Voices of the Cervantes / Miguel Iturria Savon

May 9, 2013 Leave a comment

To celebrate World Book Day — and the Castilian language — on 23 April, the online edition of the daily El Pais has presented to readers in Latin America with Voces para un Cervantes (Voices for a Cervantes) to download on computers and ebook tablets. The collection “brings together interviews that this newspaper has undertaken with the 37 Spanish-speaking writers who have obtained the highest award in Spanish letters since 1976,” when the Spanish poet Jorge Guillén first received the award.

In each of the interviews we hear the voice of the winners, transformed into contemporary classics of literary creation, although “Some are hurried interviews, made the same day of the Cervantes award where the winners express their joy and surprise. Others, more thoroughly, occurred before or after the award ceremony on April 23.”

All of the award-winning writers are in Voices for a Cervantes, from representatives of the legendary Spanish Generation of 27 — Jorge Guillen, Damaso Alonso, Gerardo Diego and Rafael Alberti — to José Manuel Caballero Bonald, who received it days earlier, through the memorable Jorge Luis Borges and other travelers in Latin letters such as Alejo Carpentier, Octavio Paz, Ernesto Sábato, Augusto Roa Bastos, Carlos Fuentes, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Dulce María Loynaz, Juan Gelman, Mario Vargas Llosa, José E. Pacheco, Gonzalo Rojas, Álvaro Mutis, Sergio Pitol, Nicanor Parra, Jorge and Jorge Edwards.

In the El Pais interviews these masterful voices of the New World alternate with the grand Hispanic artists such as María Zambrano, Luís Rosales, José Hierro, Antonio Buero Vallejo, Antonio Gamoneda, Francisco Umbral, Miguel Delibes, Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, Ana María Matute, Camilo José Cela, José García Nieto, Gonzalo Torrente Ballester, Francisco Ayala, José Jiménez Lozano, Juan Marsé y el citado José Manuel Caballero Bonald.

As clarifies in El Pais, the prize for Literature in the Spanish Language of Miguel de Cervantes was convened by the Ministry of Information and Tourism on September 15, 1975. Since then it has been awarded in the last quarter of each year to one of the six writers nominated by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language of Spain and Latin America, who receive it the following year on April 23 at the University of Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, which coincides with the book fair in commemoration of the death of the author of Don Quixote de La Mancha.

Guillermo Cabrera Infante

21 April 2013

Background Noise / Miguel Iturria Savon

May 8, 2013 Leave a comment
Portillo-de-la-Luz

César Portillo de la Luz

These days, the name of Cuba has echoed in the Spanish press, but not for the arbitrary arrests and hunger strikes of dozens of imprisoned opponents, but for the statement of actor Willy Toledo — exceptional in his role as a fucker caught in the act in The Perfect Crime — who after embracing Hugo Chavez’s successor in Caracas announced in May that he will go live in Cuba; his calling the regime there marvelous has unleashed satirical comments in El Pais and other Spanish media.

From the largest of the Antilles the names of two characters who passed from this life also echo: Alfredo Guevara, founder and former president of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, and the composer César Portillo de la Luz, author of With You in the Distance, You My Delirium, Reality and Fantasy and other songs that brought him fame and money, as well as recognition of the cultural institutions of the dictatorship, which he was identified without actually writing laudatory hymns in the style A. Guevara, Filmmaker-in-Chief, and the troubadour and ex-deputy Silvio Rodríguez, an icon of the “committed song.”

I didn’t comment on the Spanish actor’s decision in this blog, because the Iberian cybernauts already did; though perhaps it’s a publicity tactic to get attention and  a contract in Havana. It remains to be seen whether the Ministry of the Interior will grant him a Resident Card in Cuba, where they have interests and offer benefits to be well-received.

With regards to the late Alfredo Guevara, I suggest to those who think of him as a “great intellectual, filmmaker and Cuban diplomat,” go to the blog of the writer Zoe Valdes and read her post of April 19; she portrays him in body and soul as she worked with him at the Cuban Embassy and in UNESCO and was formerly editor of the journal Cine Cubano, attached to the film fiefdom of Mr. Guevara.

Guevara-condecorado

Alfredo Guevara receiving recognition from Raul Castro

It seems good to review the life and work of personalities from Cuban culture, but it is unfortunate that the press in Spain and other European countries disseminate the background noise and vagueness about what is Cuban, while they are silent on the tragedy suffered by as island decimated and exhausted by the communist monarchy that still demands an extra effort to survive.

