Elena Poniatowska celebrates her 90th birthday: doubts, astonishment and justice of the Red Princess

Elena Poniatowska celebrates her 90th birthday: doubts, astonishment and justice of the Red Princess

Elena Poniatowska, May 16, 2022, in Mexico City (Photo: EFE/Sáshenka Gutiérrez)

Watching what no one has seen and listening to what no one has listened to made the Mexican writer Elena Poniatowskiwho turns 90 this Thursday, will find in the lyrics a space to confront the injustices of a country where poverty, violence and corruption have been normalized.

“It was a window that allowed us to look at what Mexico is and to get to know it. She started working in 1953 and since then she hasn’t stopped,” she says in an interview. Beatriz Zalce de Guerriff, the writer’s niece and twice winner of the National Journalism Award. “It is the Red Princess, Aunt Elena, who is always ready to be one of the undersigned for the best causes, the columnist par excellence of this country”, deepens the writer. Benito Taibo.

Born in Paris in 1932, Poniatowska arrived in Mexico with her family fleeing World War II at the age of ten. Being a descendant of Polish royalty, Hélène Elizabeth Louise Amélie Paula Dolores Poniatowska Loveher full name, was destined to have a traditional life and the same as that of an aristocrat of her time, but meeting such an inexplicable Mexico in her childhood changed her course.

“Not being born in Mexico allowed her to see with great amazement things that were seen here as something normal. She gives a very specific example like the fact that there are people who don’t don’t have shoes, here we ignore the answer and say ‘it’s because they’re poor’, but that didn’t seem like an answer or a reason, and it first shows that look of curiosity and amazement,” says Zalce.

Elena Poniatowska, May 16, 2022, in Mexico City (Photo: EFE/Sáshenka Gutiérrez)
Elena Poniatowska, May 16, 2022, in Mexico City (Photo: EFE/Sáshenka Gutiérrez)

Without the university degrees she would have liked to have, Poniatowska had an education that no school can offer, having had great “teachers” like Octavio Paz, Alfonso Reyes, Diego Rivera Yes Juan Rufo. Moreover, he was able to call intellectuals like Carlos Monsivais, Carlos Fuentes, Leonora Carrington, Vicente Rojo Yes Jose Emilio Pacheco to name a few.

His beginnings as a journalist date back to 1953 in the newspaper ExcellencyTwo years later, he met Fernando Benitez in the supplement Mexico in culture From Journal News, and it was he who, in a demanding but affectionate way, forced her to “perfect” in the art of the interview. “Benitez told her ‘you are a pearl in a dump’, always encouraging her to improve,” says her niece who, inspired by her, also decided to devote herself to journalism.

fighter for social causes

At a time when the voices of “ordinary” people weren’t interesting, Poniatowska stopped her gaze and lent her ear to “interview people who weren’t interviewable,” Zalce says, since she was dedicated to listening. these people “invisible” to the media and people from their social strata. Chronicles such as The Night of Tlatelolco: Evidence from Oral History (1971), where he recounts the experiences of the students and leaders of the student movement of 1968, and Strong is the silence (1980), where he talks about grassroots struggles that resonate today because of their similarities.

Elena Poniatowska (EFE / Francisco Guasco)
Elena Poniatowska (EFE / Francisco Guasco)

and novels like Until I see you my Jesus (1969), where he recounts the life of Jesusa Palancaresa woman from Oaxaca who is a victim of poverty and violence, or the troops (1999), where she takes a look at the women who were part of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921). “Elenita is our memory, our ‘Jimpe Cricket’ (conscience) which is in our ear always telling us where to go, which direction to take and how to do things one way or another”, considers Taibo.

“His texts are not only a pretty way, a literary way of saying things, but they are also a content, it is a substance and a form, it goes beyond having been a very pretty and very nice little güerita, there is great talent in the interview,” says her niece Beatriz.

A legacy of letters and solidarity

The image of Poniatowska signing each book in a personalized way from an endless row of readers, shows her closeness and naturalness with which she is fully involved in the world in which she lived and also her humility.

“I think solidarity is a mark she wears on her chest and uses all the time. Elena is a cornerstone in the creation of Mexican civil society, civil society owes a lot to her and her writings “, Taibo concludes. .

Source: EFE

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