named Silvestre. She seemed so calm and receptive to all. I could see that her life is a series of days that are full of interesting people, good work, her family, and her causes.

Elena said that she felt this July would be critical for the country and she hopes that the public will inform themselves and then show up to vote. “Of course people feel dissatisfied but if they don’t participate and take a chance, there can be no change.”

She openly supports Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador (AMLO) because she feels he is the only candidate who offers any hope for transformation.

She opinioned that we need to concentrate on the present and the future. It does no good to look back all the time, we need to move forward.

“Will corruption in México ever be eradicated?” I asked. She shrugged her shoulders, “Who knows…” she answered.  “It certainly won’t happen if the people do not speak up. But protest also needs to be pragmatic; passion is a start but it has to be backed up with persuasive reason…”

When I glanced at my watch, I could not believe that four hours had elapsed. I must say they had been among the most stimulating ones of my life. Carlos had arrived to collect me and as I said my goodbyes, I felt supremely grateful.

I admire all that Elena Poniatowska represents. I applaud her bravery and I thank her for defending México during this difficult time. I will remember my afternoon with her for the rest of my life.


Filed under Vida Latina, Writing

2 responses to “Elena Poniatowska II

  1. Deanna Lagroix

    It was such an honour for me to not only have attended the Writers’ Conference in San Miguel de Allende but to have had the chance to hear Elena Poniatowska speak to us of Mexico and its artists. What love she has for this country while dealing with its flaws with candor. I, too, Joanna, will carry her presence at that podium in my memory for a long time to come.
    Thank you for allowing us to share some of your interview with Elena.

    • Yes Elena has an incredible presence, doesn’t she… And for me it was inspiring to spend time with you as well… you are a very good writer Deanna. I look forward to seeing more of your work.

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