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The remains of Guatemalan writer and Nobel laureate Miguel Angel Asturias will be exhumed from Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris and repatriated to Guatemala, his son announced on Sunday.

In a significant decision that carries both emotional and political weight, the family of Miguel Angel Asturias, the Guatemalan writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1967, has decided to bring his remains back to his homeland. The announcement was made by Asturias’ son, Miguel Angel Asturias Amado, during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of his father’s death.

Miguel Angel Asturias (1899-1974) was a prominent figure in Guatemalan literature and politics. Before winning the Nobel Prize, he worked as a journalist and served as a deputy in the Guatemalan Congress. However, his life took a dramatic turn in 1954 when he was stripped of his Guatemalan citizenship and expelled from the country following a coup d’état led by Colonel Carlos Castillos Armas.

Despite the political turmoil that forced him into exile, Asturias continued to write and gain international recognition. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1967 for his body of work, which the Swedish Academy described as being “rooted in the traditional Indian culture of Latin America.” His most famous works include El Señor Presidente (Mister President), a novel depicting life under the dictatorship of Manuel Estrada Cabrera (1898-1920), and Hombres de maíz (Men of Maize), a seminal work of magical realism deeply rooted in Mayan culture.

The decision to repatriate Asturias’ remains comes during the administration of President Bernardo Arevalo, who took office in January after being elected on a promise to rid the country of corruption. Asturias Amado described the move as a “decision with a strong emotional connotation” and a “political decision that my father and brother would approve of.”

President Arevalo, who attended the ceremony at the National Palace of Culture along with Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu, expressed that receiving Asturias’ remains would be an honor for Guatemala.

The family’s decision marks a significant shift in their stance on bringing the writer’s remains back to Guatemala. In 2014, Asturias Amado had lamented the “total indifference” towards his father’s work in Guatemala. He had also stated that the persistent poverty and social exclusion in the country made it impossible to repatriate the writer’s body, given Asturias’ lifelong commitment to the rights of indigenous people and marginalized groups in his homeland.

After being exiled to Argentina following the coup, and later to Europe, Asturias was rehabilitated in 1966 and appointed as Guatemala’s ambassador to France. He passed away from cancer in Madrid and was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

The repatriation of Miguel Angel Asturias’ remains to Guatemala represents an opportunity for Guatemala to honor one of its most distinguished literary figures and to reconnect with its cultural heritage.

With AFP