CONFERENCE: The XXI Colloquium on Mexican Literature, “Nepantla, Between Comala and California, and Other Crossroads”

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November 9, 2017 @ 4:30 pm - November 11, 2017 @ 5:00 pm

Centennial House, UCSB
Centennial House

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Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Santa Barbara & UC-Mexicanistas (Intercampus Research Program)

Just as we were in the middle of organizing this colloquium, creatively and excitedly, we suddenly learned of the devastation in Texas, México (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Morelos), Florida, Cuba, Puerto Rico.  We remained strong through this hardship.  On September 19, ironically on the 32nd anniversary of the tragic 1985 Mexico City earthquake, another earthquake struck again.   And yet, in the midst of crisis, we also witnessed people from all over the world coming together, saving lives, giving hope: solidarity.  Our countries are slowly rising, again, our spirits can only grow stronger in times of need.  Therefore, we dedicate our colloquium to the victims and the people rebuilding their communities, healing together. Because during times like these, we must remind ourselves that only united can we endure anything. We salute you all.

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Juan Rulfo (1917-2017), author of El Llano en llamas (The Burning Plains and Other Stories) and Pedro Páramo. We also celebrate the 50 years of Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude). Gabriel García Márquez once said his novel was indebted to Pedro Páramo.

Both invite the reader to leave momentarily.  To go beyond two worlds, two books, and in between: Nepantla?  Commemorating the centenary of Juan Rulfo between two worlds, two countries, is a gesture of gratitude toward a brief but infinite piece of work, compact and fragmented, spoken and written—a pendulum between past and future (perhaps similar to our present?)—about violence and impunity, the crucial crossing of borders, of ghost towns, of economic migrations, of looting along the way, of the daring and the embittered.  His brief literary work was premonitory: the violence, the injustice, diaspora, and poverty that suffocates Mexico had already been referenced in Rulfo’s poetic words.  “Mexico isn’t finished yet,” he once said, and his words are like Articles of faith.  His work, our Mexican Bible, is the book of prayers that we read in and outside of Mexico.

In keeping with our tradition, and sustained support at UCSB, now a Hispanic Serving Institution, given these urgent and uncertain times, and with a daily commitment to affirming  a cultural image of Mexico outside of Mexico, this twenty-first conference on Mexican literature centers on how Mexican cultural production travels, crosses toward the North, arrives at these latitudes.  We think above all about the connection between Juan Rulfo’s narrative—scenarios and characters—and the Latino communities on the map of the United States where, as in Mexico and other places, there are ghost towns, men and women who recall the flight of a kite  during their childhood and remember this experience, in their own language, be it Mexican, English, or Spanglish.

Hence our colloquium focuses on the historical and geographical relationship between Comala (imaginary geography of Pedro Páramo) and California, along with other destinations (and I refer to California, the state where we are in this country, Agripina, but also to other states of which you know more).  The people of Comala may have left for California, but they never really left.  Their mind and spirit remained in Comala.  Thus, forming a suspended existence, a place that is neither Comala, nor California, but Nepantla.  Agripina, but also other states, of which you know even more.

In spite of the rumors, as Juan Rulfo would have said [and our mouths fill to repeat it], “Mexico is not finished.”  To stand up for Mexico (even while we’re abroad), is our obligation, our ethical responsibility, and our nobility.

Geographically Nepantla is a Mexican town (Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was born there). It is a word in Náhuatl that, while itself a single word (prodigious of language), situates two places.  Beyond that, it is also a concept and an identity. We are Nepantla, meaning “in the middle,” “between,” “among,” “in between.” Nepantla, just one word refers to two worlds.  In the 16th century, a member of the original peoples of the center of Mexico, said to Fray Diego Durán, “Do not be afraid, Father, because we are still Nepantla.”

Thursday, November 9, 2017 / 4:30 PM
Centennial House, UCSB
Friday, November 10, 2017 / 9:00 AM
Centennial House, UCSB
Saturday, November 11, 2017 / 9:00 AM
Alhecama Theatre, Santa Barbara


November 9, 2017 @ 4:30 pm
November 11, 2017 @ 5:00 pm
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