When acclaimed writers, poets and journalists from Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain get together for a literary festival, says Puerto Rican writer Mayra Santos-Febres, the conversation is not necessarily about particular books or essays. It is actually a “tertulia” about the larger, universal issues of culture, migration, and what she calls the “gift” of the United States’ increasing diversity. Santos-Febres is the Executive Director of the Festival de la Palabra, which will be held in New York City this coming week, October 9th through the 11th, during Hispanic Heritage Month.
The Festival de la Palabra is an international festival which originated in Puerto Rico, where it is still held, and which also takes place in New York since last year. It is being co-sponsored by Lehman College and Hostos Community College in New York City. Santos-Febres says bringing the festival to New York City makes sense, considering so many Puerto Ricans make the U.S. their home. Similarly, there are so many Latinos in the U.S. from different Latin American and Caribbean countries, that the U.S. is now one of the largest “Spanish speaking” countries worldwide.
Santos-Febres explains that the issues of migration, connection to one’s culture and language transcend borders and migration.
“A community does not need to be in a specific piece of land to be a community,” says Santos-Febres. The writer also says at a time where borders have become politicized, it is through culture, language and books we can celebrate the fact that “human beings will always mix, and will always leave their countries to better serve them,” she says. “In fact, sometimes those who emigrate give their home countries a new strength,” Santos-Febres adds.
Recent attempts to ban Mexican studies books in Arizona, says the Puerto Rican writer, as well as calls for increased closing of borders are misguided attempts, since “contacts between communities cannot be regulated,” says Santos-Febres.
The Festival de la Palabra will have writers from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico and France (Guadalupe), and events will be celebrated in different venues around the city. Some of the discussion topics include “Babel 2012: The Gift of Diversity,” poetry readings, “A Dialogue between Latin America, the United States, and Europe,” as well as a discussion of the “literary voyage of going and returning” between Latin America and Spain.
The events take place in cultural centers and universities in New York City. Everyone is welcome, and the discussions will take place in Spanish, to celebrate the language of so many Latinos, during Hispanic Heritage Month.
“We want to tell the world that ‘la cultura latina’ is a universal culture, we are everywhere, and this platform is a dialogue between cultures,” says Santos-Febres.