One of the World’s Biggest Literary Festivals Is Celebrating Mexican Authors This Year

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This week, about 130 authors will participate in the 12th annual PEN World Voices Festival – one of the world’s largest literary festivals. This year’s theme is Renegotiating the Narratives, which will look at Mexican culture through the lens of migration, national identity, and corruption.

“This year’s focus on Mexico allows us to present new perspectives on some of the urgent sociopolitical issues of our time –perspectives that are often absent from mainstream cultural forums,” said László Jakab Orsós, the festival’s director. “But this festival is not solely about understanding the realities of Mexican society and culture in all of its complexities. It is also about exploring the great well of imagination found in the country’s artistic life, as expressed through its fiction, poems, music, film, and art.”

About half of the writers participating in the festival come from Mexico. Spread out across New York City, the events will include poetry readings, conversations with literary figures, and a series of new plays. Though the week-long event may seem a bit overwhelming, we’ve put together a guide for the authors and events you should check out:

PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature will take place April 25 to May 1 in New York City.


Valeria Luiselli

Photograph by © Dan Callister

Mexico City-born Valeria Luiselli has had a stellar year because of her latest novel, The Story of My Teeth. The six-part novel, which tells the story of Gustavo “Highway” Sánchez Sanchez’s mission to sell and upgrade every single one of his teeth, earned her a National Book Critics Circle nomination.

At the festival, Luiselli will take part in four different panels, including Reckoning Mexico, Expats, and Women of Mexico. Get more details here.

Juan Villoro

Mexican writer Juan Villoro’s career as a novelist took off in the early 90s. His last novel, Arrecife, was published in 2012. He will join Luiselli in Reckoning Mexico, but he’ll also participate in a talk with Glenn Patterson, where the two will talk about the dangers of working in Mexico. Get more details here.

Guadalupe Nettel

Guadalupe Nettel’s The Body Where I Was Born tells the story of a young woman, who narrates her childhood on her psychoanalyst’s couch. Compared to a cockroach by her mother, the narrator grows up identifying with bugs and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Nettel will take part in four forums, including one about la frontera. Get more details here.

Álvaro Enrigue

Critically acclaimed writer Álvaro Enrigue’s latest book, Sudden Death, came out on February 9. According to The New York Times, it’s his first novel released in English. At the festival, he’ll participate in The Voices of the Student “DREAMers,” where students will share their own personal experiences. Get more details here.


Multidisciplinary artist Bocafloja published his first book in 2008, and 2014’s Prognosis is his second venture into literature. Prognosis is a book of poems and short stories written by Bocafloja and Sidony O’Neal focusing on the African diaspora in Latin America and decolonization.


Mexico City: Place and Metaphor

Who: Carmen Boullosa, Jennifer Clement, Francisco Goldman, Guillermo Osorno, Jorge Volpi
When: May 1 at noon
Where: Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, 41 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003
Price: $15

Many of the Mexican authors hail from CDMX, and several of them will get together to talk about how the city has influenced their own writing. “What secrets lies in the hearts of its various communities? What fuels its energy and nurtures the love of its devoted residents?” The panelists will attempt to answer these questions.

More details here.

Before Columbus: Africa in Mexico

Who: Kassahun Checole, C. Daniel Dawson, Rashidah Ismaili
When: April 30 at 6 p.m.
Where: The Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10456
Price: Free

This panel will look into Africans’ impact in the Americas that isn’t always acknowledged.

More information here.

Women of Mexico

Who: Carmen Boullosa, Valeria Luiselli, Guadalupe Nettel, Cristina Rivera-Garza
When: April 28 at 8 p.m.
Where: Dixon Place, 161A Chystie Street, New York, NY 10002
Price: $15

Women of Mexico will probably bring some of the most inspirational moments from the festival. In this panel, female writers will talk about other strong Mexican female writers, focusing on poets, playwrights, journalists, and novelists.

More information here.

Inside Out: Modern Chicano/a Culture

Who: Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Ilan Stavans, Carmen Tafolla
When: April 27 at 7 p.m.
Where: Nuyorican Poets Cafe, 236 East 3rd Street, New York, NY 10009
Price: $15 at the door ($12 in advance)

At this panel, writers will explore what Chicano, a word with Nahuatl roots, means. The word became popular during the 1960s civil rights movement, and continues to be the preferred form of identification for some Mexican-Americans.

More information here.

Reckoning Mexico

Who: Cristina Rivera-Garza, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Claudio Lomnitz, Valeria Luiselli, Guillermo Osorno, Juan Villoro
When: April 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Price: $15

“You can study Mexico, imagine Mexico, or debate about Mexico, but the best way to understand the spiritual landscape of this country is by listening to the stories of its writers,” according to the festival’s website.

More information here.