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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Speech by HRH the Prince of Asturias during the ceremony at the 1997 Prince of Asturias Awards

A renowned Asturian historian wrote that "communities that forget their great men and their scientific, literary, and political elucidations fall into decay because, with their ingratitude, they lose their memory, and with memory, science".

Allow me to begin with the following verse:

If I have assuaged
the pain of one heart
my life has served some purpose.

These lines reflect the sentiment with which I return anew to Asturias, considering that it expresses not only the spirit with which I attend this ceremony, but also the very essence from which these Awards arose.

Once more from Oviedo, we pay a tribute of admiration to persons and institutions that offer us eminent examples of work well done, humanity, and love-values that give insight and significance to our lives.

A renowned Asturian historian wrote that "communities that forget their great men and their scientific, literary, and political elucidations fall into decay because, with their ingratitude, they lose their memory, and with memory, science".

As those who identify with this idea, we should stress that we are on the threshold of the 1898 centennial, a transcendental date in our history that lent its name to a generation, as it was controversially baptised by Azorín, of intellectuals with an exceptional creative capacity. With their patriotism wounded and anguishing over the events that brought that year to a close, they, like other disillusioned European intellectuals, wanted to reclaim the most recondite and admirable from the past and to resolutely construct the future.

The debt that we owe to this group of writers, thinkers, and artists is indelible: that of the love for Spain and the sparkling recognition of the diversity that enriches our nation.

The wanderings of the Basque Unamuno through Castilian lands, the sensitivity of the gaze with which the Sevillian Antonio Machado regarded the great plains, the inland landscapes of Spain brought to life by the Levantine Azorín, the doleful and fraternal vision of the provinces of Castile and León, precisely the place I had the honour of travelling through this spring, which today is moving towards the consolidation of its progress after difficult secular ordeals, are several examples of what the year of 1898 brought about. They also serve as a permanent lesson.

This idea of the harmony of our lands developed by the Ninety-Eighters sheds light on the present becauseit is necessary to continue believing in a Spain that dialogues instead of opposes; that listens instead of confronts; that travels and opens itself fraternally instead of keeping silent and confining itself.

At the heart of those authors´ sentiments, of their despair for what Spain had not been and for what it could become, of their sharp critique, was the shining example of their work, in which this inestimable ethical code germinated, to which Unamuno referred to as "conscience", "fellowship", "brotherhood"; thanks to which-these are also his words-"we shall find understanding in the same heart". These are exquisite concepts that erase differences, melt away anxieties, and, finally, promote peaceful co-existence.

The future that they dreamt of, thanks mainly to their efforts, is now ours. A Spain in tune with the world; a world in which humanity, at the same time that it journeys into outer space and advances on a fascinating adventure of exploration and conquest, reclaims new, simpler and deeper values, in accordance with an ethic based on the primacy of sentiments and virtues. A democratic Spain, that of the last twenty years, ruler of its destiny, where every day we strive to defend that which Don Quixote defined as "the most precious gift which the heavens bestowed on humanity": liberty.

Sharing in this sensibility and in order to perpetuate this gratitude, memory and science mentioned previously, the Prince of Asturias Awards were created. With them, we annually proclaim that our spirit will always be on the side of those who dedicate their lives to the sublime ideal of making others freer, more dignified, and wiser.

In the day-to-day work of this year´s Award-winners, just as with those men of ´98, a spirit of struggle and passionate dedication pulsates through their endeavour.

A faithful reflection of this can be found in the work of the team of scientists that has studied the paleoanthropological discoveries at Atapuerca, in Burgos, and that today receives the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research. Their task, dedicated to illuminating the past on solid scientific grounds, is one of the best ways of understanding the full range of possibilities that are available in the present.

Through their research and labour, which at first glance seems to be specialised and marginal, they have provided an invaluable service to the scientific community and to every one of us. Because being aware of our origins allows us to understand that we are links in an endless chain to which we add our efforts to those who preceded us and prepare the way for those yet to come, with a display of solidarity able to break down the barriers of time and space.

Two aspects stand out about their development: their untameable tenacity over the course of more than twenty years and their promotion of the close collaboration among several of our country´s universities and organisms, which attests to the optimum level of Spanish science and demonstrates the efficiency of a well-founded cooperative undertaking that is managed at a level above individual interest and improvisation.

Individuals like Vittorio Gassmann, recipient of the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, are themselves a summation of art. His life and work, so closely allied with literature and reflection, drawn from the classical and the modern, make him into an actor, director and irreplaceable master of the scenic arts-always under the maxim that "each one must find his own way".

