Every time I walk into Universidad de Los Andes’s magnificent Rectorado building and I cross the colonial courtyard, I see the statue of Fray Juan Ramos de Lora, founder of the San Buenaventura seminar that would eventually become the university standing there, year after year, untouched.
Two rows of pines delimitate the road that leads to the Aula Magna, the most solemn place in the city, covered with paintings of every rector; a monument to the academy that helped build the Venezuela we now miss.
Every year, thousands of students sit there, waiting to get the degree that turns them into a physician, a lawyer, an engineer, a biologist, an accountant. Many of them will leave the country in the next few months, but all of them are a bet on a future better than this.
That’s what ULA is all about: Both a constant reminder of what we could have become and also a chance to actually become that.
From the decayed anatomy classrooms to Zapata’s mural covering an entire wall of Architecture’s School, the whole university is filled by a spirit hard to find anywhere else in the country. Throughout its almost 232 years, and surviving every government in our republican history, Universidad de los Andes has become more than just a university. Today, ULA embodies a Venezuela that is bigger than its leaders. The place that once realized that when it comes to building a country, education weights more than military barracks.