7 May 2013

The Horseman of Corruption / Miguel Iturria Savon

May 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Corruption/Honesty – Hypocrisy/Truth – Wars/Peace – Hunger/Food

In Spain there are those who believe that we foreigners should shut up until we know how the country works, which takes time and learning. Other people usually ask us about current national hot topics and explore what we think about some minister or opposition leader. As I’m more passionate about culture than politics, sometimes I answer with some silliness, because I sense that my interlocutors are coming from their own circumstances and their ideological perception.

The most recent question they asked me Friday from Cuba about the corruption in Spain and how it compares with that on the island. To be brief, I’ll start with the press in both countries. As for Cuba, I find two articles published today on Cubanet handy; one my Miriam Celaya, “To be corrupt or to not be corrupt, that is the question”; and “Corruption in Uniform” by Marta B. Perez Roque. I suggest reading them, because they both agree that the problem is widespread: “… For the powerful it’s a way to get rich,” and for “ordinary Cubans it’s a way to survive.”

With regards to Spain, I suggest reading Joseph I. Torreblanca’s article that appeared on April 24 in the blog Cafe Steiner, on the Civic Circle of Opinion about corruption, made in Madrid with the participation of four professors who exposed an ethical, legal, economic and political problem. In summarizing the meeting Torreblanca said:

“Like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the four horsemen of corruption are immoral individuals, public cheaters, for-profit businessmen and opaque political parties. Hence, to leave behind the corruption we need a great individual self-discipline, an effective state, entrepreneurs who want to compete and open political parties… “

Not to delve into cases of either country and to avoid generalizations, I prefer to remember that corruption is a universal problem with deep historical and cultural roots inherent greed and temptations.

30 April 2013

May 2nd / Miguel Iturria Savon

May 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Goya, Third of May 1808. Wikicommons

In Cuba, May is a month that evokes history and celebration for the advent of the  Republic on May 20, 1902, the celebration of International Workers Day, which had become of spectacle of the “chorus syndrome” for half a century. In Spain, May Day is a National Holiday for Labor Day, and the following day in Madrid marks the 1808 popular uprising against the French forces, whose troops had already been kidnapped by Carlos IV and his dynastic successor (Fernando), repressing the Aranjuez Mutiny and implementing terror in other places on the Peninsula, to impost Joseph Bonaparte, brother of the French emperor, on the throne.

wikicommons daoizindex

Daoíz and Velarde Monument. Wikicommons

The uprising in Madrid and the wave of executions was the prelude to the War of Independence against foreign troops; its huge internal and external consequences for the dramatic situation of Spain was taken advantage of by its colonies in America to throw off the colonial yoke.

Historians, artists and writers have testified about the odyssey of the Spanish people against their occupiers. The brilliant artist Francisco Goya memorialized on two canvases the shootings of May 2 and 3 in Madrid, while the writer Benito Pérez Galdós wrote novels about the events, and the sculptors such as Antonio Sala, author of the Daoíz and Velarde Monument, located in May 2 Square, and Aniceto Marinas, creator of the Monument to the Heroes of May 2, around which the first centenary was celebrated in (1908) in the Puerta del Sol.

Monumento_2_mayo_Madrid_(Marinas)_04

Monument to the Heroes of May 2. Wikicommons.

3 May 2013

Hitler and Other Charismatic Dictators / Miguel Iturria Savon

April 26, 2013 Leave a comment

On April 21, as a prelude to the celebration of World Book Day in Madrid and other cities in Spain, the daily El Pais published a review by Antón Jacinto on The Dark Charisma of Hitler, by the British historian Laurence Rees, who analyzes the personality of the great German dictator and the capacity of hatred as an element of popular leadership. I attach the major pieces of that article because it made me think of F. Castro and other “charismatic tyrants” in Latin America who combine hatred with the terror and mass manipulation.

“We know almost everything about Adolf Hitler, but irreducible secrets of his personality and leadership remain. For the famous British historian and documentarian Laurence Rees (Ayr, Scotland, 1957), none are greater than how he managed to drag along with him, in the terrible cycle of war and genocide, millions of Germans. To try to clarify that and to explain the keys to the fatal attraction of the Nazi leader, the author of Auschwitz, Horror in the East, Their Darkest Hour, and Behind Closed Doors, has dedicated his new book, The Dark Charisma of Hitler. Rees highlights the features of Hitler “his unlimited capacity for hatred.” He warns: “The power of hate is undervalued. It is easier to unite people around hatred around than any positive belief.”

