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A Celebration of Mexico: Honoring a “Living Legend”

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Miguel León-Portilla
Miguel León-Portilla

Mexican anthropologist and historian Miguel León-Portilla is the newest recipient of the Library of Congress Living Legend Award for his work in studying the Náhuatl language and literature — the ancient, still-spoken tongue of the Aztecs. The award will be conferred upon León-Portill at the Library’s “Celebration of Mexico”on Dec. 12.

The Living Legend Award honors those who have made significant contributions to America’s diverse cultural, scientific and social heritage. León-Portilla is the world’s foremost authority on Náhuatl philology and philosophy. He has spearheaded an entire scholarly discipline to evaluate and understand Náhuatl literature and thought, extending from pre-Columbian times to the 1.5 million speakers of Náhuatl today. The language of the Aztecs, Náhuatl has been spoken in Central Mexico since at least the 7th century AD.

León-Portilla discusses his work in a set of podcasts, both in English and Spanish.

Subscribe to other podcasts and listen to interviews with select conference participants in advance of the celebratory event, including novelist/poet Carmen Boullosa and author Sandra Cisneros.

The first Living Legend awards were given in 2000 during the Library’s bicentennial (1800-2000) celebration. Recipients through the years have included artists, writers, filmmakers, physicians, entertainers, sports figures, public servants and musicians who have enriched the nation through their professional accomplishments and personal excellence. Madeleine Albright, Katharine Graham, B.B. King, David McCullough, Gordon Parks, Alan Lomax, I.M. Pei, Sally Ride, Martin Scorsese, Yo Yo Ma, Bill Cosby and Mario Andretti are among the more than 100 recipients.

“A Celebration of Mexico,” a two-day conference and accompanying display at the Library of Congress, will open on December 12, the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a popular national holiday in Mexico. For more information, visit the website.

Comments (2)

  1. As a Spanish teacher with a certification in English as well, I have a great appreciation for all languages. So many languages ‘die’ each year, and with them, so does a part of history. Everything that was written in that language can no longer be read; histories and stories can no longer be pasted down in the language of the people who lived through them or told them first.
    Miguel León-Portilla is an inspiration to me, and I’m sure, to others as well. The language of a people that thrived so long ago, and whose ancestors still live today, can survive for many years to come. I applaud his work and success, and I’m glad to see him as a recipient of the Living Legend Award.

  2. Apreciable Antropólogo e Historiador Don Miguel León-Portilla. Por este conducto expreso una felicitación por su admirable trabajo.

    Un saludo respetuoso.

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