PEN Club and endangered languages

Lucas Husgen lhusgen at KIROGI.DEMON.NL
Tue Nov 25 15:19:58 UTC 2003

At the opening of the PEN Club Writers World Congress 2003 in Mexico
Cuidad the speech below was delivered, concerning endangered cultural
diversity worldwide.


Lucas Hüsgen



Dear PEN Colleagues:

The "Americas" Congress, which will take place in Mexico City from
November 22- 28, 2003, is the first World Congress of Writers of the new
millennium to be held on the American Continent.

The Congress theme, "Cultural Diversity and Freedom of Expression", gives
us the opportunity to work on two essential aspects of PEN's core mission.
The first is respect for the human rights of those whose medium is the
word, and, in particular, the written word, deployed either in creative
writing or through daily narratives and testimonies. The second is respect
for sovereignty and cultural diversity, which is so essential in the face
of the increasingly antidemocratic tendencies that threaten to dominate
the world.

The trend towards economic globalization challenges us to avoid cultural
homogenization and safeguard diverse ways of life and languages, many of
which, as with minority indigenous languages, are already in danger of
disappearing. Mexico was selected as the site for this Congress because it
is a country where different cultures have cohabitated and coexisted.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos
imagined the existence of the Cosmic race, a product of the crossbreeding
of all peoples. It now seems that new communication technologies have
outrun us so that the ideal of a completely mixed-race humanity living in
equality, free from the intolerances that often lead to war and conflict,
has been replaced by a "globalized humanity" whose characteristics are
social injustice and cultural homogeneity.

Near the end of the 20th Century, we realized that perhaps the main cause
for the economic and spiritual underdevelopment of many nations has been
the lack of respect for the cultural and economic rights of the
individual. That is why, through this Congress, we wish to call attention
to the fact that human development cannot be achieved as long as we
continue to push cultural, educational and economic rights into oblivion,
and that it is urgent and necessary to view these as civil and political

Through this Congress, we are attempting to call upon humanity to reflect
on its values and its visions as they are expressed, in their highest
form, in written and spoken language. The loss of this cultural treasure
would impoverish us and deny us the opportunity to use our knowledge of
our past in order to shape not only one unique future, but the newest and
best futures possible.

The 69th PEN International Congress- World Congress of Writers 2003, seeks
to show the world that tolerance and respect can only survive through the
free expression of diversity.

María Elena Ruiz Cruz

President, Mexican PEN

There's nothing like the old songs, but what's the good if you can't
remember them. Mem. Mem. Memory.

William H. Gass

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