Walking calmly and in silence, Rafael Cadenas arrived at the University of Alcalá de Henares. In his life he has worn a tie, and neither did he on the great day of Hispanic Letters, where he made an emotional song to democracy and freedom that Cervantes and Don Quixote embody, in his opinion. The great Venezuelan poet did not comply with the protocol that requires a morning suit for the participants in the solemn ceremony presided over by the kings and which Pedro Sánchez did not attend. Cadenas preferred a navy blue jacket with a matching shirt and Mao collar, a gray vest, light-colored pants, and dark shoes. Before him, only Juan Goytisolo renounced the morning suit, although he did adhere to the tie.
Cadenas arrived flanked by his son Silvio, who accompanied him throughout the ceremony along with his daughter Paula, and his granddaughter Andrea. “I am full of Spain,” he said at the beginning of his brief speech in which he wanted to “avoid the emphasis to which we Hispanic Americans are so prone” and asked “to take care of our language, which is very battered, harassed by Gallicisms and Anglicisms.” He did it with emotion and a lilting voice from the podium of the centenary Complutense Auditorium to which he ascended with difficulty.
«It is urgent to defend democracy from everything that threatens it and for this it is necessary to recreate it. This task falls to education, which has neglected it, “he lamented in a speech with hardly any reference to his country, the Maduro regime and the absence of democracy. «Democrats must ask loudly for its renewal. It must be internalized, become transparent, give primacy to the social, abolishing poverty, supporting culture. This is not a dream, but everyone’s job, to be done only with full freedom”, he said.
«It is urgent to defend democracy from everything that stalks it and for this it is necessary to recreate it»
He remembered Cervantes as “a great defender of freedom.” «I will remember his well-known words, although they should be spread more and be placed on the shields of the countries: ‘Freedom, Sancho, is one of the most precious gifts that heaven gave to men (…) for freedom, just as life can and should be risked for honor, and, on the contrary, captivity is the greatest evil that can come to a man”, he recalled.
He reviewed the life of Cervantes “an adventure novel” and that of Don Quixote “which can be seen as a process from normality to madness and from this once again another expected normality, after going through tests that would eventually heal him.” He also remembered Sancho Panza “who, in my opinion, has been underestimated by the quixotists”, and who “represents the real, probably our time enhances it, since we are witnessing a revaluation of ordinary life, and it is that in it too there is the mystery.” “‘Fact is stranger than fiction,’ said Walt Whitman,” he recalled.
«The imprint of Don Quixote was in the believers of the utopia that would fix everything and ended in disappointment. It is known that nationalisms, ideologies and creeds divide human beings, but at this time, the world, thanks to the development of communication, should be cosmopolitan; In a certain way it already is, but the factors I have mentioned oppose it, especially nationalism, which according to Einstein is the measles of humanity», said Cadenas in perhaps the shortest speech in the history of Cervantes in which he quoted Goethe, Orwell, Marx, Derrida, Santa Teresa, Schiller or Wittgenstein.
He evoked Karl Jaspers “for whom there is no valid world view, which leaves us out in the open, but at the same time forces us to investigate.” «He had two fears: one of totalitarianism and the other of the bomb. In this time, that one advances and this one has grown. It is indeed paradoxical that the most civilized nations are among the major arms manufacturers. It is a very prosperous industry », he lamented.
Don Felipe thanked Cervantes for rewarding “a man who tries to breathe through the pores of language” and that with his poetry “adds Venezuela to the history of Cervantes.” The King reviewed the extensive work “of a great modern poet, that of someone who does not want ‘style but honesty’; a very valuable ambition; an aspiration that entails ‘uprightness of mind and integrity in acting’, according to our RAE Dictionary». “A magnificent and admirable purpose,” concluded the king.
With the presence in Alcalá de Henares of Rafael Cadenas (Barquisimeto, 1930), the poet of all exiles, the Cervantes prize recovered its full normality. The highest recognition of our letters once again kept in mind its winner in the centenary Paraninfo to receive from King Felipe VI the medal and diploma that accredit him as the winner of the highest prize of our letters.
At the age of 93, Cervantes dedicated this great poet, shy and parsimonious, who read his speech before the Kings, Felipe and Letizia, the Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, and in the absence of the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez. An absence that according to the president of the Community of Madrid “rewards anti-Chavismo.”
Iceta extensively glossed the life and work of Cadenas and celebrated that the Cervantes Prize “honors the common language that unites Spain and Latin America in the destiny of words, poetry and literature.” She added that Cadenas is “a man of radical ethics and integrity, both in his walk and in his writing.” “A committed voice, consistently honest, who knows the exact words to defend the human being from authoritarianism, the lack of freedoms and the violation of human rights.”
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