Guadalajara, Jalisco, June 25, 2018

The Benítez for Benito

“I am a journalist and I wear this hat with extreme pride,” says Beni-to Taibo, who will receive the 2018 National Homage to Cultural Journalism at FIL Guadalajara


“I did not study history,” clarifies Benito Taibo, since that is what several biographical sketches on the internet claim. “I’ve worked in journalism for 42 years. It’s a profession I inherited, one way or another.” His first job, at the age of 16, was as a reporter for the Mexican Consumers’ Institute. Since then, he has collaborated with numerous media companies in radio, television, and print. “I don’t know how to do anything else,” he confesses. It is precisely in recognition of his long career and his contributions to the profession that Benito will receive the National Homage to Cultural Journalism at the Guadalajara International Book Fair. This accolade has been previously awarded to journalists such as Carlos Monsiváis, Elena Poniatowska, Emilio García Riera, Raquel Tibol, Vicente Leñero, Cristina Pacheco, Juan Villoro, and Graciela Iturbide.


            “It humbles and astonishes me and I am very thankful to the colleagues who have decided I deserve something like this. To receive a tribute awarded by colleagues is always very gratifying. There are loads of people who deserve it,” declares Benito Taibo. His father, Pacho Ignacio Taibo I, one of the great journalism figures of the 20th century, received this award in 2004, adding to the excitement of the news Benito received a few days ago. “I am convinced he would be very happy to see me receive it now. I think it’s the first time that a father and son have received this tribute and frankly, it feels strange.”


            The National Homage to Cultural Journalism was established by the FIL Guadalajara in 1992 to pay tribute to the author of Los indios de México. Since then, it has celebrated the strength of the work and careers of our nation’s greatest journalists. The winner is chosen by a committee made up of previous winners of the award and prominent active cultural journalists. 


            At the start of his career as a reporter, Benito Taibo wrote a story about wild bird trafficking. His article was used 25 years later by the School of Philosophy and Letters at the UNAM in its journalism program as an example for those learning the trade. Today, he is known as a poet, a novelist, the director of Radio UNAM, a tireless advocate for literacy, and an active and respected voice on social media. He is thrilled to return to FIL Guadalajara as an award winner. “I have been a journalist for as long as I can remember and I am extremely proud of my profession. To me, the FIL Guadalajara is a kind of second home to which I always return with hope, excitement, a desire to learn something new, and ready to absorb the extraordinary during those nine spectacular days in which our lives become magical.”


How do you see the current state of cultural journalism in Mexico?

I have the impression it is going through a kind of renaissance. Recently it appears to be returning to what it used to be. There was a time when cultural journalism devoted itself somewhat to sensationalist journalism. A dancer only existed if she broke her leg, and you only discovered a theater existed in Mexico if it had burned down. We are returning to our origins. The day-to-day cultural happenings within Mexico are now being spoken about prolifically. Little by little, we are recuperating this logic; this need to talk about everything that changes and transforms us. This is undoubtedly happening not just in the big cities, but throughout Mexico.


Some of your colleagues have highlighted how, in addition to traditional media, you have managed to transfer cultural journalism to the digital realm and to social media, where you promote books and reading...

When I discovered that through Facebook I had my own newspaper, where I did not have an editor screaming at me and demanding I finish the story, and that I could write what I liked, when I liked, and how I liked, the world was a much nicer place. We have to lose our fear of the internet and new media. They are tools and we should use them as such. We continue to do what we have done since the paleolithic period: we tell stories around the campfire. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and thanks to our machines, now technology facilitates this exchange of ideas. I have devoted many years to promoting reading. I do it simply because I feel I owe something to literature; that I have to somehow give back what it has given me—the possibility of sharing a map of treasure island with many others who are eagerly waiting to be noticed, to tell them which books changed our lives and could also change so many other lives.


What is the importance of Fernando Benítez’s work today?

Capital in every sense of the word. We say we are a multicultural country, at least on paper, but we weren’t until the indigenous peoples were discovered, and it was thanks to Benítez and his knowledge that we discovered there was not one, but many peoples; and not one, but many nations; and not one, but many languages. Los indios de México, in its five volumes, is one of the crucial texts to understanding who the hell we are. Benítez paved a spectacular road and not only that: as a creator and director of cultural reviews, he has also been played a key role in allowing us to understand ourselves. With just two spectacular novels, El rey viejo, and El agua envenenada, Fernando Benítez is a 20th century role model for all of us, in particular because of what I have said: he was able to make us look at ourselves in another light.


Within the overall panorama of journalism, what is cultural journalism’s contribution? Would it be this “making us look at ourselves”?

If we start with the logic that culture is everything we do, everything that gratifies us, transforms us, and helps us find new paths, cultural journalism is precisely an essential tool to look ourselves in the eye, and know there are heaps of things going on around us that are worth sharing. I have been a journalist for as long as I can remember and I feel extremely proud of my profession. Then other things came along: being a writer, promoting reading... but I continue to be a journalist and I wear that hat with extreme pride. It clearly says who I am and where I came from.


2018 Fernando Benítez National Homage to Cultural Journalism
December 2,
17:30 hours
Juan Rulfo Auditorium at FIL Guadalajara





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