Milan Kundera recalls in a recent article that three months after the Russian army besieged Czechoslovakia in 1968, three Latin American writers discreetly arrived in his country: Mexican Carlos Fuentes, Argentine Julio Cortázar and Colombian Gabriel García Márquez. He makes reference to this fact as the starting point of a relationship that taught him the existing identity between two distant Western regions -both from their center and from each other as well- as are the nations of the center of Europe and Latin America.
Kundera asserts this first encounter and the subsequent talks with Carlos Fuentes allowed him to view ‘my Central Europe through the lens of a surprising closeness with Latin America: two similar identities of the West located on opposite sides, two forgotten, abandoned and despised lands, two outcast territories and the world’s two regions most deeply marked by the traumatizing baroque experience. I say traumatizing because baroque culture arrived in Latin America as the art of the conqueror and was brought to my homeland by the blood-shedding Counter Reformation’. He adds, 'the two parts of the world experienced the mysterious alliance between evil and beauty'. He also says his talks with Fuentes opened his eyes to ‘a silver, shining bridge built over the century like a rainbow between my little Central Europe and the immense Latin America, a bridge linking the exotic statues of Matyas Braun in Prague and the maddening churches of Mexico’.
Not only did literature join the two regions but also their ‘interrupted’ democracies, the transformation of the painful memory of the recent past affecting both peoples into positive feelings that contribute to building the future and the concern over the apathy towards the daily exercise of democratic practices.
But there is an aspect Argentina must still learn from the Czech Republic: the latter has been characterized in the past years by the fact that its native intellectuals and culture-related men have been a major country asset both in terms of achieving internal political consensus as well as defining the country’s foreign projection. The figure of President Václav Havel is an eloquent example of the Czech success in this field, a cultural asset applied to the solution of a country’s major problems in times when the economic crisis appears as the most salient feature of Argentina in the face of the world.
This is the background behind the creation of the Czech-Latin American Forum in late 2001. Made up by Czech and Latin American intellectuals, its goal is to consolidate the thinking and cultural ties between two regions that share more common aspects than they seem.
By creating this website featuring articles about the Czech-Argentine situation in Spanish, English and Czech, we seek to keep our reader sinformed about the latest updates of this initiative as well as the developments derived from the Czech-Argentine Cultural Dialogue, the Charles University and the Mercosur-Visegrad Forum besides other activities that may be of interest to the Czech-Argentine society.
Members of the Czech Argentine Forum
Ana Houskova (Charles University)
Borivoj Hnizdo (Charles University)
Cyril Hoschl (Charles University)
Frantisek Vrhel (Charles University)
Hedvika Vydrova (Charles University)
Jan Sokol (Charles University)
Jiri Kraus (Charles University)
Juan Fleming, Argentine Ambassador in the Czech Republic
Lenka Rovna (Charles University)
Lubomir Mlcoch (Charles University)
Marta Oyhanarte (Poder Ciudadano)
Petr Pithart (Senator of the Czech Republic)
Roberto Forster (University of Buenos Aires)
Rosendo Fraga (Centro de Estudios Nueva Mayoría)
Vladimir Nalevka (Charles University)
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