Meet the Haymaker – Cindy Herrera

Our monthly 'Meet the Haymaker' series shares stories of the change-makers at the heart of Hay Festival and the impact it has had on their lives. This month, get to know guest writer on the Hay Festival Cartagena outreach programme, Cindy Herrera.

What does Hay Festival mean to you?

I think that Hay Festival meant a great door of opportunities, a platform of knowledge in dialogue, especially to connect literature and the media, make it public, open and I hope that at some point this will lead us to be more democratic, above all for a city as complex as Cartagena. When I set foot at Hay Festival for the first time I looked at it as something far away from me, I mean myself as an ordinary citizen, as if the words that were in the voices of so many writers were heard like a distant echo. Today I feel that there is an intention to do everything closer, more in fabric, and that is a risk worth taking. I think that Hay Festival has a lot to do and to build, but today for me it is a great showcase to continue consolidating and creating more audiences open to listening to the issues that concern us as a society.

What is your favorite memory of the Festival?

My favorite memory was having the opportunity to hug Indhira Serrano and telling her that her essence as a woman and as an Afro-Colombian artist had set a precedent in acting and in the fight for legal spaces in our communities. And I have another slightly bitter memory, but today it connected me with a writer that I admire a lot, Vanessa Londoño. I went to see her for her book, and never in my life, with several years attending, had I ever dared to ask a writer anything, it made me very sad, but seeing that she was on the panel, it seemed that the moderator had not read the book and the other writer was silencing her, I decided to start asking her about her work, and truly listening to it was refreshing, for a country that believes it has already written everything about violence, when we are barely trying to decipher what a post-conflict means.

Have you ever changed your mind about something after attending a Hay Festival event?

I always arrive with questions about the books I have read from the authors I am going to listen to, and I leave with more questions than I brought with me, and that is because I don't dare to ask. What I do know is that I enjoy them, sometimes I rather corroborate in some writers' voices ideas that I had previously, some very good and others not so positive. Let's say that I have come across panels where there is, in some cases, more arrogance than real kindness and love for the public that reads and listens to you.

Who was the best speaker or performer you saw on stage at the Hay Festival?

I think listening to Leonardo Padura and Alia Trabucco were spaces of absolute pleasure and delight. They know what they do, they know the job they practice and the rigor of the research of literary art, so for me to know about the work of their works and the conflicts they faced when developing them is always going back to the beginning, to the initial point of the memory of why is I like this.

What advice would you give to someone coming to the Festival for the first time?

Listen carefully and learn to doubt. Ask questions, do not be a coward like me. Above all – enjoy! Hopefully you will hear something valuable that can transform your thinking or just distance you from your own.