Sobremesa Chronicles

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zapatazos-el-nacionalYesterday, Venezuela lost one of its greatest artists. I dare say Pedro León Zapata was THE greatest artist of the last era of our history.

Why is this controversial? Zapata was a cartoonist. Doesn’t sound like high art, right?

Large crises are usually fodder for artists. Picasso’s greatest painting was inspired by the carnage of Guernica. Steinbeck would not have been Steinbeck without the Great Depression. And the Paris spring undoubtedly inspired Truffaut and Malle to new heights.

The current travails our country is undergoing have not yet led to an artistic high point. We all enjoy Federico Vegas and Suniaga, but these are not universal authors – at least not yet. And while we may all admire a few movie directors, architects, musicians or painters, they are all undiscovered gems, niche players. The artistic genesis spurred by the revolution’s antics remains underwhelming.

But pretty much everyone in Venezuela knew who Zapata was.

For decades, Zapata has been speaking truth to power through his political cartoons, religiously published in El Nacional. He is the father of Edo, Rayma, Weil, and countless others who make the absurd Venezuelan reality palpable. Chavismo, however, inspired him to new heights.Zapatazo-guinda-de-un-cabello

It takes real talent to convey the nonsense that passes for daily life in our country with a simple drawing and a clever phrase. We should know – sometimes it takes us hundreds of words and countless hours to convey the same thing, and we usually fail.

But Zapata rarely failed. Through his distinctively Venezuelan wit, Zapata made you think – no offense, but sometimes it was the only thing in El Nacional worth reading.

Many people were mourning the passing of the great master. But his death at the ripe old age of 85 is a testament to a life lived to the fullest. He spurred our national conscience through that rare Venezuelan trait – hard work. His job here was done.

Take a bow, maestro. No other artist comes close to having an impact as profound as you.