Visit PEN International's website

This is a site-wide search. If you’re looking for specific collection pieces, please use Search the Collection.


PEN Case (1980): Alaíde Foppa de Solórzano – Guatemala, Disappeared


Alaíde Foppa de Solórzano was born in 1914 in Barcelona to a Guatemalan mother and an Argentine father. As a child, she spent some years living in Argentina and spent her adolescence in Italy. She married a Guatemalan politician, Mario Solórzano and took Guatemalan citizenship. Exiled in Mexico after the 1954 coup, Foppa de Solórzano lived and worked in Mexico City for many years. There she taught at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National University of Mexico) and developed and ran a weekly feminist radio programme in the late 1970s  which, among other issues, highlighted the oppression of Mayan women. She was a founding member of the International Association of Women Against Repression in Guatemala.

Foppa de Solórzano was a writer, an art critic and one of the founders of fem, the first feminist journal to appear in Latin America. During her distinguished academic career, she held a chair in Italian Literature at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México’s Faculty of Arts where she founded the university’s Chair of Sociology. 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 also a professor at the University of San Carlos de Guatemala’s Faculty of Humanities.

Despite the fiercely dangerous political situation in Guatemala at the time, Foppa de Solórzano frequently returned there from exile in Mexico. Shortly after returning to Guatemala, on 19 December 1980 she was kidnapped and “disappeared”, presumably murdered, under President Fernando Romeo Luca García.  She is one of approximately 45,000 people who “disappeared” during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala, which began in 1960, and which also left an estimated 200,000 people dead.

In 2010, Foppa’s family, Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM) (Mutual Support Group) and the Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala (CERIGUA) (Center of Informative Reports on Guatemala) and other organizations demanded that an inquiry into Foppa’s disappearance be launched by Guatemalan authorities. When there was no response, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights filed a complaint against the Guatemalan government. Thirty years later, Alaíde Foppa de Solórzano’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

Writing Sample


My life

is an exile without return.

My wandering, lost infance

had no home,

my exile

has no land.

My life sailed

in a ship of nostalgia.

I lived on the seashore

looking towards the horizon:

I imagined one day setting sail

towards my unknown home

and the foreseen journey

left me in another port waiting for departure.

Is love, at home,

my ultimate bay?

Oh arms which kept me prisoner

without giving me shelter…

I also longed to escape

from the cruel embrace.

Oh fleeing arms,

which my hands sought in vain.

Unending flight

and unending longing,

love is not a safe port –

There is no longer any promised land

for my hopes.

There is only a land

full of withered desires,

a secret, buried homeland

which from far away seems like

a lost paradise.

[Translated from Spanish by Mandy Garner]

Useful links

Letter of appeal from PEN America to Guatemala authorities, 1981:

‘City of the Disappeared – three decades of searching for Guatemala’s missing’ – Amnesty International report 2012:

Poetry by Alaíde Foppa (Spanish):