As a person, says Rees, Hitler was quite unfortunate. “Badly damaged” psychically, incapable of true friendships and affections, bathed in hatred and prejudice. “Lonesome and with a vision of life as a struggle and human beings like animals.” But he had charisma. “We tend to think that charisma is a positive value, but despicable people may have it,” he muses.

Rees says, “The most important thing to understand that Hitler’s charisma depended on people. Charisma does not exist offline. You cannot be charismatic on a desert island. Much of what makes it is the other… Yes, the idea is that when we feel a special connection with someone we believe that depends on this person but actually it depends partly on us. Hitler’s charisma came from both the people who followed him as well as himself… ”

Rees explains how among the Germans themselves the influence of Hitler’s charisma resulted in changes. “People who saw him as a ridiculous or disturbed in 1928 came to consider him as a savior in 1933.” There were always, however, people immune to his charisma. Philipp Von Boeselager, who conspired to kill him, found him outrageous and said it was disgusting to watch him eat: a boor. “Well, but you have to remember that … unconventional times require unconventional leaders.”

People had to be predisposed to follow Hitler, says Rees, although he, the leader, brought his intransigence, his absolute sureness of his role as a providential figure, his ability to connect with the hopes and desires of millions of Germans, their uncontrolled emotions and, above all, his contagious hatred. “One of the hardest things in the world is accepting the blame and responsibility for yourself, we are all predisposed to project our frustrations on the other, in the form of hatred.”

Did Hilter’s success depend on his charisma? “Yes, this aspect was vital. If someone says he will do something extraordinary and he does, the next time it is easier for you to have faith. Hitler played strong, all or nothing, and every victory strengthened his charisma. Many military, for example, who looked at him with suspicion, surrendered to his genius, his intuition, the famous Fingerspitzengefühl, after a long series of victories that seemed inexplicable…”

So, how did his charisma survive the failure at Stalingrad? “Unlike Mussolini, Hitler dismantled the structures of the State, so it was more difficult separate him from power, in addition, he had instilled fear of the Red Army in the Germans and their revenge, which would happen at the defeat and although Hitler would be gone, and of course Hitler increased the terror of his repressive apparatus in direct proportion to the loss of his charismatic leadership.”

Hitler cultivated his charisma … “including in many small ways. He wore glasses, but never let himself be seen or photographed in them. He carried a magnifying glass. They even fabricated a special typewriter with large characters to write the texts he had to read … He also studied his image in the mirror and practiced his famous glare.”

Rees points out the differences between Hitler and Stalin in terms of charisma. “Stalin practiced negative charisma, the entire image of Hitler seemed hollow. Under Stalin there were no rules to avoid being killed. No one was sure. In Nazi Germany it was clear who would be persecuted by the regime, in the Stalinist USSR, no. Stalin used fear like Hitler used hatred.”

British historian Laurence Rees

25 April 2013

Citizen Ambassador / Miguel Iturria Savon

April 23, 2013 Leave a comment

The newspapers and TV news in Spain barely report on news from Cuba, where not everything happens between the orders and the execution of the orders, nor does the reality coincide with the political propaganda designed by the Powers-That-Be, as is clearly demonstrated in these days of the travels through America and Europe of the Island blogger Yoani Sanchez, who sat on the El Pais jury that awarded the Ortega y Gasset prize and responded to questions from the readers of that newspaper, for whom she is the representative on the Caribbean island.

Yoani, that chronicler of reality unaligned with the classic political definitions, has responded with wit, honesty and ingenuity to questions that they are just formulating in Spain, a nation plunged into economic crisis, unemployment and budget cuts in health and other social services, generating protests, uncertainties and challenges from citizens that echo in the media.

I am not going to summarize the questions and answers of the famous creator of Generation Y and  the Bloggers Academy of Cuba; those interested can read it in the online edition of El Pais from Friday April 19; but I do want to note Yoani behaves as a genuine citizen ambassador, beyond her divergent views she offers a look from those millions of voiceless Cubans who reject the endless discourse of Communist rule and who do not see their country in the inexplicable limbo of a  utopia conceived in the former Soviet Union and spread to Europe by the leftist parties complicit in the grotesque Cuban dictatorship.

For the situation in Spain is understood the tone of certain questions, in which also gravitate the effects of Castro’s propaganda and the pursuit of social chimera elsewhere. Maybe that’s why Yoani says that “in Cuba we live under state capitalism, a family clan deeply neoliberal”; she warns that “how to be free is learned by being free” and that for her “life is not elsewhere, but in another Cuba” where “to exercise independent journalism does cost one’s freedom or a media lynching.”

