Sergio Ramirez: “Never be silent in the face of power”

Over 200 participants from the worlds of literature, film and journalism were present in Managua this week for the “Central America Speaks” event. 

By Vladimir Vasquez (Confidencial)

Writer Sergio Ramirez, speaking at the inauguration of the “Central America Speaks” Festival / Carlos Herrera / Niu

HAVANA TIMES – This past Monday, May 22, the “Central America Speaks” festival opened its doors to the public.  This fifth year brought together more than 200 participants from 19 countries to talk about literature, poetry and journalism.

The first “Central America Speaks” event had only thirty participants.  From that time on, the invitation was broadened to bring more people together for this gathering that offers film series, professional development workshops and even seminars on children’s literature.

Claudia Neira, festival director, stated that different publishing companies participating in “Central America Speaks” have helped bring children’s books to schools, and in this way facilitate young people’s access to artistic and literary materials.

“We have scheduled ten activities especially for creators of children’s literature.  We’re going to have illustrators, screenwriters, and narrators here who work principally in the field of children’s literature.  They’re going to talk about different ways of creating such literature, and they’re also going to offer workshops,” Neira noted.

The role of journalism

During the inaugural discourse, writer Sergio Ramirez recalled last week’s murder of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez and spoke of how difficult it is to exercise the reporter’s profession in the current climate, where they are persecuted by different governments looking to hide the truth.

Ramirez stated that the death of Valdez has left us a great lesson: “To never be silent in the face of power, any class of power, in journalism and literature.”

Jaime Abello, director of the Foundation for a New Ibero-American journalism (FNPI) speaking on the television program “Esta Noche” [“Tonight”] asserted that in the wake of journalist Javier Valdez’ death, further massacres of journalists must not be permitted, nor can we allow this to set a precedent for other countries, especially in Central America.

Abello, together with Daniel Alarcón, a Peruvian writer and founder of “Radio Ambulante”, are among the 90 narrators involved in “Central America Speaks”, a festival which Abello views as one of the most important in the continent.

For the FNPI director, bringing to light internationally the situation that allows such murders is the responsibility of the media.  He also discussed ways in which this wave of violence also threatens the countries of this isthmus.  Currently, Honduras is the Central American country with the highest toll of dead journalists.

“The only solution is a constant mobilization from different fronts, including civil society and journalist’s organizations,” Abello commented.  Abello had been a compatriot of writer and journalist Gabriel Garcia Marquez; together they founded the FNPI, which he has directed since 1995.

Claudia Neira further affirmed that journalism forms a fundamental part of the festival and “it’s our duty as a literary festival and a forum for thought, to be able to support the formation not only of literary creators, but also of journalists.”

During the five days of the festival different workshops are being held for journalists and those in similar occupations, to teach those who still exercise the profession traditionally about the new forms of digital journalism.

One of the discussion forums even bore the name Gabo the Journalist, in honor of the Columbian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  This workshop was held on Tuesday, May 23, in the “Pablo Antonio Cuadra” Cultural Center.  Abello was one of the panelists.

“Journalism is a great pillar of magical realism that allows the reality and the magic of Gabo’s works to flourish,” Abello commented with respect to Garcia Marquez’ literary work.

The “Caratula” Prize

During the inauguration, the first-prize award for the fifth annual “Caratula 2017” Central American short story competition was also presented to writer Andrea Morales for her story “El Pájaro de Fuego” [The Fire Bird”].

A total of 110 stories were submitted; of these, twelve were part of the final selection, from which Morales, of Guatemala, was selected as the winner.

Daniel Alarcón: “I’m a narrator”

Daniel Alarcón, a writer originally from Peru but residing in the United States, directs “Radio Ambulante” [“Traveling Radio”], a story-telling podcast.

Alarcón believes that radio is at a moment of rebirth, especially on digital media. Radio Ambulante produces and receives features from all over Latin America, making them available to a wider audience via the web.

Currently, his team is producing stories of Latino immigrants; over the last months, with the advent of Donald Trump’s government with his anti-immigrant policies, this topic has taken on greater relevance.