EL PASO — One hundred scholars from different countries and universities gathered at the University of Texas at El Paso to showcase, research and critique contemporary Mexican literary work.
The Spanish-language XIV Congreso de Literatura Mexicana Contemporánea or 14th Mexican Contemporary Literature Congress is part of an effort by various UTEP departments including the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies with support from the Chihuahua Institute of Culture and the Mexican Secretary of External Relations.
“The goal is to have a place where scholars would be able to come and speak about their ideas,” Daniel Orizaga, coordinator for the Literature Congress, said.
The three-day event —March 5-7, 2009— included some 40 panel discussions. The topics varied from Mexican Cinema, homoeroticism in Mexican novels, narco culture and criminal narrative, to lucha libre and other author-specific panels.
Orizaga said that although presenters do not have to stick to a certain subject, their work is pre-screened by a board that reviews thesis and chooses who will be invited to speak at the congress. In past years, he said, the congress has featured important authors in the contemporary movement that included the late playwright Víctor Hugo Rasón Banda and poet Alberto Blanco each well-known in Latin America’s literary world.
This year award-winning Mexican poet Elsa Cross headlined the conference. “Cross specializes in Oriental philosophy and literature as well,” Orizaga said.
Orizaga, who has been involved with the Congreso Literario and its supplemental publication, Revista de Literatura Mexicana Contemporánea, for the past three years, said that the congress “hasn’t necessarily grown, it has just diversified,” and discussions are targeted at other scholars and the general public who is familiar or interested in Mexican contemporary literature.
“It gives UTEP the opportunity to demonstrate it’s [academic position] as well what is being done here,” Orizaga added. He also said that UTEP’s location allows it to link the academic project to the region.
Though Orizaga does admit that few of the university’s own students know what the event is about, he said many professors offer support and talk about the event to their classes.
Carolina Almaguer, a psychology junior, attended the panel titled “Nuevas Aproximaciones a la Narrativa de Luis Arturo Ramos” or “New Aspects to the Narrative of Luis Arturo Ramos,” for a class assignment.
“Being a creative writing minor, the panel’s topic seemed interesting,” Almaguer, who had never attended the event before, said.
“I liked that the rooms were small and intimate, allowing for the panelists to really connect with the audience,” Almaguer added.
She also said that the event speaks “very well” about UTEP, reiterating the message that the university “really does take its Hispanic students into account.”
Orizaga said that despite the cultural diversity in El Paso, Mexican literature is lacking and that is something that the Congreso and Revista de Literatura intend to change.