Las últimas cuartillas de Simón Alberto Consalvi [1927-2013] / Albinson Linares

The Final Pages of Simón Alberto Consalvi [1927-2013]

Stopping is an art. To disappear, to depart in a fade out, to sink into the mist of the media discourse and leave behind a trail of valuable judgements, relevant questions and intellectual preoccupations, these are costly aspirations for men of thought. Simón Alberto Consalvi perfectly accomplished a great many of these goals.

Born at the start of the 20th century, in July of 1927, he grew up in a tiny village. He spent his first years in that little town of a delicious verdor, bathed in the cold of the peaks of Mérida that is Santa Cruz de Mora. On multiple occasions I heard him say he had a happy childhood, when he would run around the infinite space of the estate named “Cuba Libre” where he was raised.

He liked to swim in the creek that cut through those lands and he was a good horseback rider. He would spend hours riding bareback on his parents’ horses. From a very young age his insatiable curiosity led him to become a voracious reader which took him out of those mountains, from that rural Eden to only return on visits. He took with him the freshness, the taste for scalding pisca soup, farm animals and that “vicious diction” of the people from the mountains that accompanied his words.

Like few people, he fully lived the various phases of the political transformation of Venezuela in the previous century. He grew up listening to the epic struggle against the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez, which is why it’s no surprise that during the “Revolutionary Triennium” when he was only 19 years old he directed the newspaper “Vanguardia” and the magazine “Juventud” in Táchira, later moving to Caracas where he began to study Journalism.

From various trenches, he contributed ideas and actions agains the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez when he joined the clandestine resistance with the political party Acción Democrática, which led him into exile in 1953. During his stays in Havana and New York he lived a “magnificent youth,” as he would mischievously say. He developed a particular fondness for English orators and thinkers which led him to frequent throughout his life the essays of More, Hume, Pope and Churchill, whom he venerated.

His closeness with the Generation of 1928 left an indelible mark on his memory. He would invoke them constantly, using their struggle as civilians as an example for the future. He would vehemently repeat that “democracy was not achieved from one day to the next” and that many of those young people formed by the novelist and educator Rómulo Gallegos were as solid in their intellectual formation as in their political actions: “When one reads the speeches from February of 1928 one can see that those 20-year-olds had a great intellectual maturity. We can’t forget that in order to give those speeches with Gómez as president one had to have other accessories besides one’s intelligence. Bravery or balls as they commonly say.”

To hear him evoke episodes such as the assassination of Leonardo Ruíz Pineda, or the slow agony of cancer that Alberto Carnevali suffered in the Penitentiary of San Juan de los Morros, was frightening because Consalvi liked to cultivate the image of a hard man and his voice would break when he recalled the martyrdom of those leaders who died at age 37.

He was a trusted aide to Rómulo Betancourt, he stood by Ramón J. Velásquez close to the birth of the democratic governments, he was a congressman, a minister and as Venezuela’s Secretary of State he solidly carried out his duties with a burning passion for matters of State. He leaves us several volumes entitled Los papeles del Canciller, in which he recounts his labor and reflects on the work of diplomacy, of which he mockingly said that “by means of negotations and machinations the human race had been saved from atomic extinction.”

Because of the extensive political work that marked his life and from seeing the ascent and fall of leaders so many times, he would frequently reflect: “Politicians aren’t saints and they always try to pass the buck. But in politics the lie floats to the surface. Demagoguery is a double edged sword, it gives generously and takes away forever when one lies and makes (in)discretional use of its resources. One can be a great demagogue but stay within the truth and not think that demagoguery allows one to multiply loaves of bread, selling miracles like Blakamán.”

His historical essays poured into books like Grover Cleveland y la controversia Venezuela-Gran Bretaña, Reflexiones sobre Venezuela, El carrusel de la historia, La guerra de los compadres: Castro vs. Gómez, Gómez vs. Castro or La revolución de octubre, 1945-1948: La primera república liberal democrática, among many others, will be the object of study for future generations of researchers. But I can assure that in the area of International Relations, of the torturous and complex Venezuelan diplomacy, one will always find Consalvi’s appropriate commentary, acid ruminations and somewhat cruel descriptions.

A lover of the proper use of language and a cultivator of an arid but delicious rhetoric, he never stopped analyzing the codes of power: “I have the impression that the name Simón Bolívar is a common denominator in the presidential speeches of the 19th century. They always tried to wrap themselves under his blanket or to simply benefit from his glory. By calling him Father of the Homeland they automatically turned themselves into sons of the great man. The miserable situation of the State, always poor and in debt, didn’t matter, nor the invocations for peace so hypocritical because the fault was always someone else’s. Of the bad sons of the Homeland. That mournful and mediocre tone was more the fault of the penpushers than of the caudillos.”

His stupendous labor as a cultural promoter deserves to be mentioned, as a founder of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura y Bellas Artes and as a leader of editorial milestones such as Monte Ávila Editores and Biblioteca Ayacucho, the most complex project on the history of ideas and mentalities in Latin America, the magazine Imagen, as well as independent publishing houses such as Tierra de Gracia Editores, whose contributions endure in the country.

A friend to great conversationalists, journalists and writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, Álvaro Mutis, Miguel Otero Silva, Ludovico Silva and Adriano González León, he collected pleasant memories and naked truths that are surely written in the delightful drafts of his memoirs.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to hear his hoarse voice, the muffled laugh of his anecdotes and the ingenuity he distilled during the long hours at the offices of El Nacional are lucky because Consalvi always vindicated journalism as his first profession and as his most enduring passion. Not in vain did he start the newspaper El Mundo in 1958, edit prestigious magazines such as Élite, Momento, Bohemia and write a column for El Nacional. Listening to him debate was to speak with the century, with the petite histoire, the small anecdotes, the story between the lines that the entelechy we tend to call “official history” constantly whisks away from us.

During his long life of 86 years, Consalvi saw many of his closest friends disappear, he lived to see the destruction of his “Cuba Libre” when the rains ravaged Santa Cruz de Mora, he suffered the drastic changes of the democracy he helped to establish and he lived through the last great event of the country with the death of Hugo Chávez, that political phenomenon to which he dedicated hundreds of lines and critical judgments. Like a good journalist, he decided to leave after covering this last news item, thinking of a few pages and experiencing the final deadline for his writing in this world.

{ Albinson Linares, Prodavinci, 12 March 2013 }

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