The following letter was hand-delivered to the Guatemalan Consul General on February 26, 1981, by members of the Freedom to Write Committee of PEN American Center. As yet, the committee has received no response from an official of the Guatemalan government. December 19 will be the first anniversary of Alaide Foppa’s disappearance.

Honorable Ambassador:

As writers, teachers, feminists, art critics, artists, and people concerned with human rights, we are hereby demanding information about Alaide Foppa, a Guatemalan citizen residing in Mexico, who disappeared in Guatemala on December 19, 1980, with her driver Leocadio Actún Shiroy. Since that day, every endeavor to obtain information from the Guatemalan authorities about her whereabouts has been fruitless.

Alaide Foppa’s involvement in the struggle for human rights led her to become a member of Amnesty International and to establish with other women the International Association of Women Against Repression in Guatemala (AIMUR). We are distressed about her disappearance and ensuing official silence not only because she is a leading intellectual, a feminist, a writer, an art critic, a professor, and a translator, but also because her disappearance, and that of Sr. Actún, reflects the outrageous increase in official repression. Amnesty International estimates that from January to November, 1980, over 3,000 people “disappeared” or were killed by uniformed and nonuniformed government forces. Sixteen journalists critical of the government were murdered or were said to have “disappeared.” The number of disappeared, detained, or murdered in Guatemala since 1966 is over 25,000.

Alaide Foppa, with her recently deceased husband, Alfonso Solorzano, and five children, fled to Mexico from Guatemala in 1954. She became a professor in Mexico’s national university, where she teaches Italian at the School of Philosophy and Letters. At the School of Political Science, she offered the first course on the sociology of women ever to be offered at a Latin American university. She was co-founder five years ago of fem, the first feminist journal in Latin America. In 1972, she began producing and broadcasting on radio “foro de la mujer” (Woman’s Forum) and presented over four hundred programs.

We join the newly formed International Committee for the Life of Alaide Foppa in demanding her safety, her immediate return, and a full government accounting of her disappearance.


Dore Ashton, Chairman; Aaron Asher, Louise Bernikow, Bell Chevigny, Ronald Christ, Allen Ginsberg, Nat Hentoff, Susan Lukas, Nancy Meiselas, Aryeh Neier, Grace Paley, Faith Sale, Susan Sontag, Sol Yurick, Members, Freedom to Write Committee, PEN American Center; Geoffrey Rips, Ellen Binder

This Issue

December 17, 1981