Former Dominican Culture Minister and Literary Figure Celebrates Pedro Mir’s Great Work at GFDD’s Dominican Get-Together in the Big Apple

September 27, 2013

Jose Rafael Lantigua, guest of GFDD’s Dominican Get-Together program, spoke to a packed auditorium at New York City’s Cervantes Institute in collaboration with the Dominican Cultural Commission in the US and FUNGLODE’s esteemed publication Revista Global (Global magazine).

Within the framework of the Get-Together, Global magazine, edition no.54 was introduced and dedicated to the memory of
the Dominican Republic’s literary great, Pedro Mir – the subject of the evening’s gathering. This edition of Global offers articles on the life and work of Pedro Mir, written by Dr. Leonel Fernandez, John Landreau, José Rafael Lantigua and King Andújuar.

The theme of the literary gathering was "Pedro Mir: From the Landscape of Love to the Seed of Hope."  The conference is part of a series of literary talks in New York that
aim to promote an appreciation of Dominican  arts and literature.

Mr. Lantigua, a renowned writer and former Dominican Minister of Culture, talked about the life, times and writing of one of the Dominican Republic’s most celebrated poets and novelists, Pedro Mir, who
lived through some of the most dramatic and transcendental moments in the history of the country. Mir, who died at the age of 87 in 2000, is considered one of Latin America and the Caribbean’s most distinguished 20th-century poets, often compared to Nobel Prize winners Pablo Neruda and Derek Walcott.

Much to the delight of the audience at the conference, Mr. Lantigua recited some of Mir’s poems such as "Hay un país en el mundo" (There
is a country in the world), the mere mention of which provokes emotion among Dominicans. The poem’s descriptions of the exquisite beauty of the land slowly transition to lamenting its problems, using dark, sad and powerful imagery, such as the haunting refrain “los campesinos no tienen tierra” (the peasants have no land).

Lantigua pointed to this, and other poems, to underscore Mir’s commitment to social justice and relentless
support for the embattled peasantry of the Dominican Republic and Caribbean region.

“Pedro Mir impacted many poets and many people. He was unique in his time – a time of distress in which he touched people of all social classes,” said Mr. Lantigua when asked by a member of the audience if there are writers today who reflect Mir and his work. Lantigua’s answer was clear, “there is only one Pedro Mir.”

Lantigua told the audience at the Cervantes Institute that Mir, like fellow Dominican writer Juan Bosch, was a committed socialist who dedicated many years of his life in opposition to the Trujillo dictatorship until threats from the regime compelled him to flee to Cuba in 1947 where his exile would last 16 years until the regime fell in 1963.

It was while living in Cuba that Mir wrote "Hay un país en el mundo," which has been translated into 16

In 1984, Mir was named Poet Laureate by the Dominican Congress and in January 1993 he received the National Prize for Literature. In 1992, he came to New York to receive an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Hunter College.

Lantigua, who knew Pedro Mir personally, referred to him as the “poet who planted hope among Dominicans.”

Jose Rafael Lantigua, at the urging of the audience whose admiration for him was
obvious, shared the breadth of his experience in the literary and political fields, which is extensive. He was the founder of the International Book Fair of Santo Domingo, which he directed for twelve years. The Book Fair is now in its 16th year.

Many Dominicans who attended this Literary Event said they felt honored to have one famous Dominican writer talking to them about another. It doesn’t get much better than this, they concurred.

Dominican Get-Togethers, an initiative by Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) celebrated in the New York metropolitan area and throughout other cities in the United States responds to the need for the creation of spaces for discussion, reflection and celebration of topics related to Dominican culture and values. The Event forms part of the Foundations’ mission to promote the understanding and appreciation of the Dominican culture, values and heritage,
and to create opportunities for discussions of contemporary issues relevant to the Dominican society in the homeland and abroad.

Revista Global