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Havana hosts 49th Casa de las Américas Literary Prize
Writers from several Latin American countries will be meeting in Havana from January 21, as judges for the 49th Casa de las Americas Literary Prize.

Joining their Spanish-speaking peers this time are some Brazilian non-fiction writers, who have had their works published in Portuguese from 2006 to 2007, as well as Caribbean writers who have penned works in French or Creole from 2004 to 2007.

The Casa de las Américas Literary Prize was created in the early 60s, in Havana, with an aim to support and promote Latin American Literature. It has satisfactorily accomplished such a goal ever since.

Each yearly call to participate in the prize is followed by a massive response from authors all over the region. In 2008, Chilean poet Gonzalo Rojas, who won the Cervantes Literary Prize (Spains Nobel), will be one of the judges. Throughout the years, writers in charge of selecting the Casa de las Americas winners have established a well deserved reputation. One outstanding example is Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti, who said not long ago: "the Casa de las Américas awards have dealt a successful blow to the cultural blockade on Cuba by continually bringing Latin American and Caribbean writers (to Cuba) to perform as judges, even if they had to deal with all types of hurdles, travelling through third countries such as Czechoslovakia, Ireland and Canada. I remember that the first time I came to Cuba, in January of 1966, as a member of the novel panel, I had to fly for 50 hours, making several stops, and was grounded for 18 days in Prague, because the old and meritorious Britannia airplanes (the only ones that Cuba had a the time) were suffering kind of "sore throats", coughing, having nauseas, lack of air, tremors and chills. Sometimes they had to be taken to the "geriatrist" of aeronautics. But I am sure that Casa de las Americas would have resorted to any means to bring us to Havana, be that small planes, sail boats or speed boats, so that the Prize would continue defeating the blockade ".

For Brazilian Fernando Morais, the Prize has also demonstrated, "through the regular participation by Brazilian judges and writers in the most important literary prize of the region, that language was not what kept us apart in Latin America".

The truth is that a good part of the best Latin American literature of the last half a century has been linked to the Casa de las Americas Prize.

"All those interested in the books selected and published by Casa de las Americas are aware that works of all nature, origin, aesthetics or philosophies have been awarded the prize. I know writers who have been consecrated after winning this prize with their early works of youth. For others, it has been the reward of a lifetime, the most valued, as it came both from Cuba and from a panel of judges most of whom were not Cubans..." Paul Estrade (France), 1995.

Ecuadorian writer Jorge Enrique Adoum, author of Between Marx and a Naked Woman, commented in the late 90s that this prize - the most important in Latin America because of its honest judgments - honors its recipients, first of all, because of the institution that summons the prize (...) For forty years, Casa de las Américas has been faithful to its vocation; if the Cuban Revolution prompted me to begin seeing myself as a Latin American rather than just Ecuadorian, Casa was there to remind us that non-Spanish Literature from the Antilles and Brazil was as much part of our Latin American archipelago, and it demonstrated the superior power of culture as opposed to the aggressions of reactionary thoughts: no blockade, no resentments from major powers, no matter how clumsy or vindictive they might be, have managed, in spite of their tenacity, to deter the regularity and extension of this literary contest; neither have they thwarted the edition of awarded works, nor their diffusion in America and the rest of the world."


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