Mexican journalists Lydia Cacho and Anabel Hernández to give this year’s Harriet Martineau Lecture

NNF17. Harriet Martineau Leacture - Lydia Cacho.
Photo: Alar/supplied by Writers' Centre Norwich.

NNF17. Harriet Martineau Leacture - Lydia Cacho. Photo: Alar/supplied by Writers' Centre Norwich. - Credit: Alar/supplied by Writers' Centre Norwich

Mexican journalists Lydia Cacho and Anabel Hernández will be giving this year's Harriet Martineau Lecture at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Andrew Burton from Writers' Centre Norwich finds out more about their talk called Speaking Truth To Power.

NNF17. Harriet Martineau Leacture - Anabel Hernandez.
Photo: supplied by Writers' Centre Norwich.

NNF17. Harriet Martineau Leacture - Anabel Hernandez. Photo: supplied by Writers' Centre Norwich. - Credit: supplied by Writers' Centre Norwich

The radical thinker Harriet Martineau (1802 – 1876) was born in the Magdalen Street area of Norwich and went on to become famous on both sides of the Atlantic, writing about key political and economic issues of the day.

She campaigned on a wide range of topics, from women's rights to the abolition of slavery, and is considered by many to have been the world's first retained female journalist.

Each year, as part of the City of Literature strand of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, Writers' Centre Norwich invites writers to speak on contemporary issues that respond to Martineau's legacy.

This year's Harriet Martineau Lecture (don't be put off by the word 'lecture' – it's really just a very engaging, lively talk with the opportunity for questions from the audience!) is jointly delivered by two of Mexico's finest journalists, Lydia Cacho and Anabel Hernández.

They will talk about their international campaigns to lay bare the truth.

At a time when murders of Mexican journalists is becoming increasingly commonplace – just this month 50-year-old journalist Javier Valdez, renowned for his award-winning coverage of the drug trade, was shot dead in the street near the premises of the news weekly he had founded – this year's Harriet Martineau lecture could not be more relevant or urgent.

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The extracts published here, exclusively revealed to the EDP and Norwich Evening News, give a flavour of how Lydia Cacho and Anabel Hernández will be 'speaking truth to power' in this year's talk.

An extract from Lydia Cacho's speech:

'Never be afraid of your intelligence,' said my Mexican father when I was 15. And from that day on I discovered intelligence is power, knowledge is power. I simply assumed girls are powerful. I wanted to tell this fantastic news to the world, but the people that surrounded me, outside my crazy family, found my words inappropriate for an educated middle-class girl. I was supposed to play with dolls and wear skirts, and speak a ladylike language and not rebellious words. Instead I wanted to climb walls and trees, to search for truths under rocks, and mountains, under the belly of our dog, under the mysterious lies adults tell all the time.

Some years later I became a journalist, published an article about violence against women, so a man came to the door of the office and at gunpoint told me: 'Do not mess with my personal life.' I was 30 years old when I realised all those years learning classical ballet with an implacable Russian teacher had taught me to bend without braking. Oh, that feeling! Of knowing that when you are right, fear will never win the battle inside your mind and your heart, therefore anger will never inhabit your powerful self. I kept going in search of untold realities, of silent battles against violence. I have spent 30 years looking for those truths that free our minds, our souls, our hearts from fear.'

An extract from Anabel Hernández's speech (translated by Samantha Schnee):

'Attacks on freedom of the press in Mexico occur every day, every hour, everywhere. But it's neither the media nor the journalists who are most deeply affected. Society is the primary victim of these assaults. The main goal of those who order the deaths of and kill journalists in Mexico is to do away with the fundamental right of society to be well informed, to know the truth.

If journalists and the media become silent, as has begun to occur in some cities in Mexico, society no longer has the facts it needs to make decisions. Without accurate information upon which to base decisions there can be no freedom, and without freedom there's no democracy.

A character in Honoré de Balzac's Human Comedy says: 'There are two kinds of history: official history, lying history, and what they teach in colleges … and secret history, which deals with the true causes of events, shameful history.' The Mexican narco-state builds its own official history day by day; it cleans it up and manipulates history at will to perpetuate its own impunity and, along with it, a corrupt system. Our responsibility as journalists is to discover the truth and make it known, no matter what the cost.'

Speaking Truth to Power, this year's Harriet Martineau Lecture, takes place at 12.30pm on Friday in the Adnams Spiegeltent in Chapelfield Gardens as part of the 2017 Norfolk & Norwich Festival. Tickets £8. This is one of many literature events organised by Writers' Centre Norwich and Norfolk & Norwich Festival over the May 26–28 City of Literature Weekend.

To book, or for further information, call 01603 766400 or visit For more Norfolk and Norwich Festival stories click here

For a full list of Norfolk and Norwich Festival events click here