In an 11th-hour decision, the Los Angeles Festival has added Salvadoran poet Alfonso Quijada Urias to its program.
The move came in response to protests from a local Latino artists group and members of the Salvadoran community over the appearance of Salvadoran poet David Escobar Galindo, who is believed to have ties to the Salvadoran government.
Galindo is slated to appear as part of "La Terra Nova 1990: Pacific Poetry Festival." Los Angeles Festival programming director Claire Peeps said the festival has extended an invitation to Urias and is still working out details. He will not be added to "La Terra Nova."
Florinda Mintz, a curator of "La Terra Nova," has submitted a letter of protest to festival director Peter Sellars, charging the festival undermined the authority of the curators by selecting another poet without their prior consent. She also said the festival had lost sight of its artistic goals by politicizing the event.
Her co-curator, Paul Vangelisti, while expressing his displeasure over the controversy, also wrote Sellars, saying the addition of Urias "is necessary, and maybe unavoidable at this point."
While offering no comment on Mintz's protest, Peeps said Urias--a poet, novelist and painter currently living in British Columbia--is "a poet of the highest stature who is not known especially for his political point of view, but he does represent a balance for Mr. Galindo."
Francisco Rivera, member of Artistas en Accion (Artists in Action) and director of the Central American Cultural Center, said the artists are pleased with the festival's choice. "(Urias) has a longstanding career and is an excellent poet . . .and he is involved in the struggle for social change in El Salvador," he said. He called Mintz "hostile" and added; "It sounds like she doesn't care about the civil war in El Salvador."