PEN International mourns the death of friend and Vice-President Gloria Guardia de Alfaro (1940-2019)
14 May 2019 – The PEN community mourns the death of our friend and colleague, Gloria Guardia de Alfaro. The distinguished novelist and journalist died at the age of 79 on 13 May in Bogotá, Colombia. As a PEN member and Vice President, she stood as an unwavering champion of literature and freedom of expression.
“Gloria Guardia was a true believer and champion of PEN’S work. Her love of literature in Spanish was instrumental in bringing Latin America writers into the organisation,” said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International
Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International said: “PEN mourns the death of Gloria Guardia. It was a joy to share PEN board meetings and decisions with Gloria in the late 90’s, as she combined both the strength of PEN as a global family and the commitment for PEN’s mission. She was a dear friend, a non-stop activist for PEN, a brilliant writer and a true leader of our organization. We shared the importance of increasing the presence of PEN in the whole Latin America and this gave us the occasion to work hand in hand with friends all across the continent. These past years she continued networking writers and remained committed to PEN till the very end.”
Born in Venezuela in 1940 to parents of Panamanian and Nicaraguan origin, Guardia’s achieved international recognition for her novels and essays.
While completing an undergraduate degree at Vassar College she wrote her first novel Tiniebla blanca (White Darkness) which was published in 1961, after winning an award issued by the Sociedad de Escritores Españoles e Iberioamericanos. Guardia graduated with an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Columbia in 1968 having also studied Philosophy at Universidad Complutense and Spanish and Latin American Literature at Instituto de Cultura Hispánica in Madrid. Guardia’s multi-national upbringing has informed her work, having once described herself as an Iberian-American writer ‘but with a definite international viewpoint’.
Following her studies Guardia worked as a columnist for journals including La Prensa, Panama America, and Cambio as well as a correspondent for the Agencia Latinoamericana and ABC news. A prolific author, among her many published works are: El ultimo juego (The Final Game) (1977), Libertad en llamas (Freedom in Flames) (1999) and El jardín de las cenizas (The Garden of Ashes) (2011), and En el Corazon de la noche (In the Dead of Night) (2014). Among Guardia’s numerous awards are both the 1966 ‘Ricardo Miró’ Prizes (Premio Nacional de Novela and Premio Nacional de Ensayo) issued by the National Cultural Institute of Panama as well as the 1976 Premio Centroamericano de Novela.
Deeply embedded in the literary community Guardia was a member of the Panamanian, Nicaraguan, and Colombian Academies of Letters, as well as the Spanish Royal Academy, as well as serving as a committed member of PEN International since 1990, when she established the Panamanian Centre.
Guardia went on to serve on the PEN International Board and spearhead the introduction of Spanish as one of PEN’s official working languages at the Guadalajara Congress in 1996. A champion of inclusion and the Spanish language, she subsequently established the Ibero-American Foundation of PEN in 1998 that worked, until 2016, to ensure that our Spanish-speaking members had access to all documents and proceedings.
Guardia is credited with catalysing the formation of many of the organisation’s Latin American PEN Centres, having worked tirelessly to ensure that Latin America plays an integral role in the PEN community, often advising nascent Centres and encouraging Iberian-American writers to establish their own Centres. Gloria Guardia has been a Vice President of PEN International since 2006.
PEN extends its deepest condolences to Gloria Guardia de Alfaro’s loved ones.