Elena Poniatowska

Elena Poniatowska was born in France, in 1933. Her mother was the daughter of wealthy Mexican aristocrats and her father, a French count of Polish origin. In 1942, Poniatowska and her family moved to Mexico to escape war-time deprivations.

She began her writing career as a journalist. Her first job involved writing society news for the daily newspaper Excelsior. Soon, she moved on to interviewing cultural and political figures, such as muralist Diego Rivera. Most of these writings are collected in Palabras cruzadas, (1961). Through journalism and access to her interviewees, Poniatowska began to understand the Mexican society, its politics and its institutions.

She is best known for her gripping account of a massacre that took place in 1968 on Mexico City’s Plaza de Tres Culturas, also known as Tlatelolco.

In her book La noche de Tlatelolco, published in 1971, she denounced the cruel repression with which the army and the police crushed a student political demonstration. Nobody knows exactly how many people died. Ten days before Mexico was to host the Olympic Games, the government of President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz clamped down on students who were demanding the eradication of Article 145 in the penal code, which gave the government wide powers to intervene in demonstrations. The students were also demanding the dissolution of the repressive police force.

In her book, Poniatowska carried out interviews with informants, eyewitnesses, former prisoners, and interspersed these with poems by Octavio Paz and Rosario Castellanos; excerpts from ancient Nahuatl texts and newspapers; and political slogans. The brutal account is buttressed by a series of black and white photographs.

Poniatowska is often referred to as an author of ‘testimonial narratives’ - narratives that are based on both historical facts and the accounts of the marginalised people of society, who traditionally do not have the means, the access and the media opportunities to express themselves.


Lilus Kikus (1954)

Los cuentos de Lilus Kikus (1967)

De noche vienes (1979)

Métase mi prieta entre el durmiente y el silbatazo (1982)


Palabras cruzadas (1961)


La noche de Tlatelolco, Ediciones Era, 1971 (Massacre in Mexico, Viking Press: New York,1975).

Fuerte es el silencio


Juan Soriano, niño de mil años (1998)


Hasta no verte, Jesus mio, 1969 (Until We Meet Again, Pantheon Books: New York,1987)

Querido Diego, te abraza Quiniela y otros cuentos, 1978 (Dear Diego, Pantheon Books: New York, 1986)

Moletiques y pasiones (1987)

La flor de Lis (1988)

Tinísima (1992) - a novel about Tina Modotti, translated by Katherine Silver and published by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1996.

El último guajalote

El domingo siete

La casa en la tierra