Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Mendelssohn and Hato Piñero

I have been arranging my extensive CD collection which lead me to play some of those long forgotten CD. This afternoon it was Mendelssohn "Reformation" Symphony. This might not be the best symphony of this rather underrated composer. The 5th popularity has suffered from being a "heftier" work, more intellectual, less crafted and vital than the "Italian". As if trying to encompass the reformation movement in music were possible. Still, the last movement opening is one of the most stirring moments of the repertoire, and a powerful musical image of the liberation of the spirit, no matter what religious connotation is associated with.

I started to have the odd notion that it was rather subversive to play such a symphony in San Felipe. After all it was an ode by a man of Jewish origin to the most important religious reformation movement. For better or for worse, the rivalry between the two Christian creeds was going to be at the root of European technical and political superiority, even if the 30 Years War was a rather heavy price to pay. Not to mention what would happen to Jewry in Europe. But it must have been quite an intellectual effort for Mendelssohn to accept fully his German soul through the celebration of Luther's work. So many contradictions for the sake of civilization.

Because this is all what it is about, what civilization is. I do not know why but as I was listening again to it, I was recalling images of countryside Yaracuy chavistas herded in open air trucks to some political meeting. Some with bottles of booze in hand, most disheveled and not only by the wind. I wondered what was the equivalent scene in the late Weimar Germany. I wondered about Luther rallying first the German peasants only to send later the German petty lords crush them. It is always a good time to think about these clichés associated with civilization changes, and how those who undertake them do not necessarily get the expected result.

I am not sure if the "Reformation" symphony is heard by those intervening the hato El Charcote this week end, or if the host suites of hato Piñero do pipe Mendelssohn on occasion. But certainly watching the scenes of this week end one knows that we are getting further away than closer to civilization and culture.

Hato Piñero might have been a highlight of civilization in the Llanos, something as removed from Doña Barbara as possible, but still keeping some of the natural wonders of the Llanos. I have never been there, the idea of waking up at wee hours to go in the wild find anacondas to pet them not being my idea of a good time. But this has not stopped me to admire the initiative of the Branger family, original owners of the extensive hato to transform with the help of dedicated naturalists the hato Piñero into a biological station visited by scores of tourists from afar, who do not mind the rustic lodgings and the on occasion rough visiting tours.

Probably the hato was not particularly profitable, the literature indicating that up to 80% of it is under water during rainy season. Bad soil probably, mostly fit for extensive ranching. But that only adds to the value of the experiment which was the unique combination of rational and moderate agricultural exploitation with recovery of a large area for its ecological preservation. The final work of civilization when it finally arrives. I wonder if some of the lefties "ecologists" that visited the hato are aware that Piñero is marked for "intervention" by the Cojedes governor, avenger of real or imaginary offenses. Why Piñero? Aren't there other more productive areas that should be of interest first? Why not make it a National Park right now if "revenge" against the Branger family is sought? Who wants Piñero?

I think the fate of hato Piñero under this regime will be one of its litmus test, the symbol by which we will be able to judge its commitment to ecology, preservation, civilization.

Meanwhile I can seek further solace in music to shelter me from the crudity that surrounds our lives.

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