The Door in the eyes of Don Mario / By Oswaldo Manrique • Diario de Los Andes, news from Los Andes, Trujillo, Táchira and Mérida

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of teacher Mario Briceño Iragorry, who still continues to teach us. Many of them are of closeness, of gentile rejoicing, of Andean intellectual and cultural expression, and of decency and dignity. We are in a propitious turn to meet again in the assessment of the thick and permanent lines of what we are as an entity, something that we could call the positive and authentic Trujillo. In doing so, without a doubt, Briceño Iragorry has a lot to say and to contribute. His vast work, yet to read most of it and understand serenely, in its due breadth, confirms this.

How do you love a

town like La Puerta

I confess that, a particular geographical deference of Don Mario, made me change the focus I had on my place of life: La Puerta, on its history, space, culture, spirituality, customs and its people. In his only “novelized altarpiece”, he privileged and described it, prompting the reader to think of his great feeling and affection towards her, in a great teaching, that is, how a people feels and loves, in a selfless and even poetic, when he recalled La Puerta from the beginning of the 20th century, in his novel Los Ribera, published in 1957, which I invite everyone to reread. In it, he detailed said rural region with this beautiful prose:

«A path that leads to La Puerta through the narrow and delicious valley… The travelers engrossed in the interesting subject of politics, they did not notice the road nor the golden wheat fields of the surroundings, until they arrived at the delicious site of “ El Pozo”, already cleared of the morning mist and instead illuminated by a splendid sun that gave greater clarity to the immense lilies turned towards the ground, pending the leafy floripón bushes lined up on the side of the road» (Briceño-Iragorry , Mario. Los Ribera. Complete Works. Vol. 12. Pages. 64 to 92. Congress of the Republic. Caracas. 1988). Only a connoisseur and lover of aesthetics, beauty and landscape could do it this way, teaching how to interpret our journey “on shifting clouds”, which is like saying, “traveling through new paths”.

The Gate, for that time was insignificant, even for travelers and visitors. The road that led to La Puerta from Mérida, on beasts, had to pass Timotes, La Mucutí, El Portachuelo, La Lagunita, Quebrada Seca, which were the possessions and large wheat fields of Colonel Sandalio Ruz and his family, and the Burelli García brothers. , to later arrive at the “El Pozo” farm, close to what is now the urban area of ​​La Puerta, and in the sequence he noted: “The travelers stopped at the largest house in the area. In reality, the houses in the picturesque neighborhood were no more than four: Don Natividad’s, the girl Clarisa’s, Doña Resurrección’s, Don Claudio’s. The best, the largest, the one with the greatest resources was that of Don Natividad». The current highway did not exist, only the ancestral intermountain road of the Cordillera de La Culata.

Certainly, the knowledge that this outstanding essayist had of La Puerta, he perceived directly, in his university student phase, in 1916, when he had to travel by horse or beast, the only road from Valera to Mérida, which is precisely the one he described in his novel, but also, he himself belonged to that Andean historical time.

When scrutinizing that there were few houses, he illustrated that Creole environment, narrating that they got out in the largest and most beautiful, they were attended by its owner Don Natividad Sulbarán, a character whom he described, that, «he wore his blue ruana and his wide guama hair hat»; This one, Sulbarán, in addition to being a landowner, was the first authority of the Municipality and invited them to breakfast, «on simple tablecloths, with a comforting breakfast, in which the typical dishes of the cold land were served» (Idem). Don Natividad existed and left extensive descendants; the farm also exists. Briceño Iragorry thus outlined the friendliness of the people, and the pleasure of seeing and having the visit of sporadic visitors, of beings from other places, even if they were from Mérida and Trujillo itself.

Remembering your trip «they continued between fields of wheat and corn, the path of the narrow and delicious valley of La Puerta»referred to the urban settlement, «The small population has remained despite its old data in little development» (Idem); Of course, it does not refer to the land dispossession of 1891, which they did to the indigenous people, the demolition of their homes and their eviction, the structural dismantling of the Bomboy Indigenous Community and its intangible values, leaving this site in the power of landowners. and gamonales.

