Several faculty members from The University of Texas at El Paso will discuss books that they wrote recently during La Feria del Libro de La Frontera, one of the region's biggest book fairs in Juarez, Mexico. Photo by JR Hernandez / UTEP Communications

UTEP Professors participating in Regional Book Fair in Juarez

One of the biggest book fairs in the region is underway in Juárez, Mexico, and organizers invited faculty members from The University of Texas at El Paso to provide a different perspective on a common topic – writing.

This is the first year in memory that the event, La Feria del Libro de La Frontera, will involve UTEP officially as an institution. The book fair started May 24, 2019, and will continue through June 2, 2019, at Plaza de las Americas, 3220 Benjamín Franklin Ave., near the Pronaf.

“As far as book fairs go, this one is huge,” said Daniel Chacón, UTEP chair and professor of creative writing. Organizers of the 11th annual event expect more than 40,000 people to attend. “Writers from all over come to Juárez to celebrate books of all genres, and for readings and workshops. We’re excited to participate.”

The other UTEP panelists and the books they will discuss are Denis O’Hearn, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of sociology, “Living at the Edges of Capitalism: Adventures in Exile and Mutual Aid;” Stacey Sowards, Ph.D., chair and professor of communication, “Sí, Ella Puede! The Rhetorical Legacy of Dolores Huerta and the United Farm Workers;” Sylvia Aguilar-Zéleny, associate professor of instruction in the Department of Creative Writing and director of the department’s online MFA program, “Basura;” and Paula Cucurella, Ph.D., adjunct professor of creative writing, “Demasiada luz para hacer poesía.” Cucurella’s book is under editorial consideration and not yet published.

Chacón said that some of his faculty members participated in April 2019 in a book fair in Bogota, Colombia, that draws about 500,000 people, and there are plans to be part of a similar event in Argentina in 2020. He reasoned that if UTEP was part of those activities, they needed to participate in one of the local region’s largest book fairs.

“With the uncertainty at the border, it is important to assert a positive relationship with the writers and scholars on the border,” Chacón said. “For us there is no wall, there’s a line and we’ll cross it whenever we want through literature.”

Diego Ordaz, the Juárez book fair’s content coordinator, said he wanted the participation of UTEP’s College of Liberal Arts and its Department of Creative Writing because those faculty members often have a special view on border matters, which contributes to open dialogue between both cities and countries.

“They are protagonists on the regional literature,” Ordaz said in reference to West Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Mexico. “We are doing the biggest fair in the area; therefore, we are interested in linking to writers from UTEP, and also from the United States in general.”

O’Hearn said he was excited to join the festivities because he loves to talk about the subject of his book, and because it gives him an academic respite from his administrative duties. He said his participation, as well as that of his college’s faculty members, is part of a special grassroots effort to build closer relationships between academia and communities throughout the region from public events to memorandums of understanding between UTEP and institutions of higher education in Juárez.

“It’s part of community engagement that benefits both sides of the border,” O’Hearn said. “The more back and forth that we do with our faculty and students, the more our efforts (of inclusion) will become a reality.”

Lorena Sosa, a Juárez resident who graduated in May 2019 from UTEP with her MFA from the bilingual creative writing program, said she plans to participate in the 2019 book fair. She said she was excited about UTEP’s involvement in this year’s event. She called it an opportunity to build alliances between writers at the border and beyond.

“This edition is really special for our student community of writers at UTEP because it celebrates books, freedom of speech, and literature that registers our reality,” Sosa said.

Author:  Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications