The life and works of Filipino women writers Adelina Gurrea and Paz Zamora took center stage during the second part in the Embassy-organized “Quincentennial Encounters: Cultural Conversations on the 500-Year-Old Relations between the Philippines and Spain” which was held on 4 March 2020 at Casa Asia Madrid.
Spanish academics Dr. Beatriz Alvarez and Dr. Rocio Ortuño jointly presented on “Filipino women writers in Philippine Literature in Spanish: the experiences of Adelina Gurrea and Paz Zamora.” Both Drs. Alvarez and Ortuño are experts on Philippine literature in Spanish.
The event was also organized to coincide with International Women’s Day, with the topic especially selected to highlight the achievements of the Filipino women writers Gurrea and Zamora who played key roles in shaping the landscape of Philippine literature in Spanish in the early 20th century.
Ambassador Philippe Lhuillier paid tribute to these two women, stating, “Had they lived in different times, had the world then been kinder and more enabling for women, we would be celebrating them much more frequently and prominently at present. It is not too late, however, and we are here this evening to celebrate them and their achievements.”
Dr. Beatríz Álvarez discussed the life of Adelina Gurrea (1896-1971) from Negros Occidental, who was a journalist, poet, playwright, and Premio Zobel winner. She founded the Círculo Hispano-Filipino de Madrid (Spanish-Philippine Society of Madrid) in 1950 and was a prominent figure in the Lyceum Club Femenino (Women’s Lyceum Club). A character in the Netflix series Las Chicas del Cable (Cable Girls) is believed to be based on Gurrea.
Dr. Álvarez, arguably one of the foremost authority on Adelina Gurrea, earned her PhD from the University of the Philippines (UP). She was guest researcher at the De La Salle University (Manila) and professor at the University of Ateneo de Manila and UP. She is the author of Writing Athwart: Adelina Gurrea’s Life and Works,” published by the Ateneo de Manila University, and also wrote the foreword of Gurrea’s Cuentos de Juana published as part of the Clasico Hispanofilipino collection by Instituto Cervantes de Manila. She has published several articles and essays, and has given lectures on Philippine literature in Spanish.
For her presentation, Dr. Rocio Ortuño highlighted the works of María Paz Zamora-Mascuñana, whose account of life in the Philippines in World War II remains unique for having been written by a woman, and for featuring the author’s “sound memory” of the war.
Dr. Roció Ortuño Casanova further presented survey of Philippine literature in published in the Philippines between 1872 and 1973. This compilation of literary works may be viewed at a database project of the University of Antwerp, and is part of the Klein Project of the Netherlands entitled “Philippines at the Crossroads: Mapping the international presence in the Philippine literary field in Spanish between 1872 and 1945,” with Prof. Ortuño as the principal researcher. The project may be accessed via https://filiteratura.uantwerpen.be/.
Dr. Rocío Ortuño Casanova teaches and researches at the Department of Literature of the University of Antwerp (Belgium). After working for six years at different universities in the UK, she transferred to the University of the Philippines in Diliman where she taught courses in Spanish language, literature and culture. She is the director of the portal of Philippine literature in Spanish of the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes and led the project that produced the database Filiteratura. She currently codirects an academic cooperation project between UP Diliman and the University of Antwerp on Digitization of rare periodicals and training in Digital Humanities.