In the musical world, where everything is planned years in advance, sudden diplomatic breaches seem absurd, if not comical, and they seem to be propitiated by people who don’t know the quality or depth of bonds textured by the fellow citizens of other nations. France has offered many distinguished Venezuelan musicians a free education of the highest quality in its municipal, regional, and upper-level conservatories. The Venezuelan students needed only talent and dedication, but the French government invested substantial taxpayer resources to meet its generous goals. Soloists who give prominence to our country’s music include Aléxis Cárdenas, William Molina, José García, Jaime Martínez, and Horacio Contreras, to name a few of the teachers and pillars of Venezuela’s System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras (El Sistema). They were trained in France, receiving hundreds of hours of free classes that in other countries with private education systems would have cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
The quality of the French education system, truly socialist, should be a model for Venezuela. Our leaders should discern, analyze, and better understand the interests of the people, recognizing gestures of deep cooperation. To cut ties with the developed world for political pride condemns us to remain an underdeveloped fraternity in a tunnel of Macondo* failures typical of poor and chaotic autodidacts. Ignorant pride does not transmute into knowledge. The tombs of post-colonial misery are covered with unsubstantial dignity defended at an absurd cost. It is time to change the game. Music is a spectacular and visible symbol of cooperation between nations. Behind all these educational and cultural exchanges is a universe fed by relationships that may be less visible but are just as important. Significant numbers of Venezuelan doctors, scientists, and intellectuals owe much to France, to its free and always excellent education.
The French character is not easy to understand – the high level of the Gallic education system is founded in systematic criticism. In Latin America’s lamentable cultural reflexes, we confuse intellectual criticism with personal attack, but the Venezuelans who have lived in France appreciate the quality of a rigorous training that doesn’t lower its standards for foreign students. In place of “revising” relations with France, we should multiply the invitations. Venezuelan and French musicians will continue their fruitful exchange no matter what. The Venezuelan artist flourishes in countries like France, with its great educational institutions and powerful cultural institutions. He discovers his deficiencies, but he also learns to know and appreciate by contrast the immense virtues of his own culture. If we break all the mirrors we will never know our own true face.
* Macondo is García Márquez’s lost village in 100 Years of Solitude – symbol of arrested development.
Translated from Spanish by Rosemary Holland