“We believe that the Amazon Rain Forest belongs to us for ever and ever… and one day. That day is now, and tomorrow, and the day after and all the days to come. Because our ancestors planted deep in our hearts the seeds of hope.”
Edna Iturralde (Quito, Ecuador, May 10,1948) the most skilled, prolific and versatile contemporary writer of children and adolescent literature in Ecuador. The pioneer in Latin America of ethno-historical literature for children, Iturralde has published fifty-eight books, that include chapter books, collections of short stories and picture albums; 54 are still in print and many have won national and international awards. Her book on the Amazon jungle, Green was my Forest, was selected from among 150 nominations as one of the ten best children books written in Latin American during the 20th Century by 27 experts. The cannon was organized by SM Publishing and with the help of the Chilean Libraries in 2010. Her literature invites children to use their imagination as a passport to the world of reality and magic, a style that can uniquely capture Latin America’s complex mixture of cultures, ethnicities, histories, and environments. Dr. Jaime Garcia Padrino, professor of children and adolescent literature in the Universidad Complutense of Madrid has written:
“…The contribution of Edna Iturralde to literature for children and youth is today one of the most outstanding in Ecuador and, by projection, in Latin America, both because of the number of works she has published to date and the variety of themes about which she has written. Her historical and biographical books are notable for its solid documentation and rigorous accuracy. Above all, her writing is of high expressive quality.”
Iturralde started writing in elementary school when her classmates asked her for “made-to-order” stories. In 1967, although the first girl ever to compete in the contest, she won Ecuador’s Presidential National Award for Oratory and another from the Municipality of Quito. From 1980 to 1981, she published one of her children stories every week in Panorama, a supplement of the Ecuadorean newspaper El Comercio”. In 1982, she founded the first weekly children’s magazine, “La Cometa”, (not a supplement) in Ecuador distributed without cost with the newspaper Diario Hoy, and for the subsequent eleven years filled the sixteen pages of the magazine with her own original stories, serial novels, comics and games. At that time it reached 210,000 children every Saturday, many of them too poor to afford other reading material. La Cometa, Iturralde’s legacy was able to continue continued to be publish for nearly 30 years and has served as a model for other free children’s magazines distributed with newspapers in South America. Unfortunately in 2014, when the News Paper Hoy was shutdown, La Cometa also disappeared.
In 1996, Iturralde founded UDELI, an association of writers and illustrators of children literature, which through its meetings and publications gave an important impetus to children literature in Ecuador. From 1996 to 1998, she worked with the Educational Development Center (EDC), an organization from the United States, to develop, write, test and evaluate an inter-active distance education program, free of charge, entitled Let’s Play Theatre, that provides guidance to pre-school teachers and community mothers in developing the imagination of young children; the program has been used successfully in many Ecuadorian day care centers. One of the two first international publishing houses, Grupo Santillana selected Iturralde’s books for its first publications, in 1998, by an Ecuadorian writer of children literature. The success of Iturralde’s books made Grupo Editorial Norma, the other international publishing company in Ecuador, also to select Iturralde’s books for its first publication of children literature by an Ecuadorian author.
Throughout her career, she has effectively promoted children and adolescent literature in Ecuador and other Latin American countries. In hundreds of visits to elementary and high schools, she has presented her literature, ad-honorem, to thousands of schoolchildren and has successfully imparted the message to them, their teachers and their parents that reading contributes to their intellectual and emotional development. For two years, she taught creative writing at the University of San Francisco of Quito gave summer lectures at Dartmouth College in the United States. In Ecuador, her literature forms part of the curriculum of children and adolescent literature studies at the Central University, the Catholic University of Quito and Loja, the Private Technical University of Loja, and the University Equinoctial of Quito. Schools and universities have adapted many of Iturralde’s stories for plays and the Ecuadorian National Chamber Ballet has produced dance versions inspired of some of her stories and books. Iturralde has promoted children literature and reading in dozens of radio, television, newspaper and magazine interviews.
Her selection in 2009 as one of Ecuador’s 50 most important people and in 2010 for the Silver Rose Award as Ecuador’s Woman of the Year, the Gold Medal Award, given previously only to adult literature indicate how much Iturralde has contributed to the raising the level of appreciation in Ecuador for children and adolescent literature in a country that this literature was considered of minor importance. Many Ecuadorians now understand that this literature is an essential means for increasing children’s self-esteem, sense of national identity, intellectual capacity and emotional intelligence. In contrast with 30 years ago, when Ecuadorian children and adolescents had access to and read almost exclusively foreign authors, in mostly translated publications now they can commonly can obtain and read Ecuadorean authors. Iturralde’s literature itself and her promotion of children and adolescent literature deserve much of the credit for that notable and beneficial change. She has been the principal driving force behind the “boom” in Ecuador in children and adolescent literature.
She lives in Quito, Ecuador with her husband and four dogs. She has six children and nine grandchildren.