23 April 2013

Tsunamis in the TV Newscasts / Miguel Iturria Savon

April 14, 2013 Leave a comment

If tango is an expression of deep sorrow, the TV newscasts in Spain are not the sublimation of a lost dream, but the chronology of disasters, political corruption, social tensions and chronicles that suggest a mood that portends anarchy. The Hispanic television broadcasters dance with words, images and testimonies of the protagonists of evictions but more than reports and reviews of the daily tragedies and problems of national and European life, they pulse with an ideological counterpoint that draws the color of the news and highlights the political and institutional crisis that is exhausting the country.

In Spain, the partisan positioning and mutual accusations between adherents of the Popular Party and the socialists is remarkable in the Parliament sessions where they air the debts contracted to the European Union, which postpone the solution of the economic crisis that began in 2006 and justify government decisions about budget cuts in sensitive sectors such as health, education, employment.

Both the newspapers and the TV news in Spain offer a sense of tsunamis on the horizon, increasing with reports of possible economic and political earthquakes that will shake neighboring Portugal, Italy, Greece and Cyprus, all engaged in diplomatic tussles with the German government and with “the euro trap” that leaves no options to countries in crisis.

But the TV news not only predicts tsunamis in the peninsula and in the countries of the Mediterranean basin. Venezuela is experiencing a bizarre electoral telenovela starring Nicolas Maduro, successor to Hugo Chavez, and Henriquez Capriles, leader of the opposition, while the Communist ruler of North Korea threatens to launch dozens of nuclear missiles against South Korea and the United States, rather than deal with the problems of his starving country.

Since reality is not always interesting, the TV news I to see barely talks about the potential tsunamis in the bellicose Middle East, the African nations submerged in misery and a Caribbean island that seems like a rhapsody of unconnected voices. I refer to Cuba, from where they ask me what is said in Europe about that part of America, whose militaristic litany seems like the overflowing imagination of reporters.

In Spain and Europe they barely speak of Cuba, immersed in their own dissolving dynamics. Perhaps the “old world” is overcome with exhaustion at some many utopian proclamations. Whoever wants to know, I suggest they delve into the pages of Cubanet and the digital weekly Primavera, or  read the bloggers lined up on the platform Voces Cubanas. I notice that, despite being surrounded by water, there is no tsunami in sight.

12 April 2013

Las Fallas de Valencia / Miguel Iturria Savon

April 10, 2013 Leave a comment


After visiting the Fallas de Valencia, you need to let your emotions calm down in order to over the reader some images of a popular event which, for its authenticity, color, artistic level, playfulness, is comparable only with the carnival of Rio de Janeiro and perhaps with some fiesta in that museum country, Italy. Unlike Carnival, Las Fallas is a festival of sculptures, evident in the monuments of cardboard constructed and their design and artistic labor. This event, held each year from 1 to 19 March, seems to say goodbye to winter and announce the spring.

A must-see is the noon fireworks — artificial rockets — and the castles of fire and the colors of midnight, to understand the deep attachment of thousands of people to these sculptures that generate competition, parades with bands, and urban excitement.

For someone coming from another land, it is unfortunate that each of these assemblies will be subjected to fire, which remains a tradition with a deep satiric sense because it recreates the events and personalities from reality that affect the lives of people.

5 April 2013

The 2012 Goyas Awards / Miguel Iturria Savon

April 10, 2013 Leave a comment
Jose Sacristan - Best Actor

Jose Sacristan – Best Actor

On the night of Sunday the 17th, millions of Spaniards and Europeans watched the Goya Awards ceremony which concede high honors to the top films, actors, directors, and other professionals of the movie world.  The gala event, full of pomp, authenticity, and splurges of humor was hosted by the celebrated comedienne, Eva Hache, who was aided in the presentation of awards by winners from the previous year, 2011.

Because of the connection that Spanish cinema shares with the Cuban populace, I offer a summary of the winners for this Twenty-Seventh edition, corresponding to 2012.  The films receiving the greatest number of awards were: “Snow White” with 10 statuettes; “The Impossible” (5); “Unit 7” and the animated feature “Tad the Lost Explorer;” top actor awards went to Maribel Verd, Josí Sacristán, Candela Peía, Joaquin Nuñez, and Concha Velazco, who received the special “Goya de Honor” (highest honor) award.

