Poetry News

Mexico City Lit Responds to Disappearances With Bilingual Anthology

By Harriet Staff

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In early June, Mexico City Lit (a bilingual review and publishing house based in the nation's capital) released Poets for Ayotzinapa, a free digital anthology created in response to the disappearance of a group of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa in the rural hills of Guerrero in Mexico earlier this year, and the civil unrest that followed. Hyperallergic's Nathaniel Janowitz sets the scene:

The official version of events by the Mexican government is that in and around Iguala the students were attacked by municipal police with connections to a local cartel, which resulted in the six confirmed deaths. During the assault, police abducted 43 students and turned them over to the cartel. The 43 normalistas were systematically shot then thrown into a large fire that allegedly burned for fifteen hours. Then the gunmen gathered the incinerated remains in garbage bags and threw them into the nearby San Juan River.

As for the response:

“When the normalistas disappeared they left a huge void. In the months that followed, people took to the streets all over Mexico and poets started getting together to read and write about the disappeared,” María Cristina Fernández Hall, an editor at Mexico City Lit told Hyperallergic. “We noticed this and thought their work needed to be translated. The anthology was just a way to put all their work in one space, in English and in Spanish.”

The poems in the anthology illustrates the range of emotions encompassing the Mexican psyche after the tragic events of September 26 — from anger and shock, to hope and hopelessness.

Horacio Lozano Warpola is a Mexican poet and schoolteacher and the killing of 43 students hit him particularly close to home.

“The young victims were teachers, they were learning to transmit knowledge. Eliminating them is eliminating all possibilities of education. And that’s a dirty blow to the future of Mexico,” Warpola told Hyperallergic.

“I wrote those poems in a moment of anger, they were spat out, and I was sad to finish writing them because sometimes I feel like they don’t generate a real change. However, it’s part of my nature, and for now it’s my way of fighting,” he said.

“It seems that our most powerful weapon is the language, and there is a dire need to use it. It’s essential to write about what happens, to leave a record, in any way, through any medium,” continued Horacio. “We must act, take to the streets, write poems, whatever, but do something.”

Mexico City Lit has made the anthology available for free download here.

Please read more--including new poems in English translation by Horacio Lozano Warpola, Cristina Arreola Marquez, and Carmen Zenil--at Hyperallergic.