Our history, our present, and our future

This afternoon, 26 January, the Hay Festival in Jericó explored the stories we need to tell to come to terms with ourselves: our history, our present, and our future.

Juan Gabriel Vasquez spoke movingly about the stories which need to be told so that people can come to terms with their past: particularly in Colombia where history is still being unpicked and understood. 

“We are still seeing stories emerging which try to explore and engage with our history. We are coming to terms with a difficult past, those years remain very present to us – they changed our manner of being. We are still trying to get to the bottom of those years, to stop them repeating themselves”.

He spoke of his exploration of the short story form – a way to explore specific moments of transformation, and to narrate specific moments of change: “A short story is a precise machine to capture what changes our lives”.

Satirist and caricaturist Vladimir Vladdo Flórez had the whole theatre in tears of laughter talking with Pascual Gaviria about the state of Colombia’s politics – and the task of capturing and interpreting them in the form of a sketch. The satirist, he said, has a license to say the unsayable and the outrageous - things which need to be expressed.

“We say things which many readers want to see, express, or say. Society gives us a certain license, an immunity, to say things which normally cannot be said”.

He talked about how bad politics is great fodder for the satirist, and how censorship often reaches comic publications last, Dictatorships foster humour – it’s always humorous publications censored last – maybe because they don’t understand it”.

Carlos Magdalena looked to the future of Colombia and of the planet, particularly around conservation of biodiversity in the face of global threats to ecosystems.

“The greatest gift Colombia can give to humanity is to protect its biodiversity. Plants are among the strongest tools we have to deal with the issues we face”.

He urged the audience to make closer contact with nature, and to teach young generations about that connection. “We have to all do something, to teach children about nature, to give them a green perspective – it opens all doors”.

On Sunday morning, the discussion turned to writing itself, its past and its future, with Xavi Ayén presenting his book about Latin American literature, Horacio Benavides on the importance of poetry, and Sabrina Duque and Paula Jamarillo discussing the voices of women in journalism.

Machismo values are taught to all of us – that men are more valuable. It’s a chip which isn’t easy to break. Sisterhood is our favourite word”, the two concluded.