With a generosity and calling equal to his genius, he has prepared future actors not only for the screen and the stage, but also in courses and workshops that he himself has created and promoted with absolute disinterest.

In accordance with the idea that "the greatest task of humanity is knowing what it means to be human", Vittorio Gassmann has spent his life being-not appearing to be-engaged in sentiment and reason, aggrandising his spirit and existence, in order to give, through his art, a great part of himself to others.

"The complete works of Álvaro Mutis, his very life, are that of a seer who knows with exactitude that we will never again reencounter paradise lost". These are the words that García Márquez has used to define the work of his friend and this year´s laureate of the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters.

Perhaps for this reason, Mutis has known how to take advantage of every instant of his life, like someone who is convinced that there is always something else left to be done, with an insatiable curiosity and through his travels and many professions- the groundwork of his vast culture and origin of his work´s poetic intensity.

Born in Colombia, educated in Europe, and resident of Mexico for many years, Mutis has declared that everything that he has written is in order to celebrate the coffee plantations of his childhood. His verse and prose, mainly centred around an enigmatic personage, Maqroll el Gaviero, at once the author´s alter-ego and emblem of the human condition, help to illuminate, with their incredible beauty, the navigation of mankind-of whatever man-on the not always calm seas of time.

The granting of this Award serves to recognise and celebrate in Spain-nation of his ancestors, to whom he continues to be connected-the immense culture of this singular creator, as well as his energy and talent.

The enriching variety of languages and cultures that constitutes Spain has a prominent place in the works of Professor Martín de Riquer, recipient of the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences. Brilliant and devoted scholar born in Catalonia, he has centred his life around the philological, critical, and historiographical strands of literature-Castilian and Catalan as well as Provençal and French-that have been his constant object of study, with research and teaching activities that have been inseparable for many years.

The numerous studies that exist on The Quixote and other aspects of Cervantes´ art would be seriously incomplete if it were not for the works of this standout researcher.

Yet the passion for Cervantes is not the only one to be found in his work. Martín de Riquer has written decisive books on the lyric of the Troubadours, the legendary French romances, and the Tirant lo Blanc, in addition to editing and inspiring the rigorous publication of many classic texts that, devoid of modern impressions, were not extremely approachable to readers.

His Anthology of Catalan Poets, an omnibus compilation of Latin, Provençal, Hebrew, Italian, French, Castilian and Old Catalan verse, constitutes a corpus which will not easily be surpassed. Martín de Riquer has expressed, through his work, this European and universal knowledge-unbound by particular interests or borders-that we want to highlight with this Award.

If education has been the cornerstone of democracy since the Greeks, he shows us, with deep humanistic insight and a strong desire to share, that only knowledge makes us free and only instruction and study aggrandise and distinguish us. For all of these reasons, it is an honour to have him here with us today.

The Prince of Asturias Award for Sports is granted this year to the Spanish marathon team, made up by athletes Abel Antón, Martín Fiz, José Manuel García, Fabián Roncero, Alberto Juzdado and Diego García. This admirable group of athletes reminds us, through their example, that the primary aim of sports, which is today revealed as such a powerful and passionate undertaking, is to serve as a healthy stimulant for the young, who will always find, in the practice of sport, noble paths for their personal training.

The fact that the members of this team are a group of friends reinforces the idea of sport as an activity that brings together, and must never serve as an excuse for separation. Their virtues have borne exceptional fruit in the European and world championships of recent years, with a series of victories achieved during the past world championship of Athens.

All expressions of sport are valuable, but it is perhaps marathon that stands apart as the most devoid of means, demanding the greatest efforts of the athlete. We are talking of people who owe everything to their demands of self-improvement and self-knowledge. The work of these men confirms that ardently desired dreams are the only ones that come true.

Guatemala, a country which has lived through bloody conflict for thirty years, with thousands of victims and displaced people and significant material damage, has this year been granted the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.

This Award has deep significance for us, since none of what takes place in our brother- and sister-countries on the other side of the Atlantic is foreign to us. The Firm and Durable Peace Treaty signed in the past month of December between the government of Guatemala and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity has meant the return to reason, which humanises us, and a hopeful solution for this beloved people, as well as a sublime example of human potential in the arduous and painful road towards coexistence.

We are also pleased and proud that our fellow compatriots have been in charge of the international military mission that has striven, in the first place, to avoid clashes between the contenders and finally, to achieve peace. The President of Guatemala, Álvaro Arzú, whom we have the satisfaction to have among us today, together with the top representatives of the Provisional Directive Committee for the formation of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity Party, have praised the great work carried out by the Spanish military forces.

