About the project


The project “Meridiano 105°” entails the elaboration and promotion of an anthology of poetry written by contemporary indigenous women from the American continent. The objective is that each poet provides a poem written in her native language (non-European) so that, with the rest of the poets’ (or other women’s) help, it is translated to all possible indigenous languages by using, when necessary, translations to Spanish, English or French.

This entire project is conceived as a network, as a weave of voices and words, of women who are interested in the project. From the beginning, we decided that the anthology would not make any profit because we believe that this project is a really important contribution to an era in which the market, or what is left of it, moves the world.


In 2004 the Atwood-Roy Literary Chair, created by The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and the Canadian Embassy in Mexico organized a cycle of conferences about Canadian and Mexican Indigenous women’s writing.

Irma Pineda, Briceida Cuevas and Natalia Toledo were invited to represent Mexico, and Buffy St. Marie and Rita Mestokosho to represent Canada.

These authors spoke about their work and read a selection of their texts in their native languages (Cree, Innu, Zapotec and Mayan), along with translations to English, French or Spanish. When the conferences ended we decided to find a way to maintain a more permanent contact with these other voices and their texts, which aren’t really known (or aren’t known enough) in spaces such as UNAM´s Faculty of Philosophy and Literature.

The first stage of the project consisted in asking the poets to send us a short poem that they considered appropriate for the anthology and which was written in their native language and translated to at least one of the “bridge” languages (Spanish, English or French). As a result, we also tried to find writers who worked with other indigenous languages like Haida or other variants of Cree in Canada, as well as Nahuatl, Purépecha, Tzotzil, Tseltal, Huichol Wixcárika and Zoque in Mexico.

Once the poets sent us their poems, along with a first translation to at least one of the “bridge” languages, the next step was for us to translate these poems to the remaining “bridge” languages. Once we did this, we sent these new translations to the rest of the poets (or to a woman in their community) so they could translate them to their indigenous languages. That was how we began to “knit” the anthology, and so the next step was to think about the publication format.

The “revealing” nature of the anthology (poems and translations that show something instead of hiding it) made us decide that the reading of the original text should be accompanied by all of its translations. Consequently, the format changed from being a merely esthetical and decorative element to an essential part of the project. We agreed to look for a presentation format that, in the first place, would allow the reader to see the original poem along with all of its translations, as well as to play with the multiple ways in which all of those versions can be arranged without any defined or pre-established linguistic hierarchies, and, in the second place, would also allow us to add more versions or translations along the way.

At first, we thought about publishing all of the poems in little boxes (one per poet) that contained the texts and their translations in loose sheets. Then, we thought about a printout in the form of an accordion, which would add some movement to the reading process.

However, at this point the project had to be interrupted.


In the summer of 2012 the project was brought back to life and we began the second stage.

The need to find a more agile and fluent mechanisms to stay in touch with this group of women, and the difficulty of finding a way to publish the material without losing some of its most important characteristics, made us choose a digital alternative (which also had several other advantages).

To move the matter forward, we decided to start a first section of the anthology with the help of the poets who originally joined the project.

A first version of the E-Anthology came out that same summer. Today, in the summer of 2016, a second version with a bigger offer of translated poems has been unveiled in a format that better suits our objectives.

We hope that soon the section entitled “Cartography” will complement the poets’ information by offering a geographical context of their cultures within official maps. Also, this section aims to illustrate, with the use of interactive maps, the questions that the poems and translations bring forward regarding the concepts of “border” as identity, of geopolitical divisions as historical scars, and of the different ways of conceptualizing the idea of “nation state”.

Esthetic mechanism

From the very beginning, our intention has been to compile, organize and distribute the poems in such a way that they can be placed in different contexts without them losing their specificity. We were also looking for a publication format that, more than hiding or eliminating the differences between languages and cultures, would place them in the foreground. This is why we decided that it was important to show the poems in their original languages along with their translations to other indigenous ones. It was also important to include translations to European languages, which could work as reading aids.

As we advanced, we realized that we needed to comment and contextualize each poem so readers could entirely appreciate them. It was also fundamental to keep a record of the processes and characteristics of all the translations to know, for example, if using certain traditional western rhetorical structures eliminated some specific characteristics of the original text.

Additionally, western literary tradition favors concept over sound, but this is not the case in other traditions where orature is, without a doubt, an important category whose particular characteristics should always be kept in mind. This is why in the future we seek to include recordings that will not only allow users to listen to the texts in their original languages, but also can be permanent reminders that the privileged ways of communicating information in the western world aren’t and shouldn’t be the only ones.

Regarding what we just mentioned, we think it is also important to have a visual record of the reading and recitation of the poems. Facial expressions, body language, movements, etc.; provide information which can be of interest.


1. While we were asking for and/or choosing the poems, there was always a wish on our behalf to give preference to that which we considered was connected to the life experience of women culturally different from us. This must always be something to think about and to discuss with care because it is not only possible to endorse stereotypes that are not enriching, but also to contribute to the creation and circulation of false ideas about other cultures.

2. The concept of poetry itself has also been problematic, this is because other cultures do not understand it, or have understood it, like we do in current western culture. However, the question is even more complex because there is not one cultural manifestation, regardless of the group that they belong to, which remains unchanged; on the contrary, they all take elements from other cultural groups through diverse mechanisms (appropriation, abrogation, etc.). This forced us to rethink a series of assumptions because our interest is to reflect on what really happens in indigenous women’s poetry today and not to offer a false representation of these groups. In many cases, it is possible that an indigenous literary creation process that is absolutely separated from the most known western traditions no longer exists.

3. Finally, as members of UNAM we have had a lot of doubts about our presence in the website. Although we have always wanted to emphasize our supporting role, like that of the three European languages which Meridiano 105° uses as a bridge, we haven’t always been able to remain on the sidelines (e.g. while administrating this website). This lead us to understand that it is not possible to change our current situation, but it is possible to think of a new phase in which all of our voices are present in an affirmative and intertwined way through a plural and open process.

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