TOWARD THE 2012 MEETING/Utopias and MeaningAn exhibit dedicated to the Bicentennial of Latin American independence becomes the occasion for re-discovering our history and tradition with a question: what are the foundations from which we can start again in order to face the present?
by Chiaraluce Bedetti
After two years in the making an exhibit that tells the story of Latin American independence titled “Utopias and meanings. The tow flags of Latin American Indipendence. 1808 - 1824” will arrive at the Meeting. The curators are a group of friends who, taking advantage of this recurrence, decided to face their own reality and re-read the history of their people. “We asked ourselves what novelties could emerge from these facts,” tells professor Fornari, “that were neither a new ideological perspective nor a new interpretation, albeit a “better” one and with better intentions that others? Starting from this insight, we began to dialogue with those who were the protagonists of the independence […]”.
How did the idea of the exhibit originate?
I would say from a friendship among people coming from the most different parts of Latin America, a friendship that was born and became deeper with time thanks to the experience of Communion and Liberation. But a fundamental moment was the meeting of CL responsibles in Sao Paolo in 2008. On that occasion there were more than fifteen Latin American countries represented and every nation was preparing itself to celebrating its “own” bicentennial of independence from Spain. At the moment, we found ourselves asking: “Isn’t it our task to recognize ourselves as this kind of new people, comprised by all these nations, bearers of a certain kind of substantial unity, to pick up the challenge of this common celebration?” So the idea of the exhibit and the question on how to develop it was born.
What was the journey that led to the final realization of the exhibit?
At first we had a team of historians, professors, and graphic designers who deepened the study of the Hispano-American wars of independence and of each individual subject formed throughout the years by conquest and vice-kingdoms that declared it. Then the following question emerged: “What novelties could emerge from these facts that were neither a new ideological perspective nor a new interpretation, albeit a “better” one and with better intentions that others?” Starting from this insight, we began to dialogue with those who were the protagonists of the independence by reading their letters, their personal diaries, their statements, in order to understand what they were looking for, what truly moved them and what was their judgment on the adventure they had undertaken. This has led us to understand that each of them had a profound and unrelenting impulse to change reality, to change the world, and that, at the same time, in front of the possibility of success or failure of that good project, each had in mind the question of meaning. This is the central idea of the exhibit that we have tried to reflect in the title and that calls on every one of us today: what are the foundations from which we start in order to build the world?
The themes of the exhibit are a people, its relationship with the State, and its final liberation. How are they dealt with, what are the positive and negative aspects of this relationship? Can you give us some examples?
The question is not proposed in terms of “yes or no to the State”, but rather in terms of the relationship of each man to his meaning. When a man loves, is a protagonist of his history, and starts from the relationship with what constitutes him, he becomes constructive. The political and social conditions in which he finds himself are irrelevant. One can build even from a situation of refusal, censorship, or oppression. An example of this is offered by one of the many friars who arrived with the conquest, Bernardino de Sahagún. This man, starting from his friendship and his work with the indios was able to reconstruct the whole history of the Aztec people before the arrival of the Spanish. His work and his own person have been questioned and silenced for a long time so much so that they could be made public only centuries later. The Jesuit reductions, the many hospitals and education centers built by religious orders did not originate from a political project, but were carried on by men who challenged reality starting from their personal relationship with the Meaning. This attitude generates a freedom in the individuals who can dialogue and build with the state, but who do not depend on it, are not dependent from the possibility that the state offers them. It is around this kind of men that a people is generated. A people is not born because one project wins over another. In the history we studied, the implementation or victory of a specific project over others does not change the substance of a people. It can expand its boundaries but cannot change its substance. This would be the other side of history: unending struggles to impose one project on another; men who give their lives for an idea of nation or continent and who, upon reaching that objective, ask themselves why.
What idea emerges from the exhibit of what the relationship between people and state and people and politics should be?
These questions are at the end of the exhibit and the answers we propose come out of Pope Benedict XVI’s Address to the German Parliament from September 22, 2011. We consider the Holy Father’s question as the exhibit’s possible answer: “Without justice – what else is the State but a great band of robbers?” In fact, in the history of our people we have lived the negative consequences of the separation of power from right, of a state that poses itself as an instrument of power against right. With this in mind, we agree with the following words of the Holy Father: “To serve right and to fight against the dominion of wrong is and remains the fundamental task of the politician.”