The poet and translator Enrique Servín Herrera, one of the greatest linguists and defenders of indigenous culture in Mexico and a long-time consulting translator at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre, was tragically murdered in his home in the city of Chihuahua in October of last year. He was 62 years old. He was known and beloved by many participants in the BILTC program, and received the Linda Gaboriau Award for his work on behalf of literary translation in Mexico in 2014.

Enrique was fluent in a number of indigenous languages of northern Mexico, including Tarahumara and Pima. As director of the Department of Ethnic Cultures and Diversity for the state of Chihuahua, he was known throughout Mexico for his research, protection and support of eleven different indigenous languages of his region, as well as Quiché Maya. His colleague Victoria Montemayor described him as “one of the few figures who sprout up from the earth and with their simplicity, warmth, joyfulness, friendliness, love and passion for literature, poetry and languages, light up the lives of those around them.” A brilliant polyglot, Enrique translated from English, French, Polish, Arabic, Catalan, Russian, Portuguese, and Hindi. His lyrical, reflective poetry has been translated into English, Hebrew, Greek and Chinese. In his book Cuaderno de abalorios (Notebook of Beads), he wrote, “A language, which is at once a tradition, a register and a collective imagination, is an intangible library.” All those who knew him remember his courage, kindness, and wisdom, and will miss his presence in the world.

By Hugh Hazelton