Detailed recipient list follows:

  • Best Film: “Snow White,” directed by Pablo Berger
  • Best Director: Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”)
  • Best Actor: Josí Sacristán (“The Dead Man & Being Happy”)
  • Best Documentary: “Children of the Clouds: The Last Colony,” directed by Ilvaro Longoria
  • Best Animated Feature: “Tad the Lost Explorer,” directed by Enrique Gato
  • Best Iberoamerican Film: “John of the Dead,” directed by Alejandro Bruguís
  • Best European Film: “Untouchable,” directed by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache
  • Best Hair/Makeup: Sylvie Imbert and Fermín Galán (“Snow White”)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Julián Villagrán for “Unit 7”
  • Best New Director: Enrique Gato for “Tad the Lost Explorer”
  • Best Visual Effects: Pau Costa and Filix Bergís (“The Impossible”)
  • Best Cinematography: Kiko de la Rica (“Snow White”)
  • Best Actress: Maribel Verdú (“Snow White”)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Gorka Magallón, Javier Barreira, Ignacio del Moral, Jordi Gasull and Neil Landau (“Tad the Lost Explorer”)
  • Best Original Screenplay: Pablo Berger (“Snow White”)
  • Best New Actress: Macarena Garcia (“Snow White”)
  • Best Production Supervision: Sandra Hermida Muñiz (“The Impossible”)
  • Best Sound: Peter Glossop, Marc Orts, and Oriol Tarragó (“The Impossible”)
  • Best Original Score: Alfonso de Vilallonga (“Snow White”)
  • Best Original Song: “No Te Puedo Encontrar” by Pablo Berger and Chicuelo in “Snow White”
  • Goya of Honor (special award): Cocha Velasco
  • Best Supporting Actress: Candela Peía (“A Gun in Each Hand”)
  • Best Spanish Fictional Short Film: “Aquel No Era Yo”
  • Best Documentary Short Film: “A Story for the Modlins”
  • Best Animated Spanish Short Film: “The Smoke Vendor”
  • Best Editing: Bernat Vilaplana and Elena Ruiz (“The Impossible”)
  • Best Costume Design: Paco Delgado (“Snow White”)
  • Best Art Direction: Alain Bainíe (“Snow White”)
  • Best New Actor: Joaquin Nuñez for “Unit 7”

With its 10 Goyas, “Snow White” was recipient of the Best Film, Best Hair & Makeup, Best Cinematography, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best New Actress, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Costume Design, and Best Art Direction.

“The Impossible” (5) took home the Goya for Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Supervision, Best Sound and Best Editing.

“Tad the Lost Explorer” (3) was the recipient of Best Animated Film, Best New Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay Goyas.  “Unit 7,” with its two statuettes, achieved honors for Best Supporting Actor as well as the Best New Actor.

Translated by: Luis Pérez-Bodé

18 February 2013

Habemus Papa

April 1, 2013 Leave a comment

From a town on the Spanish Mediterranean I just witnessed on television the designation of the new Pope of the Catholic Church, which fell for the first time on an American cardinal, the Italian-born Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who from the St. Peter’s Plaza in Rome addressed the faithful and evoked his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who resigned weeks ago but is considered Pope Emeritus despite his retirement.

The unexpected new Pope was names after several ballots and two plumes of black smoke. According to media accredited in Rome, the 76-year-old Argentine cardinal will take command of the Vatican under the name of Francis I. He was archbishop of Buenos Aires and is the first Latin American and the first member of the Society of Jesus to lead the Catholic Church, that “will experience as of today an unprecedented situation.”

Bergoglio is considered “an orthodox Jesuit on dogmatic issues but flexible on matters of sexual ethics,” important issues given the demand for reform from the Curia, whose internal problems were reported in the media from the disclosure of documents known as Vatileaks and the crisis around the IOR — Institute for Works of Religion — analyzed in the last assembly of the Church.

It remains to be seen if the new Pope will be the “pastor that announces the gospel and mercy” as Cardinal Angelo Sodano claimed. It is expected therefore, that he will address the challenges addressed in the days before the conclave, whose members exposed “The need for a strong pope, who can reform the Curia, organize ministries to make them more effective” and resolve leak scandals, plus “promote dialogue with Islam, address the role of women in the Church and the official position on bioethics at a time of global crisis. ”

For Argentina, the appointment as Pope of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires may offset the crisis triggered by the defeat of the government’s claim to the Falkland Islands, whose citizens, in a referendum yesterday, expressed the desire to continue being a part of England.

Miguel Iturria Savón

13 March 2013