Don Mario describes, as if it were a tourism video, the following: «The houses are simple, the sidewalks are half done, the church is poor, the square is just an open plot, planted with little grass» (Idem); In effect, what was known as the royal square, later the main square and finally Bolívar, was just that, a large square of land with some small grass, and it was totally sloping, with a ditch on one of its sides.

His perception of people is as follows: “Its neighbors are good farming people, who live by grinding wheat, making cheese and harvesting panela”; Truly, they were immense wheat fields, which were close to the mill on Calle 3, of the Burelli García brothers or the Mimbón Mill of the Briceño; Also, they had extensive cane fields and mills, several sugar mills that stood out in the different haciendas, such as those of Isaías Ramírez, Hilarión Gutiérrez, Ciriaco Labastida and Raimundo Rivero, with stills that produced alcoholic products and beverages; There was a lot of cattle and sheep farming for the production of cheeses, curds, whey and other foods, particularly in the swamps and banks of the Bomboy River, and on the lands reserved for the urban development of the municipality, which were also dispossessed; it was a real rural area.

The Gate is bound to philosophize

and think about death

Briceño Iragorry’s assessment of a fundamental theme in his work, the education and religion of the people, is interesting. He wrote: «There was hardly a primary school and the priest took little care of his parishioners… Despite the few letters of its inhabitants, La Puerta is like a classroom to learn conventional philosophy»; and it reveals why, in contrast to the leafy mountain range, the cemetery had been laid out and located at a point where everyone could see it, so that in his opinion, the life of this population “he runs in front of the dead themselves”; this is true, the Bolívar square, the school of first letters, the headquarters of the Prefecture, police authority and the temple, are just nearby and at a higher level or terrace, where the cemetery could be observed; Of course, at that time there were no buildings on the side where the Prefecture and the police post, the El Padrino hotel and other houses are today, there was nothing and the cemetery was easily seen.

In that perception, on sociological, psychological and philosophical topics of life and as a subject of spiritual and religious dimension, he added the following: «In the morning, at noon, in the afternoon…the people of La Puerta are forced to think about death»and even the trees and vegetation seem that due to the movement of the blizzard, «It seems that they were inclined by the blizzard to constantly greet the deceased. Without meditation occupying higher planes, the man from La Puerta got used to looking with close naturalness at the problem of death and learned to understand at the same time, with the transitory nature of life» (Idem). As a culmination of his interpretation, of the collective spirituality of this population, “These people never get tired of seeing their dead”said Alfonso Ribera, the main character, and Father Contreras, who had just said a prayer to the deceased, and referring to the town, said: “I hope the thought of death teaches them to live well.” A kind of chime, within that true spiritual climate, regarding the fact that the caudillos of this valley were involved in the revolts and fratricidal pitches of the so-called stage of liberalism, and later, gomecismo.

As can be inferred and obtained from the fine, adequate and reasoned description made by Mario Briceño Iragorry of La Puerta from the early decades of the 20th century, it not only details the physiognomy, virtues and geophysical heritage of the place, but also specifies values ​​and aspects by which the quiet and even philosophical population was guided, which gives an adequate historical density, to the space and time in which the main activity of the caudillos was developed, and which gives it what he called “differential physiognomy of the peoples” , with which he expressed his personal fondness for this town. He places her in a role of a beautiful intermezzo, between the character’s place of departure and the place of destination, between the native Andean, and the pleasures, modernities and weaknesses of the “oil feast”, or the values ​​and customs of working men. from the land, to the ideas and practices of the emerging bourgeoisie.

Don Mario, demonstrated to know Venezuela and Trujillo in particular, the “idealized and non-existent”, but with it he left wise reflections, which should sharpen the senses of those who try in these times, to imagine our entity, better and different. He left us in his books, teachings and the rest, he continues to dictate to us; Of course, he has a lot to say right now.

The Door in the eyes of Don Mario / By Oswaldo Manrique • Diario de Los Andes, news from Los Andes, Trujillo, Táchira and Mérida