No es posible prever las consecuencias que tendrá para
Colombia y América Latina la elección de un pobre diablo como presidente de los
Estados Unidos. Si me piden que intente ser profeta, yo diría que abran campo
porque muchos volveremos con el rabo entre las piernas. Tampoco es necesario
ser un economista para anticipar la crisis de las remesas que sostienen al
borde del abismo a nuestros países. Cada día estará lleno de sorpresas dentro y
fuera de este país del sueño que de pronto se ha tornado en un lugar de
Conocidos los resultados de las elecciones, algunos
quisieron consolarse con la idea de que la cosa no será tan grave, que el pobre
diablo exageraba para ganar votos y que había que darle una oportunidad. Dos
semanas después, quedan pocos que piensen de ese modo. La mentira fue su
caballo de batalla. El beneficio personal, su motivación. La miseria de su alma
será nuestra desgracia.
Esta mañana, cuando caminé al centro de votación, pensé
que la gente tenía escrito su voto en el lenguaje corporal. Podría apostar que
aquellos hombres con actitud de macho alfa acababan de marcar en las tarjetas
el nombre del demagogo que daría rienda suelta a sus prejuicios y les
permitiría sentirse los dueños del mundo. También podría jurar que las mujeres
con actitud de “dejen esto es nuestras manos” habían votado por la primera
mujer en la historia de los Estados Unidos con una opción real de alcanzar la
presidencia. Pero la sensación general era que nadie estaba eligiendo a su
candidato por sus virtudes, sino tratando de cerrarle el camino a su
A presentation of "Santa María del Diablo" and "Resplandor",
at the Community of Scholars.
State University of New York
November 10, 2016.
This is not the first time that I
have been part of a broken society.
If you have watched the series
“Narcos”, you have heard about a city in Colombia named Medellín.
I was born in Medellín. I lived there
in the 80’s and 90’s, when it was one of the most violent cities in the world. The
violence I saw was not a TV show, but a painful reality. In that city, at that
time, human life lost its value and dignity. Almost not a single week passed
without hearing the news about another acquaintance being killed. Then my aunt
was killed. Then my father was killed.
When my father died, I was in my junior
year in college, and I felt that my life had lost its purpose and meaning. I
wanted to die.
That was the moment when literature
came to my rescue.
I had been an avid reader since I
was twelve years old. My favorite author was Jules Verne, and I knew that the
world was much bigger than the broken city where I lived. So I decided to see
the world before dying.
It took me some time, but I also decided
that I would not allow my heart to be poisoned by hatred and despair.
My reaction to a hopeless world was
searching for meaning. That’s why I decided to write.
Over the last couple of years, I
have published two historical novels that reflect my own personal quest.
“Santa María del Diablo” tells the story of
the first Spanish settlement in continental America, Santa María del
Santa María was located in the jungles
between today Colombia and Panamá. The city became the center of a genocide in
which nearly two million native Americans were murdered in less than fifteen
The town disappeared, after fifteen
years, as a consequence of greed and internal conflicts.
I read many books, in order to
write “Santa María del Diablo”; but my own personal experience in Medellín was
enough to describe a society that destroys itself by forgetting the meaning of
Six months ago I published another
historical novel, “Resplandor”, that seems to have no connection with “Santa
María del Diablo.”
But they are closely related, like
heads and tails in a coin.
“Resplandor” spans over a period of
twenty-five centuries. It tells the story of Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha. It
also tells the story of the Chinese monk, Fa Hsien, who during the fifth
century AD traveled to India and Sri Lanka in search of sacred Buddhists texts.
Finally, it tells the story of a contemporary traveler who escapes from a broken
society and goes to Sri Lanka, with the intention of dying there. In the end,
instead of finding death, the traveler experiences a sense of being born again,
and finds meaning and purpose in life.
It took me more than thirty years
to write “Resplandor”. I had to read many books: The Arabian Nights, The
Travels of Marco Polo, the Ramayana,
Thomas Merton’s Journals. I had to find
my path among different cultures, languages and traditions. I also had to pour
my soul in the pages of my book in order to convey the message that we can
chose not to embrace greed, hatred or violence.
It is a privilege to be a part of
an academic community which values other languages and recognizes creative
writing as a scholarly work.
I’m happy to work for a college
that appreciates the role of the arts and humanities in healing our society.
We are here to remind us that every
research is a search for meaning, and that every search for meaning is a search
for the meaning of life.
Thank you, president Kleniewski and
provost Mackin, for this honor.
Thank you to my colleagues of the
School of Arts and Humanities.
Congratulations to the community of
scholars for your achievements.