Cultura, Paz y Libertad / Francisco Massiani

Culture, Peace and Freedom

To my father, Felipe Massiani
To the youth of the French May of 68, to the Venezuelan youth
To John Lennon, Joan Baez, Tedoro Petkoff, Américo Martín, Eduardo Mayobre, Manuel Alfredo Rodríguez and Yon Goicoechea

I’ve been asked to write my opinion about the concept of culture. I think culture cannot exist without freedom and peace. I studied and graduated from Andrés Bello high school, during the sixties. That was when the director of that school was Gustavo Bruzual, a magnificent director. He led the high school during a difficult period. The country, governed by Rómulo Betancourt, was emerging from being punished by Pérez Jiménez’s abject dictatorship. Cuba was beginning its revolutionary process with Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos, among others. Democracy existed, but many of the country’s youth, carried by an appetite for more social justice and by great courage, as well as by the PCV [Partido Comunista de Venezuela] and the MIR [Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria], following the Cuban revolution, took up arms. It was a fatal mistake. At the Universidad Central de Venezuela assassination attempts were planned (president Betancourt was the object of one of these) and it was a meeting center for the insurgents. Many young revolutionaries died (Orsini, among them) along with members of the police and army. None of that made sense and especially since, after Pérez Jiménez’s nefarious dictatorship, a democratic government had been established in Venezuela.

I’ve already written about the many Venezuelans who ended up exiled, my father, Felipe Massiani, along with others. Our family lived its exile in Chile, a democratic country at the time. I was fifteen years old when, if I recall correctly, Betancourt mentioned during his inauguration that the PCV wouldn’t be a part of his government. Mistake: the PCV also fought against the dictatorship. Actually, Héctor Mujica suffered the dictatorship in Santiago de Chile. The Venezuelan left, intoxicated by the Cuban model and more specifically by Fidel Castro, failed.

I’m drifting from the matter: I was asked for an opinion on the concept of culture. During my second year of high school, at Andrés Bello, Alexis Márquez Rodríguez asked us our opinion or what we thought about the concept of culture. We offered a handful of very confused ideas. Alexis said (if my memory is correct): “Culture is everything man makes.” Now I ask myself: Where was culture during those difficult years? What does culture mean for this current authoritarian and each day more repressive government? No, culture cannot exist without freedom. In my opinion culture is everything man makes to dignify his fellow man. It’s also true that in the task of dignifying our fellow men, we inevitably dignify ourselves.

{ Francisco Massiani, Tal Cual, 3 December 2007 }

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