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April 18, 2014
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Gov't declares three days of national mourning following the death of poet Juan Gelman

Argentina’s government yesterday declared three days of national mourning for Juan Gelman, award-winning poet, political critic and leftwing activist who died in Mexico on Tuesday, aged 83.

A Cabinet statement said President Cristina Fernández de Kircher decreed “three days of mourning, from today until Friday, for the death of poet and writer Juan Gelman.”

“This morning, the president signed the decree, ordering that the national flag be flown at half mast from January 15 to 17,” the statement added.

Meanwhile in Mexico, close friends and family gathered at Gelman’s private wake. No decision had been reached yesterday regarding where the celebrated Cervantes Prize recipient would be laid to rest.

“He will be cremated tomorrow and then we will see if his remains stay in Mexico or go to Argentina or any other place that Mara Lamadrid (his widow) may decide,” María Inés Roqué, close friend of the family, told reporters yesterday.

The poet’s family decided to bid a private farewell to the author of Los poemas de Sidney West (1969) and expressed gratitude for “the concern and solidarity displayed by the media,” Roqué said. She added that the poet’s granddaughter, Macarena Gelman — born in captivity as her parents, Gelman’s son and daughter in law, were disappeared and later killed by Argentina’s last military dictatorship — “is expected to arrive later to Mexico today.”

When asked about the three days of national mourning decreed by the Argentine government, Roqué expressed the family’s gratitude. “Argentina is Juan’s country and the family appreciates the interest showed by the Argentine state and culture for Juan’s figure.”

The organization H.I.J.O.S. (Hijos e Hijas por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio / Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice Against Oblivion and Silence) — created in 1995 with Gelman and León Gieco’s public endorsement, sent a farewell message to the poet’s family.

“There goes Juan to tell the 30,000 (disappeared persons) that no impunity has vanquished us and there is no absolution or forgiveness for the massacrers of our country (Argentina),” the organization said in a statement.

Paola Stefani, the daughter of Gelman’s widow, told reporters that the poet “always said he would die in Mexico” and in the end “he kept his word.” Stefani said Gelman “kept on writing until the very last day,” hinting at new works that might be published in the future.

ECHO ON SOCIAL NETWORKS

Thousands took to Twitter and Facebook yesterday to mourn the loss of Gelman, posting pieces of his poems and uploading YouTube videos with interviews or information about the poet’s work.

In a few hours, the sad news of Gelman’s passing turned into a trending topic on Twitter.

From Spain, Pilar del Río, the widow of famed Portuguese writer José Saramago, also chose to bid farewell to Gelman in a tweet: “Interview with Juan Gelman. We should take the time to ponder, once again, his lucidity.”

“Farewell to Juan Gelman, the poet of love and commitment, of exile and reflection,” the Cervantes Institute tweeted, while Argentine journalist Reynaldo Sietecase chose one of Gelman’s stanzas: “Hay que aprender a resistir/ ni a irse/ ni a quedarse/ a resistir” (We have to learn to hold out / instead of leaving / instead of staying / just holding out), to which he added “Thank you, maestro. Poetry endures.”

Writer Claudia Piñeiro posted a photo of her and Gelman on Facebook, remembering their meeting at the Saltillo Book Fair (Mexico) three years ago.

GARZÓN PAYS TRIBUTE

Gelman “did more for justice than thousands of judges” and will remain a model for “human right advocates all over the world,” Spanish former high-profile judge Baltasar Garzón said.

He admitted to feeling “a great emptiness” following Gelman’s death and said he admired “the strength this man displayed in his untiring quest for truth and justice.”

“Juan Gelman is a model for everyone in Latin-America and Spain, for human right defenders all over the world,” Garzón said, also praising “the sensitivity of Gelman’s poetry, the staunchness of his beliefs and the ethics he showed in the defence of the victims.”

Herald staff with agencies, online media

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Tags:  Juan Gelman  mourning  Cristina Fernández de Kirchner  


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