Evangelina Arce is a mother from Ciudad Juárez whose daughter was kidnapped in 1998. Since that singular life-changing event, Arce has used poetry to battle against injustice and search for truth. Alicia Partnoy, professor of modern languages and literatures, collaborated with Gail Wronsky, professor of English, and LMU students to compile and translate Arce’s soulful work in a new book of poetry titled “Para Mi Hija Silvia / For My Daughter Silvia.”
Partnoy first heard Arce’s work in 2003 at a poetry gathering in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. She was very impressed with Arce’s writing, but the idea for the book really took root after the reading when Partnoy was approached by a journalist and asked to be interviewed about her own disappearance in Argentina decades earlier. Partnoy was sitting with Arce, copying one of her poems to take with her, and suggested the journalist also speak with Arce about the disappearance of her daughter, Silvia. Responding out of fear, indifference, or both, the journalist walked away without acknowledging Arce or pursuing the interview with Partnoy. In that moment Partnoy became committed to sharing Arce’s powerful voice with as many people as possible.
Thirteen of Partnoy’s former and current students took a special journey as translators and collaborators on this book. Partnoy’s desire for her students to be engaged in real world issues and social change was the impetus behind her decision to get them involved in the project. In fact, Partnoy often works with BCLA’s Engaged Learning office to offer courses where students work in a community to accomplish specific goals through meaningful, hands-on work. In this case, the goal was to share Arce’s poetry and move people to action.
“Before Professor Partnoy’s class, most of us had never heard of Evangelina and knew very little about the issues of feminicide, specifically in regards to the desaparecidos in Mexico. The hardest part about the whole process was purely trying to make sure that our translations of her poems stayed true to her unique voice and intended message. I hope that through our work on this book we were able to give Evangelina’s voice an even greater platform so that more people will join her fight for justice,” says Morgan Mostrom, a senior double majoring in communication studies and Spanish.
The students who participated over the years were identified because of their interest in the issue of feminicide as well as their admiration for Arce’s voice both in English and Spanish. Arce has a limited formal education yet writes complex and direct verse, which presented many challenges for the student translators.
“Translating Evangelina’s work opened my eyes to the injustice and atrocities happening in the world around me. The project also enriched my experience not only as a Spanish major, but also as a student learning in a Jesuit institution,” says Rosa Arámburo ’11, who is now studying medicine at the University of Chicago. “I am extremely happy that I was involved in such an amazing project and proud that I did my part in helping spread Doña Evangelina’s message for justice.”
The students had different experiences of growth throughout the project, but share in their solidarity with Arce, the victims of feminicide, and the pride they have as contributors to this project.
“Evangelina Arce is a Universal Mother, superseding culture, age, and religion. Her voice, her poetry, her songs shifted my perception of what it is to be a woman of faith. Señora Arce shows us that faith is unending, tireless, and bittersweet. It was a privilege to be a part of this project, a wonderful memory of beloved days at LMU,” says Cynthia Harrison ’08, who was a Spanish major at LMU and pursued an M.A in translation in Spain, after graduation.
Partnoy, Wronsky, and students recently celebrated the completion of the project as a book presentation featuring selected readings. The book is available for purchase HERE.