Elena Poniatowski (born May 19, 1932) is a French-born Mexican journalist and author, specializing in works on social and political issues focused on those considered to be disenfranchised especially women and the poor.
She was born in Paris to upper class parents, including her mother whose family fled Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. She left France for Mexico when she was ten to escape the Second World War. When she was eighteen and without a university education, she began writing for the newspaper Excélsior, doing interviews and society columns.
Despite the lack of opportunity for women from the 1950s to the 1970s, she evolved to writing about social and political issues in newspapers, books in both fiction and nonfiction form. Her best known work is “La noche de Tlatelolco” (The night of Tlatelolco, the English translation was titled “Massacre in Mexico”) about the repression and killing of the 1968 student protests in Mexico City.
Poniatowska herself received threats in 1971, when she released her book about the Tlatelolco massacre. It was the first account to challenge the official version of events on the night of October 2nd, 1968; and implicated army troops in the killing. Her Mexico City publisher, an exile from Spain’s right-wing dictatorship, also received many threats.
Last year, “Elenita” (as she is known in the Mexican intelectual scene), was the winner of the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious literary prize in the Spanish language, being the 4th woman to receive such recognition, and she is currently considered to be “Mexico’s grande dame of letters” and is still an active writer.
The Mexican journalist and author said that what happened to the 43 students of Ayotzinapa teachers training college is the culmination of years of social injustice in Mexico.
Poniatowska, declared that: “Mexico is turning into hell”.
“Everyone thinks that Mexico is turning into hell, that most people do not have rights or resources,” she said bitterly.
Poniatowska added that unfair deaths, social inequality and the shameful behavior of politicians anger her. “I am an honest writer who has been swallowed by the terrible reality of my country,” she decried.
When asked if she thought that journalism is becoming more accommodating to power, the author said: “Not in Mexico. The proof is that Mexico is the country in which more journalists have been killed for denouncing the terrible things happening in this very moment.”
This year Poniatowska is the main guest of the program of Latin American authors of the International Miami Book Fair, which opened on Sunday, November 16th.
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