Poniatowska, Elena (1932–)

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Poniatowska, Elena (1932–)

The Mexican writer and journalist Elena Poniatowska is an advocate for dispossessed segments of Mexican society and of the democratic movement in Mexico. Born on May 19, 1932, in Paris, she moved to Mexico in 1942 with her father, Estanislao Poniatowski, a direct descendant of the last king of Poland, and her aristocratic Mexican-born mother. She began work in 1953 as a journalist for the Mexican newspaper Excelsior and rapidly gained recognition for her interviews and political and social chronicles.

She joined the ranks of Mexico's leading contemporary writers with the publication of Hasta no verte, Jesús mío (1969), a fictional narrative based on the oral history of Josefina Bórquez, a washerwoman who participated in the Mexican Revolution and then struggled to survive in the shantytowns of Mexico City. Poniatowska refused the Mexican literary Prize Xavier Villaurrutia for La noche de Tlatelolco (1971), an oral-history collage of the 1968 student movement and its brutal repression, because, as she said, "who will award the dead?" Her many writings include Nada, nadie: Las voces del temblor (1988), a testimonial narrative of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake; Tinísima (1992), a fictionalized biography of photographer Tina Modotti, on which she worked for ten years; Todo México, a compilation in several volumes of her interviews; and El tren pasa primero (2005), a novel.

Since the 1970s Poniatowska has led a writer's workshop from which several women writers have emerged. She was the first woman to receive the Mexican National Award for Journalism (1979) and remains the only woman to be awarded a title by the French Legion of Honor (2003). Among her many other awards is the Courage in Journalism Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women's Media Foundation (2006).

See alsoJournalism; Journalism in Mexico.


Works by the Author

Lilus Kikus. Mexico City: Los Presentes, 1954.

Massacre in Mexico. Translation by Helen R. Lane of La noche del Tlatelolco [1971]. New York: Viking Press, 1975.

Fuerte es el silencio. Mexico City: Era, 1982.

Dear Diego. Translation by Katherine Silver of Querido Diego, te abraza Quiela [1978]. New York: Pantheon, 1986.

La Flor de Lis. Mexico City: Era, 1988.

Luz y luna, las lunitas. Mexico City: Era, 1994.

Tinisima. Translation by Katherine Silver of Tinísima [1992]. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1996.

Here's to You, Jesusa! Translation by Deanna Heikkinen of Hasta no verte, Jesús mío [1969]. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001.

Las siete cabritasi. Mexico City: Era, 2000.

The Skin of the Sky. Translation by Deanna Heikkinen of La piel del cielo [2001]. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2004.

Works on the Author

Monsiváis, Carlos. "'Mira, para que no comas olvido' …: Las precisiones de Elena Poniatowska." La Cultura en México: Suplemento de Siempre! (July 15, 1981): 2-5.

Schuessler, Michael K. Elena Poniatowska: An Intimate Biography. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2007.

Steele, Cynthia. "Gender, Genre, and Authority: Hasta no verte Jesús mío (1969), by Elena Poniatowska." In her Politics, Gender, and the Mexican Novel, 1968–1988: Beyond the Pyramid, pp. 28-65. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.

                                        Claire Joysmith