The Mexican International Book Fair (FIL) of Guadalajara turned today to the original languages with the award of the Prize of Indigenous Literatures of America (PLIA) 2018 to the writer Francisco Antonio León, from Mexico.
The indigenous Mazahua narrator, originally from the State of Mexico, was awarded for his novel "The eternal return", a "high-level work that can be compared to any work of universal literature," according to the minutes of the award jury, endowed with 300,000 pesos, about 14,700 dollars.
The jury praised especially that the novel was written in Mazahua, "one of the languages with less literary tradition" in Mexico because there are fewer and fewer original speakers.
The Mazahua is one of the 68 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico.
For León, who has published in local poetry magazines, writing is the best instrument "to preserve the memory of indigenous peoples who, like the Mazahua, are caressing the decline of their existence."
The author, currently a fellow of the State Fund for Culture and the Arts of the Mexican government, recalled that native languages have survived through orality "and thanks to the fantasy they carry intrinsic.
"The beauty of indigenous literature is the result of stories that come from the ancestors and are transmitted from generation to generation, to which is added the peculiarity that each narrator includes his texts scenarios of his own imagination," he said.
All this "makes oral tradition a fantastic world full of reality and yet, every day falls more into disuse," he said.
The writer, a teacher of indigenous primary education, has translated into his mother tongue documents related to human rights and social programs.
Poet and narrator, León Cuervo began his novel in 2012, in which he takes back part of his traditions, his worldview and mixes them with the life of an indigenous root-picker in a story that has traits of the oral tradition of his culture.
He said that the love for literature inherited from his parents, especially his father, whose stories also had heroes and were "the bandits who stole haciendas and those who left everything to go to the Revolution."
The national heroes of the Mexican Revolution like Emiliano Zapata, Francisco Villa and the guerrilla Lucio Cabañas also had a space in those narrations.
"At that time I did not understand if those characters were real or fictional, but I liked to believe that somewhere in our mountains they existed," he recalled.
Gabriel Pacheco, president of the award, explained that León's work was unanimously chosen, "for being a novel that tells in a funny way, contemporary tragic events through a classic story that is updated".
He said that writing in indigenous languages is a double effort on the part of the creators, who must dedicate themselves to teaching tasks to survive, in addition to being their own translators.
"Most indigenous authors first write in their mother tongue and then translate their own writings into a second language, so this creative work should also be recognized as a separate effort," he said.
The 32nd edition of the Mexican FIL gathers 800 authors and 2,000 publishers from 47 countries who will exhibit more than 400,000 titles during nine days.