2013 Opening Session and Keynote Address

Sunday, May 19, 2013

9:00-10:30 am

Welcoming Remarks:

Dr. Martha Mantilla, SALALM President 2012-2013, University of Pittsburgh; Meiyolet Méndez, SALALM Local Arrangements Committee Chair 2012-2013, University of Miami; Dr. Thomas Breslin, Interim Dean of Libraries, Florida International University

Keynote address:

Dr. Emilio del Valle Escalante, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

“Indigenous Literatures of Abya Yala”

Rapporteur: Sócrates Silva, University of California, Santa Barbara

Martha Mantilla, SALALM president, opened the conference by welcoming attendees and giving a brief history of the organization. She thanked the conference hosts: Florida International University Libraries, University of Miami Libraries, The Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami, and the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University.

Mantilla then recognized invited guests and Enlace Travel Award winners, Marco Israel Quic Cholotío (Guatemala), Patricia Alejandra Méndez Zapata (Mexico), Presidential Travel Fellow, Tomás Bocanegra Esqueda (Mexico) and SALALM Scholarship winners Lisa Cruces, Tim Thompson, D. Ryan Lynch, and Betsaida Reyes.

Dr. Thomas Breslin (Interim Dean of University Libraries at Florida International University) spoke and said that as a historian he was grateful for the work of SALALM attendees in assuring that Latin American collections were made available to scholars. He welcomed everyone and wished the conference well.

Meiyolet Méndez, Chair of the local arrangements committee welcomed everyone to Miami. She thanked the local volunteers who made the conference possible, acknowledged the support of hosting institutions, and wished everyone an excellent conference.

Mantilla then introduced Manomano Mukungurutse (Duquesne University) who in turn introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Emilio del Valle Escalante (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill). His address was entitled, "Indigenous Literatures of Abya Ayala." Escalante explained that the term "Abya Ayala" comes from the Cuna language (Panama) and that it means "land in full maturity." It is the name the Cuna people give to the Americas.

Since the second half of the twentieth century Abya Ayala has seen an emergence of indigenous textual production which has been mostly published in bi- or multilingual editions, which have included genres such as narrative, poetry, theater, and essays. As opposed to indigenista literature, which has been written about indigenous people, these are texts that are authored by indigenous people themselves.

These texts represent one of the most important cultural phenomena in the continent, and as the theme of the SALALM conference demonstrates, this phenomenon is not going unnoticed. The talk addressed the following questions: what made possible the emergence of this literary canon; what are some of its historical precedents and representative texts; who are some of the most preeminent indigenous authors?

By addressing literary texts and the historical and political circumstances that surrounded their creation, Escalante reviewed literary production from Pre-Colombian records to contemporary literature, especially focusing on the Maya experience in Central America.

Questions & Comments
Marco Israel Quic Cholotío (Bibliotecas Comunitarias Riecken, Guatemala) asked about the distribution of contemporary Maya works as his library finds it challenging to acquire these texts. Escalante explained that this challenge comes from having very limited runs of titles (as little as 500 books per title) and that much of this distribution happens more informally at writer's events or through visiting the publishers themselves.

Barbara Tenembaum (Library of Congress) mentioned she had attended a conference in Guatemala City in the late 90s for indigenous languages and she asked if there had been any subsequent congresses for indigenous languages. Escalante responded that there have been many; in fact there is an annual conference at the University of Notre Dame for the Indigenous languages of Latin America. There are also several conferences throughout the region supported by UNESCO, which as an organization concerns itself with the preservation of indigenous languages.

Fernando Acosta-Rodriguez (Princeton) asked about the emergence of indigenous Children's literature written in bilingual editions. Escalante responded that this has partly come about as a response to governments officiating indigenous languages. Many of the contemporary writers Escalante mentioned in his address have written children's books in the hopes that these books will become part of national curricula.