Latin America & Caribbean

Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska receives Cervantes prize

Spanish King Juan Carlos greets Mexican journalist Elena Poniatowska prior a ceremony to present her the 2013 Cervantes Prize Literature prize at Alcala University in Madrid on 23 April, 2014
Elena Poniatowska is the fourth woman to win the prestigious prize

Mexican writer and journalist Elena Poniatowska has received the most important award for literature in the Spanish language, the Cervantes prize.

King Juan Carlos of Spain made the presentation at a ceremony in the town of Alcala de Henares, the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes.

Ms Poniatowska, 81, is only the fourth woman to be awarded the prize in its almost four-decades-long history.

Her writings often explore the social injustice of her home country.

One of her most famous investigative works is Massacre in Mexico, which chronicles the 1968 killing hundreds of student protesters in Mexico City at the hands of the army, through interviews with witnesses and victims' relatives.

In another non-fiction work, Nothing, Nobody: The Voices of the Mexico City Earthquake, she reports on the aftermath of the 1985 quake, in which more than 10,000 people died, and the lack of action by the government.

Interspersing victims' personal stories and her own reflections she created a powerful account of the ensuing disintegration of the fabric of society.

'No windmills'

Born in France to a Polish-French father and a mother of Mexican origin, she moved to Mexico when she was 10.

Elena Poniatowska started her writing career when she was 18 at newspaper Excelsior

She started her career as a journalist for the Excelsior newspaper and many of her works are journalistic in nature.

Many of her works have focused on the role of Mexican women in the country's history, such as Las Soldaderas: Women of the Mexican Revolution, which traces the story of women soldiers through photographs and text.

In her acceptance speech, she recalled her nation's many less fortunate people and the continuing struggle of its women.

But she began her speech by remembering Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died last week.

She said that with his seminal novel One Hundred Years of Solitude "he gave Latin America wings".

She also referred to Miguel de Cervantes' most famous novel, Don Quixote, and its eponymous windmill-fighting main character.

"I'm a writer who can't talk of windmills because they don't exist anymore, so I speak about those humble wanderers who with their pack, their pick and spade make their own luck and trust in an impulsive writer to recall what they have told her."

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