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206 10 CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCC PEN and the Sword U.S.–Latin American Cultural Diplomacy and the 1966 PEN Club Congress DEBOR AH COHN In June of 1966, the International PEN1 Club held its annual conference in New York City. This was the first time in forty-two years that the United States had hosted the meeting. Arthur Miller had just been elected president of the organization and the week-long congress, which drew more than 600 people from 56 countries, marked a moment of international prestige for PEN. Committed to promoting understanding and defending free expression, conference organizers sought to provide authors from all ideological backgrounds with an opportunity to communicate with one another and to create an environment in which Cold War politics were ostensibly put aside in favor of cultural exchange and interchange. In 1966, PEN had 76 centers in 55 countries.2 It had always had a strong base in Europe, where most of its congresses had been held since it was founded in 1921. PEN officials were keenly aware of the significance of holding the conference in the United States at a time when Cold War tensions were high. Thus they did their best to facilitate the participation of delegates from centers in Eastern Europe and Cuba. Officials also reached out to so-called “Peripheral Writers” from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where there were few established PEN centers. These efforts were motivated by a sincere desire to make the event a success and to use it as a means of stimulating PEN activity worldwide. At the same time, the outreach was a strategic move that reflected the contemporary surge of public interest in the United States concerning developing nations that were vulnerable to communist advances. This essay studies the conference as a site of competing and conflicting interests between the hemispheric agenda of U.S. Cold War nationalism and aspirations for Western acclaim that were shared by a group of Latin American writers who were initially united in support of the Cuban Revolution (1959), which they regarded as bringing the possibility of political and cultural autonomy to Latin America. The conference marked a moment of extreme visibility for Latin American literature and is mentioned in almost every literary history PEN AND THE SWORD 207 that studies this period. I identify the many ways in which, following Pierre Bourdieu, the literary activity that the conference enabled took place within and was made possible by the U.S. field of power. Thus we can see how even the most avowedly non-political of organizations was not only caught up in a web of hemispheric cultural diplomacy but deliberately played to it, framing its bids for support from the U.S. State Department and philanthropic organizations in terms of the conference’s contributions to the national interest. And yet it would be misleading to study the conference solely as an official hemispheric outreach program that served the U.S. national interest by extending its political reach and improving its image through the Americas—even if it was framed by organizers and approved by government officials as precisely this. Such an approach would only tell part of the story and would overlook a key aspect of the event’s significance: the fact that Latin American writers viewed the conference as a platform for extending through the hemisphere and beyond the reach of a literary movement that was deeply interwoven with aspirations of regional sovereignty and solidarity. In order to understand the political and cultural forces at play in the conference, then, it must be studied from a vantage point that draws on both U.S. and Latin American studies. The conference’s importance and legacy, I argue, lie in its status as a tug-of-war between U.S. national politics and hemispheric policies on the one hand and regional goals that transcended the interests of individual Latin American nations on the other. In the 1950s and 1960s, Cold War politics played a determining role in molding U.S. cultural policy at home and abroad. This was a period of government-funded outreach and exchange programs such as the clandestinely Central Intelligence Agency–funded Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), the National Defense Education Act of 1958, and the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). Department of State and USIA funding for international tours of Porgy and Bess and jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, for example, reflected the...


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