We thus celebrate the step ahead that the people of Guatemala have taken, in favour of their country and the whole of Central America. Efforts should now be aimed at the improvement of social conditions and the progressive welfare of Guatemalans. That is how long-desired peace will become consolidated.

Two human beings for whom music has been the passion and very sense of their life-from the enthusiasm of their youthful spirit, with which they unrelentingly search for, and enjoy beauty-Yehudi Menuhin and Mstislav Rostropovich, are jointly receiving the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord.

Both have known rootlessness and exile, but have fought against that dispossession with the bloodless and marvellous weapon of music, whose purest sounds stem from the hands but are dictated by the heart.

We recognise in them something more than their quality as extraordinary and prestigious performers, more than their deserved fame as conductors and instrumentalists; we also, and especially, acknowledge the deeply human dimension of their personal conduct, the constant help they have offered the persecuted and the helpless of the world, their concerts in benefit of human rights, and of national and international organisations striving for the peace and liberty of peoples.

Both of them, too, are great friends of Spain, whose music they have performed many times. We are proud of this friendship and of their constant expressions of kindness to our country; and we are truly happy for their synthesis of art and human values, oriented towards the achievement of concord.

There are times when a team, within the context of a great modern entrepreneurial organisation, transforms some essential aspect of our life with its everyday activities. Our life today is, to a large extent, structured by the vital connecting chord of journalism, a vehicle for knowledge, information and communication.

This exciting task has been elevated to its highest degree by the CNN television network-Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanities, together with the President of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel-making real the old dreams of instant communication between human beings, wherever they may be; of breaking down frontiers and distances; and of knowing what is happening in each and every corner of the planet. And, by doing so, finally turning the Earth into that suggestive metaphor we call the "global village".

Its success, the result of an idea that is as audacious as it is radically innovative in the world of communications, shows that failure is only experienced by those who never run risks. We are today paying homage to this difficult task; to this risk of life itself which often accompanies that network´s splendid team of journalists wherever the most vibrant news-items occur, or wherever the events that signal the great changes in our societies take place.

For us, the Spanish people, and for the more than three hundred and fifty million Spanish-speakers in the world, it is extraordinarily satisfactory that the universal dimension covered by the CNN has now grown to include emissions in Spanish. The recognition of the importance and extension of our language is a sign of sensitivity and future vision to which we may not remain indifferent.

Authenticity in the exercise of politics and literature is the characteristic feature of President Václav Havel,Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanities.

The nobility of his spirit shines as much in his poetry, his drama and his essays as in the political disposition with which he has constructed a democratic and fertile peace for his people, by writing one of the great chapters of contemporary European history. In his writings and his political work we find an intellectual stature and a moral integrity that have evolved out of a life of hard and frequent trials, in which he has always enjoyed the support and relief of his nearest and dearest.

Václav Havel defends the idea-which we share with him-that the only true politics, the only politics that are worthy of the name, are those that are devoted with simplicity and good sense to the service of the community. A poet´s dream, perhaps naive, but which-idea upon idea-Václav Havel has caused to come true in the Czech Republic, with honesty, courage and a sense of balance.

His presence among us serves as a reminder of the contribution of Czech workers to the mining activities of Asturias. Some of them have paid tribute with their lives in that selfless effort that is developed in the very entrails of our land.

I want to conclude one more year by thanking the Jury-members for their deliberations and decisions. It is they, with their rigour, their complete independence and impartial judgement, who make this event a jubilant celebration of creative intelligence and human greatness; and, as a former member of these Juries, I want to particularly remember Pilar Miró, whose recent loss has grieved us all.

My gratitude goes out to our patrons, for their generous support and concern, without which the Foundation and its Awards would be reduced to a small corner of our imagination.

I would also like to express particular thanks to Asturias, this land that always welcomes us with kindness and enthusiasm, and whose frank and open character spreads among us all its energy and its hopeful vision of the future; and to this lovely town of Oviedo, in which together with the limpid air of autumn one may breathe the serene beauty of its age-old maturity.

As we have had the opportunity to confirm, the passion for knowledge, for teaching, for sharing and opening up new inroads into History, are the common denominators of the Awards presented this year. I want to express my most sincere congratulations to those award-winners; and in doing so, on this day when Spain expresses before the world its commitment to culture, I would like to invite everyone to regard their example and join in their vitality and optimism, enabling us to sow with them the seeds of a new time for peace, intelligence and liberty.

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