In June of 2012, after we managed to convince him, he sent us his first column for The Prisma. Many followed. Today he died. His departure marks his own beginning.
Mónica del Pilar Uribe Marín
I met Armando at two different points in my life. First when I was just emerging into adolescence and used to accompany my mother to literary gatherings, readings, writers’ meetings, book launches, whether her own or of others.
It was inevitable then, that one day I would come face-to-face with Armando Orozco. It was through my mother, the Colombian poet and writer, Flor Alba Uribe Marín, that I began to hear about him and his lifelong companion, Isabel Mayorga, both of them journalists, poets, writers, and also Colombians.
Literature united them and forged that lasting friendship which mundane tasks arouse, and which, on occasions turns out to be stronger than the kind of friendship which most of us think of as real. I know that the three of them shared a taste for wine, festivals, recitals and conversations. I knew (and confirmed as time went by), through my mother, that Armando was one of those people who doesn’t easily pass unnoticed: his thunderous voice, his imposing figure, his rebelliousness, his affection expressed in big hugs and big words, his irreverence, his left-wing thinking and attitude, his hyperactivity, his Isabel… his inseparable literary, political and lifelong companion, until the end.
The years passed and I was already in England practising my craft of journalist in The Prisma. My written correspondence with him, although it wasn’t continuous, was enough to bridge the lapses of time and keep alive the memory of my mother and her friendship with him and Isabel, along with other writers of the time.
One day he began sending me his writings, without any intention to have them published. That was how I understood it, because I knew that Armando enjoyed sharing his writing with friends and acquaintances. Then I suggested that he write a column, despite knowing that since The Prisma was produced in Britain, his style, which was particularly colloquial, ironic, biting, and sometimes full of Colombian expressions, would be difficult for English-speaking readers to understand. But I had offered to ‘interpret’ his phrases, and so did the kind translators who collaborated with The Prisma, and who very often were unable to either understand or even locate the expressions he used or the events he described…
Well, I convinced him, and he began his move into being a columnist here in England. And his writings, as well as those that he continued producing in Colombia, turned into ‘a need’, and so little-by-little, his readers became loyal to his weekly assignment… which he didn’t always fulfil.
What is certain is that Armando was always writing. As a journalist, he worked for a number of years for the newspaper Voz, (a left-wing paper that miraculously – and fortunately – still survives in Colombia), and for other magazines and ‘alternative’ publications.
He wrote about other people, he wrote about himself, he interviewed many people, was interviewed himself, published books, read poems, taught classes in journalism, gave workshops, painted pictures, made drawings, reminisced about Cuba (where he and Isabel studied Journalism), and practised both solidarity and criticism. All prolifically and tirelessly.
Many people understood his work. But many also didn’t grasp what he was saying.
To do that you had to go deep into Armando, who spent his whole time creating and writing. He read and re-read voraciously, with the eagerness of someone who has been invited to read a book for the first time. Even, when during his final days, exhaustion prevented him, he asked others to read to him. His asked his son Camilo to read him the last chapter of “El Quijote de La Mancha”, a book he had read many times.
He took notes and wrote opinions, thoughts and reflections, and even without having penetrated the nooks and crannies of the house that was always his congenial home in the south of Bogotá, it is easy for me to imagine the quantity of notebooks and papers which held writings which one day – or perhaps never – he planned to publish; or also his paintings and sketches, his plans, the annotations to books he had read, his letters…
The truth about his routines, his dreams and his struggles, his worries and his fears – as well as his unpublished writings that will or won’t be published, but which we in The Prisma hope to share with his loyal readers – exists only for those who knew him completely: Isabel, his sons, his mother and his very close friends.
A lot remains to be said about this Colombian journalist, writer and painter, about this ‘man with a name’, but time, which for him has already run out, will play the cards that are necessary to make something imperishable from his work, and all that Armando meant for literature and journalism, which he conceived in his own unique way.
Here, in The Prisma we offer our affectionate hug of solidarity for his writings. Our embrace to him and his family. Thank you Armando Orozco Tovar.
(Translated by Graham Douglas – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)