The second edition, from today through Sunday, also offers music, cinema, children’s events, writing workshops and a new $25,000 literary prize. But why stop there?
In a highly unusual move for a literary event, the festival will start in one city and end in another. Next Tuesday, it will decamp in New York City for three days.
“It was the natural step to take,” says the festival’s founder and executive director, Mayra Santos-Febres. “We had to make the festival as mobile as the Puerto Rican community, and as migratory as our other Latin American communities.”
The portable Puerto Rican fiesta, under the theme “Identity Dreams and Delusions,” will bring to the city 34 writers from 10 Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries and the U.S.
“The objective is a lot more creative than most festivals I’ve attended,” says Bronx-born poet and New York coordinator Charlie Vázquez, “in that it strives to achieve discussions on literature and the writing process … and not just your standard, and often dry, academic lecture/Q&A model of presentation.”
The program itself is a bit of a hodgepodge, with each day presenting a handful of lectures and debates in venues across Manhattan, including the Americas Society, Instituto Cervantes, and the Grand Central and Muhlenberg branches of the New York Public Library.
The first round table on Tuesday at the Muhlenberg library, “Meeting Latin America‘s New Voices,” includes young writers Tere Dávila (Puerto Rico), Karla Suárez (Cuba), João Paulo Cuenca (Brazil) and Andrés Neuman (Argentina).
Every night at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center on the lower East Side, authors will read poetry and short stories on nocturnal themes. (For the full program, visit festivaldelapalabra.net.)
Other international authors on the bill are Santiago Gamboa (Colombia); Ana María Matute, Antonio Muñoz Molina (Spain); Josefina Baez (Dominican Republic), Lina Meruane (Chile), Valter Hugo Mãe (Portugal) and Jessica Hagedorn (Philippines-U.S.).
There is a strong Puerto Rican presence, mostly U.S.- based authors or American authors with a Boricua heritage.
But the fest will also showcase up-and-coming voices based on the island who are little known here, like Dávila, author of “El fondillo maravilloso y otros efectos especiales,” and Francisco Font Acevedo, whose short stories “La belleza bruta” have propelled him to the forefront of Puerto Rican lit.
Santos-Febres, a celebrated Puerto Rican novelist herself, admits that part of her goal is to showcase the vitality in the literature from her homeland.
“I don’t think Puerto Rican writers are valued enough internationally,” she says. “We need more exposition and more support from the international industry, as we have achieved in music and cinema.”