Vargas Llosa: “Cuba will become a capitalist dictatorship and then a democracy” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Mario Vargas Llosa's speech celebrating his 80th birthday. (14ymedio)
Mario Vargas Llosa’s speech celebrating his 80th birthday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Madrid, 29 March 2016 — Literature, politics and love were the three main protagonists on Monday evening for the 80th birthday of Mario Vargas Llosa. The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature attended a dinner in his honor with politicians, journalists, presidents and activists, in a central Madrid hotel. Before 400 guests, the Peruvian writer championed words and the art of storytelling as a way to improve reality and participate in national life.

“Turning 80 has no merit,” said the author of The War of the End of the World before an audience with another Literature Nobelist, the Turk Orhan Pamuk, as well as a large group of Cuban and Venezuelan activists. Seated at a forty tables, named after the prolific storyteller’s books or stories, the guests experienced the night as a gigantic party among friends.

Several dissidents and independent journalists traveled from Cuba for the occasion, including Dagoberto Valdes, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Reinaldo Escobar, Rolando Ferrer, Roberto de Jesús Guerra, Yusmila Reyna and Boris Gonzalez. Vargas Llosa dedicated a special part of his speech to the Cuban activists when he said “I can’t tell you how moved I am that you are here and that you have come.”

With a very critical position towards the political system on the island, which has earned editorial censorship in his books, the award-winning novelist said, “Anachronistic communism has two representatives today, Cuba and North Korea.” However, he expressed some hope because although Cuba “will immediately become a capitalist dictatorship, hopefully very soon afterwards, and finally after 57 years, it will become a democracy.”

Just outside the hotel a throng of journalists gathered to capture the broad parade of personalities from the world of culture and politics that were among the guests. Arriving for the party were former presidents from Columbia Andres Pastrana and Alvaro Uribe, Chile’s Sebastian Pinera, Uruguay’s Luis Alberto Lacalle and Spain’s Felipe González and José María Aznar. Also in attendance were the leader of Spain’s Citizens party, Albert Rivera and the parents of Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez.

Vargas Llosa delivered a precise speech and said that after eight decades of life “it is an opportune time to make a stop along the way and look back.” In his case, he said that life has been “a long and unbroken chain of stories” and emphasized his appreciation for having always had at hand literature, through which he has experienced a wide variety of the lives of others.

His eldest son, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, author and journalist, delivered ​​an emotional speech in which he said his father was like a “Rolling Stone of literature” because of the energy the writer maintains despite his age, only comparable with electric projection of Mick Jagger on stage. Blowing out the two candles symbolizing his 80 years and offering a declaration of love to his partner, Isabel Preysler, the honoree ended the evening.

A seminar, “Vargas Llosa: Culture, Ideas and Freedom,” will begin on Tuesday in Madrid, presided over by the writer and organized by the International Foundation for Freedom along with the chair that bears his name. Thinkers and writers will address topics such as populism, the challenges facing Ibero-America and the state of democracy in Latin America.