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Monday, January 30, 2012

Stupidity at Work: Wanton Destruction - i

Before and after: a cloth as large as the destruction
Couple of scenes (from two different movies) that I'd like to tell you about as both, I believe, apply to the subject matter at hand for this post.
One is from Amadeus (don't have to say, I hope, who's portrayed in the movie). The other, a more recent production, Shakespeare in Love. (Ditto on explaining).
Knowledgeable people about either one of the two principal characters in each movie will tell you, most likely, that each movie abounds in historical inaccuracies. One thing very few will argue with is the manner in which cinematographers have portrayed the period.
The two settings I am thinking of are the theaters: the one where Mozart first stages his Magic Flute and also the one where (if we are to believe the film producers) Romeo and Juliet was first shown.
However inaccurate or imagined the plot for either movie may be, there is nothing wrong with the way their audiences are portrayed in those movies.
Go here and you will read what is known by many and is so precisely illustrated in the movie: “It is recognized that Papageno’s first audience was somewhat proletarian, but the opera was seen by a large cross-section of society.”
The audience at that fictitious first showing of Romeo and Juliet may have been perhaps less proletarian than the one being delighted by Papageno and Papagena. But still pretty much quite different from whom we may have imagined was in assistance: the literati, the wealthy, the nobility were there, of course, but do take a look at the enthralled crowd. Mostly common, ordinary people: merchants, peddlers, and so on.
Transport yourself back a few centuries and think of how the great big stories of humanity were relayed from one generation to another.
The Iliad, the Aeneid, most (if not all) of what now is mankind's cultural heritage was given that status by the people.
However chic the tango is now for thousands all over the world, let's not forget that it was born in the quilombos and not in the sparkling dance halls of South American cities.
They were called something else, but jazz (in which now many intellectual armpits delight) began pretty much in the same type of locales.
Fast-forward a few decades and get away from the squalor surrounding the last two examples.
The recently destroyed mural La Armonía de mi Pueblo (My People's Harmony) at the National Cathedral in San Salvador was certainly not a product of such an environment.
Its wanton destruction was rightly decried.
A few days after the pneumatic hammers did away with the mural, EL DIARIO DE HOY's editorial, La Nota del Día, pointedly condemned it: “Whoever may have ordered the demolition … is lacking a sense of symbols and symbolic actions, of what can be catalogued as elevated cultural expressions.”
For a dwarfish clique (not talking about their size, mind you), the sense of outrage prompted derision and mockery. That the stupidity of the destruction was so celebrated doesn't make it less of an affront to everybody.
It should be of no consolation to anybody to realize that however educated they may be, it would be wrong to think of them snobs because of their derision.
Uncouth might be the better word.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Journalist by Trade - vii

Funny how things are sometimes found.
Over the past few years I searched exhaustively on the web for graphic materials that would help me illustrate my recollections around the life of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero and my personal acquaintance with him (from my middle and high school years in Eastern El Salvador starting in 1960, to the time of his murder in late March, 1980.)
Some of the photos I found I used for the series posted under the headlined continued with this one: Journalist by Trade.
Very much respectful of intellectual property rights, there was at least one case where I refrained from posting the picture itself, opting instead for working a screenshot of the webpage where the photo was found.
Even in those cases where some kind of public ownership could be attributed to the work, I also made sure of crediting the website where the work is originally published.
Had I been trying to "prove" to anybody that I was there when the violence erupted during the funerals for the murdered archbishop, I would have had a difficult time.
Other than the copies of my dispatches included in the initial posts for the series, the only other "evidence" that I was there was a wide open shot of the National Cathedral, where I circled myself in the picture.
It was just a few hours ago, while looking for materials to illustrate my previous post about the destruction of the mural created by Fernando Llort (See Stupidity at Work: Wanton Destruction) that I stumbled onto a youtube video. A rather long one, to boot. Somehow, I replayed the video in its entirety. And there, almost at the end, between the 08:28 and 08:32 marks, I am, in rolled long-sleeved white shirt and khakis, in the middle of the caption, just behind the armed guerrillas marching into the cathedral for shelter.

Stupidity at Work: Wanton Destruction

Among the recent news from my country is the wanton, stupid, and senseless destruction of La Armonía de mi Pueblo (My People's Harmony), the mural created by Salvadoran artist Fernando Llort that up until 30th December, 2011, graced the National Cathedral's frontispiece in downtown San Salvador — what many nowadays call the Centro Histórico.
Llort is a contemporary of mine (or I one of his, if you'd rather prefer it that way) but as far as my recollection goes we have never been personally acquainted. We did at one time (late '60s, early '70s) have many common acquaintances, as both his art and my work had us in touch with many of the same people in the Salvadoran cultural scene.
What Llort started back in the early '70s in La Palma (at the time some dismissed it as just another hippy experiment, I kid you not) grew over the years, both domestically and abroad, into one of the better known Salvadoran artistic expressions — if not the most and for some the only known one.
Even if they have never heard of Nando Llort (his website is here) millions of Salvadorans (and hundreds of thousands of foreigners, I am sure) know his work. If you have ever bought a wooden key or a t-shirt decorated with naïf Salvadoran images, chances are that you have a Llort-inspired work in hand.
Whether you approve or disapprove of the mural — La Toallona (The Beach Towel), is how many still nickname the now destroyed artwork — there is no question that it was the maximum expression of Llort's lifework. A national artistic treasure. (Plenty of information, in Spanish, about the mural's obliteration and the lies and justifications around it can be found on
Indignados por El Mural here). Both pictures above are taken from the Indignados page: the mural as it was, with the heaps of recognition by the Roman Catholic hierarchy below.
The mural's name itself, the fact that it was created in celebration of the Peace Accords that in 1992 put an end to an armed conflict that wreaked havoc in the country, that (as the artist himself declared at one time) it was also in remembrance and homage to the murdered Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, would probably make you think that somebody with an ounce of decency would have taken pains to make sure that it would be treated with the respect it rightfully deserved.
Think again.