Qué bonito, qué Bello

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Super-hero
Super-hero

The decision by the editors of The Economist to name their new weekly column on Latin America after Andrés Bello came as a soothing elixir to my beat-up sense of patriotism. After decades of the corrupt, the vulgar, the vain, and the violent taking center stage, it’s nice to read something about Venezuela that doesn’t make me want to hide my accent.

The article marking the decision, where they call Bello “the region’s greatest 19th-century public intellectual,” is a keeper. The money quote:

“Bello was a liberal, but a realistic one, who believed that strong political institutions were essential to thwart anarchy and for liberty to flourish. Whereas Bolívar argued that the new republics needed the discipline of top-down authority, Bello thought that to succeed they needed to create citizens, through universal public education and, above all, the rule of law (“our true patria”, he once wrote). In addition, he was an advocate for trade and an internationalist, insisting that the new republics should remain open to the ideas and products of the world.

The causes espoused by Bello—the rule of law, education and openness—are enduring ones. They loom especially large in Latin America today, as the great commodity boom wanes. Populists peddling an inward-looking nationalism, who have ruled by state diktat and political favour rather than by law, are being found out at last, as this month’s devaluations in Argentina and Venezuela show.”

Thank you, The Economist. You’ve won yourselves a subscriber.

1 COMMENT

  1. “Populists peddling an inward-looking nationalism….are being found out at last”. The Economist never bought the chávez BS. For the longest time it was the only place you could go to get some solace amidst the ignorance and blindness of the international media (AP, BBC, CNN, ZDF, etc.) regarding The Great Leader of the Latin American Socialist Revolution. Thank you, Juan. Qué post tan Bello.

  2. Although Bello was more Chilean than anything, Venezuelans will take pride anyway on the fact he developed his flair in that trifling Spanish territory called Province of Caracas. It’s a great choice anyhow.

    • Bello, of Venezuelan parents, lived in Venezuela until age 29.
      That he is hardly remembered in a land that prefers to adore military caudillos is another thing.

      • My biggest problem is not whether he is remembered, he is, but why he’s remembered. Up until middle school he’s basically one of Bolívar’s teachers (and less important than Simón Rodríguez at that). In high school we learn about his work on an American Spanish grammar, and some of literature (Like Silva a la Agricultura en la Zona Tórrida).

        But we never learn about the man as a civilian hero, a politician or a statesman. I think this one of few occasions where I’ve read about his political thought and ideas.

        • You are probably right…we sort of “know” about him because of that.

          Andrés Bello’s bank note doesn’t exist any more. It was replaced by that one of Simón Rodríguez, who was mediocre at best but who is part of our Bolívar cult as Bolívar considered him the “Socrates of Caracas”.

          But for a few, our historians have done little service to the memory of a nation: everything is personality cult around a group of military caudillos and their amigos.

          • I don’t think our historians should shoulder the blame, rather our politicians. Guzman Blanco promoted the accurately named “Catecismo de la Historia de Venezuela”, and upped the game in portraying Bolívar as a demi-god and the as the “greatest man mankind has ever had after Jesus Christ”.

            I had the opportunity to read many books compiled by the Venezuelan National History Academy on the independence period. It said the opposite of almost everything I was taught in school. We just don’t read any of that in school, and instead we’re fed propaganda.

            Some snippets:

            – I was taught that the Criollo elite (American Spaniards) rebelled because they were discriminated from holding office in city councils. I read royal decrees that promoted the rights of European Spaniards to hold office in city councils, because the American Spaniards were barring them from doing so.

            – I was taught that the European Spaniards were the uncontested oppressors of the pardos, Indians and blacks. It turns out, one of the main reasons the Criollo elite was disgruntled with the King is because several decrees had been issued to ameliorate the condition of the oppressed and curb on Criollo privilege, and then as a response to the “se acata pero no se cumple” attitude the King even designated some ombudsmen to specifically look after Indians and blacks and help them denounce wrong treatment. That’s the reason pardos, Indians and blacks opposed the first republic (which made them serfs), and why Boves could so effectively recruit them.

            – We shouldn’t be hailing Bolívar for the Guerra a Muerte, if anything, he should be hailed despite it.

        • SI SEGNOR NAVARRO… DEBO AGNADIR QUE EN EL COMPENDIO DE LAS 100 MEJORES POESIAS DEL HABLA HISPANA DESDE EL SIGLO XV HASTA EL SIGLO XX RECOPILADAS POR M.PELAYO, EL UNICO LATINOAMERICANO DIGNO DE ESE HONOR ES JUSTAMENTE BELLO CON US SILVA… DE COLECCION… Jonas Marin GIL

        • Exactly. Civilian figures like Bello have been pushed away by our history books.

          That’s why I really appreciate this gesture by The Economist. Thanks.

      • It’s hard for me, as a non Venezuelan, to understand the hero-worship of military caudillos in parts of Latin America. Even after some serious reading on the subject, it’s still hard to wrap my head around.

        Furthermore, it’s not as if most of the most celebrated caudillos had much real military success. Hell, look at Chavez, often shown in military fatigues. He was an utter and embarrassing failure in his only military engagement, and even worse he sold out his comrades by surrendering without contacting them or notifying them.

      • You’ve just reconfirmed my earlier statement. Thanks for that.
        Bello’s experience was also evidence of the political climate of Great Colombia’s (and later Venezuela’s) early years after independence: the military felt entitled to exert power and the core of the republic —civilians— was ultimately disregarded; hence Bello’s choice to emigrate to Chile and his unwillingness to come back to his homeland.

  3. “Andrés Bello was without doubt the first humanist of our America, a kind of Hispano-American Goethe, at a time when humanism was still the father of science and the humanist was not only philosopher but also historian and poet, jurist and grammarian, and sought to encompass both spiritual life and the mysteries of nature.”

    —Ángel Rosenblat

    and by the way guys, you are choosing the most wonderful quotes to head your blog….keep up the good work!

    ” To be social is to be forgiving” is so appropriate for the times.

  4. The Economist deserves our applause for creating a space where Latin American issues and problems can get an intelligent, balanced and insightful assesment . (long overdue) . Naming the page after Bello is certainly proof that (although brits) they understand what are the best values of our culture.. kudos to Juan for highlighting this welcome news.

  5. NO …. ANDRES BELLO’S RECOGNITION IN THIS CO CALLED “VENEZUELAN REVOLUTION” IS RATHER LAME.. LAME… LAME… THAT IS NOT THE CASE WITH SOME RATHER OBSCURE “CAUDILLOS” WHOM HAVE GAINED PLACES IN THE PANTEON NACIONAL AND OTHER HISTORICAL SITES…. QUE PENA!

  6. I really don’t know if this stirs my patriotic sentiments or, quite on the contrary, reminds me that we did not value one of our greatest mind and let him go abroad, where he was given the respect and positions he deserved and that we have no mended this, but quite on the contrary, we have kept him in our History books as a minor Historic figure idolizing instead people like Zamora and Cipriano Castro, which explains why we are this f..-up.

  7. We kicked Humberto Fernandez Moran out of the country. because Perez Jimenez made him Minister of Education. The Adecos and Copeyanos let him go because he was “associated” with the Dictator. He was arguably the finest scientific mind this country ever produced. So, it’s not really surprising.

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