Verónica Cortínez wins prestigious Chilean literary award

Her two-volume work with Manfred Engelbert, Evolución en libertad: El cine chileno de fines de los sesenta, won the Premio Municipal de Literatura in the essay category.

Verónica Cortínez wins prestigious Chilean literary award

Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, Premio Municipal 2015 jury president (left) and UCLA Professor Verónica Cortínez. (Photo: Andrés Wood.)

“Manfred and I feel truly honored to have received this award,” said Cortínez. “We could not have written this book — which is almost one thousand pages and took us over a decade to write — without the longstanding support of our respective universities.”

UCLA International Institute, February 8, 2016Verónica Cortínez, director of the UCLA Center for Southern Cone Studies and professor in the department of Spanish and Portuguese, has been awarded the oldest and most prestigious literary prize in Chile: the Premio Municipal de Literatura 2015. Her two-volume book with co-author Manfred Engelbert of the Georg-August Universität Göttingen, Evolución en libertad: El cine chileno de fines de los sesenta,* won the award in the essay category.

“We are delighted that Verónica Cortínez, one of the UCLA International Institute’s outstanding faculty directors, has received such a prestigious literary award,” said Cindy Fan, vice provost for international studies and global engagement. “It is our good fortune to have such an accomplished scholar at UCLA, one whose knowledge of Chilean and South American literature and film greatly enriches area studies education at the university.”

Kevin Terraciano, director of the UCLA Latin American Institute, added, “Congratulations to Verónica and her colleague, Manfred Engelbert, for their outstanding research on Chilean cinema in the 1960s. Verónica exemplifies UCLA's excellence in research, teaching and service: she wins major prizes for her books, she won the Academic Senate’s Distinguished Teaching Award and she directs the Center for Southern Cone Studies. It is so inspiring to work with people like Verónica.”

A social, cultural and aesthetic history of a brilliant moment in Chilean cinematic tradition, Evolución en libertad sheds light on a national film tradition that is frequently overlooked due to is relative absence from the international market. The book explores the films of a stellar group of directors working in the late 1960s (Alejo Álvarez, Germán Becker, Álvaro Covacevich, Aldo Francia, Patricio Kaulen, Miguel Littin, Raúl Ruiz and Helvio Soto), whose work reflects a shared sense of “Chilean-ness” — the product of a long gestation of Chilean popular culture. The authors specifically examine the cultural foundations of eight films, one by each director: “Morir un poco” (1967), “Largo viaje” (1967), “Tierra quemada” (1968), “Ayúdeme Ud. Compadre” (1968), “Tres tristes tigres” (1968), “Caliche sangriento” (1969), “Valparaíso mi amor” (1969) and “El chacal de Nahueltoro” (1970)..

“Manfred and I feel truly honored to have received this award,” said Cortínez. “We could not have written this book — which is almost one thousand pages and took us over a decade to write — without the longstanding support of our respective universities. They guaranteed us not only financial security, but especially, complete independence of thought,” she continued. “I want to take this opportunity to thank the Academic Senate, the department of Spanish and Portuguese, the Latin American Institute, and the dean of humanities.”

The Premio Municipal de Literatura is awarded by the government of the city of Santigao in different genres of literature, including poetry, drama, the novel and the essay. Among the famed Chilean writers to have won the Premio are the poets Pablo Neruda and Nicanor Parra. Chile’s Nobel Prize–winner for literature, Gabriela Mistral—the first Latin American writer to win the Nobel in 1945—did not, however, ever receive the award. That fact was the inspiration for the following ditty written by Parra:

“Epitafio” de Nicanor Parra

Yo soy Lucila Alcayaga
alias Gabriela Mistral
primero me gané el Nobel
y después el Nacional
a pesar de que estoy muerta
me sigo sintiendo mal
porque no me dieron nunca
el Premio Municipal

“Epitaph” by Nicanor Parra
I am Lucila Alcayaga
alias Gabriela Mistral
First I won the Nobel
and then the National
Although I’m dead
I still feel bad
because I never received
the Premio Municipal

Paz Puga of Tikitiklip, winner of the Premio Municipal for art, management and heritage in the audiovisual category (left) and Professor Verónica Cortínez. (Photo: Andrés Wood.) Professor Cortínez received her award at a ceremony in Santiago in late December 2015 attended by the city’s mayor, Carolina Tohá, and poet Raúl Zurita, who served as the Premio Municipal 2015 jury president (see local press coverage). The other jury members for the essay category were María Carolina Pizarro and Alberto Mayol.

In addition to Chilean literature and film, Cortínez’s research interests span contemporary Spanish-American fiction and colonial Spanish-American literature. Among the courses she teaches at UCLA are “El cuento hispanoamericano,” “Gestación y autogestión del boom,” “Medio siglo de cultura chilena: 1960–2010” and “Violencia y memoria en el mundo hispánico.”

The UCLA International Institute and the Latin American Institute congratulate Verónica on her receipt of this signal award — a well-deserved honor.

* Evolution in Liberty: Chilean Cinema of the Late 1960s (Editorial Cuarto Propio, 2014)