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Fernando Garavito: “Africa began with Portugal”

The Colombian journalist and writer died on 28 October 2010, in the same year in which he became Deputy Editor of the online magazine Razón Pública. The writer died in an accident on the road in New Mexico, USA, the country to which he found himself exiled.


Fernando Garavito.

Armando Orozco Tovar


I asked Fernando how he found Lisbon when he worked as a diplomat in Portugal.

And he answered me: “Lisbon is a city of moon and carnations. It is a city where I would have liked to be born, to live and die.

It is a very strong city, with its feet very much on the ground, it’s not pretentious, it’s sensible, quiet, profound, loving, it is a city scattered over the river and has an immense relationship to poetry, to literature.”

Then he added: “I believe that Africa began with Portugal, also that the Portuguese and the Lisboetas and in general, all those who love this culture have to say it with great pride and not with worry or fear…Africa began in the Pyrenees, and the beginning of Africa was also the beginning of us.”

Afterwards, there followed other questions and other answers…

What was the feeling you had when you arrived in Lisbon?

The feeling is that it hadn’t yet overcome or been wrapped up in the vertigo of consumerism and luxury travel, and this dynamic of new wealth that certain Spanish towns have. It still has lots of its tranquillity.

A permanent nostalgia of sorts exists in Lisbon. It is a city cornered by the sea, with a sea view.

And what can you say of its inhabitants?

That they are sailors and like sailors they have a longing for something beyond, for the island yet to be discovered, the unexpected journey, for the conquest of new territories, and for new horizons.

And I think that this has marked them. They have always been looking for a dream, for an ideal.

They are people who have turned their backs to the mainland.

How did the music of Fado appear to you?

On the subject of Fado, you can talk of a marine nostalgia, because the sea first played her fate on the guitar. There are four or five versions of Fado, and to hear and to sing it, you have to taste it and love it.

The Portuguese have been great sailors and Fado was danced for the first time in Brazil and was sung in Africa, also by the Arabs.

And what is saudade?

It is something that only exists in Portugal. It’s like a condition that I don’t know how to define very well.

Is it related to nostalgia?

It’s much more than nostalgia. It has no translation. There are things that only the Portuguese know how to feel.

The Prisma’ memoirs. October, 2014.

(Translated by Daniela Fetta) – Photos: Pixabay

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