TRIP TO PARAGUAY
In September 2014 I found a pleasant surprise in my inbox: it was an email from Luz Borja inviting me to the first International Guitar Forum in Paraguay, Mangoré’s homeland. So in November 2014 I landed in Asunción, it was a day of torrential rain, which luckily had caused a temperature drop, only the day before temperatures had reached almost 50ºC. When I arrived the temperature was around 30ºC. Luz Borja, which was organizing the Forum, picked me up from the airport and took me to the Gran Hotel of Paraguay, a beautiful building with colonial style where I was accommodated as a host from the Council at the request of its director, Margarita Morselli. It was a fantastic trip and I was accompanied all the time by marvelous people, now they are my new friends; Luz, Edgar, Arnaldo and Gustavo. The first day Luz took me to La Casa de la Música, in whose entry a guitar welcomes the visitors from an urn that has a place of honor; this guitar was built by my great-grandfather José Ramírez l and belonged to Agustín Barrios Mangoré. This legendary guitar fell into a river in Uruguay, it was rescued and Mangoré continued playing it in spite of the accident. It has been recently recovered by Margarita Morselli for the Patrimony of the Paraguayan Nation; she was able to buy it from an American collector after long negotiations. I also met there Daiana Ferreira da Costa, she walked me around the town keeping me awake so that I would not give in to jet lag. During the following days I had a big agenda of press conferences, interviews, lunches with different government authorities and other activities before the Forum. I also had the pleasure to visit some Paraguayan luthiers and I was talking to them about construction issues and exchanging knowledge and experiences. Just as we were sitting at the entrance of Aníbal Borja’s workshop (he is Luz’s dad) we saw something extraordinary that was at the newspapers the next day. It was sunset but still broad daylight, when we saw a kind of shooting star that split in two, and we all took the opportunity to make a wish (by the way, mine is coming true, and I hope the wish my experience mates made is also becoming reality).
I also had the pleasure to meet a guitar maker colleague, Ricardo Louzao and the guitarist Pablo Uccelli, they came from Argentina to participate in the Forum.
The opening of the event was held by Dr. Blas Llano: President of the Paraguayan Nation Congress; Dr. Fernando Silva Facceti: Senator of the Paraguayan Nation; Mabel Causarano, from the State Secretary for Culture; Vladimir Velázquez Moreira, Director General for the Office from the State Secretary of Culture; Margarita Morselli: Council Director; Leo Rubín, producer of the film MANGORÉ; Luz María Bobadilla: classical guitarist member of the board of FONDEC Cultural Fund.
Ricardo Louzao gave an interesting speech about the construction of guitars. Leo Rubín presented the film MANGORÉ, and it was an exciting event because Agustín Barrios Mangoré is a figure of utmost importance in Paraguay, his homeland, as well as in the world of the guitar at an international level. I talked about the family of guitar makers Ramírez and presented the videos of La Reina and about the construction of a mosaic.
Among the audience, which was quite crowded, there were a lot of colleagues that came from different parts of the country, although when the event finished I could hardly attend them as I would have liked, I talked to all the people that came to speak with me. That was what I felt most sorry about, as I would have liked to have more time to exchange knowledge with my Paraguayan colleagues.
It was a journey that I enjoyed until the very last minute. One of the most interesting and enjoyable parts was the trip inland that Ricardo, Pablo and me made, having Berta Rojas as a hostess and guide; she is a woman in love with her homeland and committed with her people. The truth is that everywhere we went people came to greet her, as Berta is a very much admired and loved artist. And at night, at Berta’s, and with the charming little dog Aki, Ricardo and Pablo made an Argentinean asado in the garden, with the highest regard towards me as they cooked some grilled vegetables over the hot coals for me. We ended up listening to music until late and afterwards we went back to our respective hotels after a joyful day.
I had taken with me a Conservatorio guitar to present it in my talk, and being a new and revolutionary model I wanted to know the opinion of the guitarists that were kindly playing it and the views collected were quite good so in the end I left the guitar in the Council so that they can use it in the concerts that may be celebrated there.
I went to the airport with my friends, the ones that were with me throughout my visit. So I left with my heart filled from a country of music and art, where a great artist as Agustín Barrios is a national hero, known by everyone, where I was welcomed with affection and generosity.