Uruguay Sings Homer

Montevideo became a Homeric capital city last week, with over 5.000 Uruguayans participating in a series of cultural events titled ‘Jornadas Homéricas’ (Days of Homer), organized and supported by the Maria Tsakos Foundation and the US-based non-profit organization The Readers of Homer.

The events revolved around two marathon readings of the Iliad and the Odyssey which took place in the imposing auditorium of the University of the Republic of Uruguay in Montevideo. The epics were read and sung in over 15 languages by hundreds of participants, from international diplomats to children from the most remote villages of Uruguay.

Apart from former presidents of the country, members of the government, representatives of the arts and letters, the ‘readers of Homer’ included the eminent Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano, internationally renowned for his book ‘Open Veins of Latin America’.

After his reading, Galeano commented: ‘I came to read in order to honour Homer. But above all, I came because I felt the need to honour the Greek people at a time they need it most. I am convinced that Odysseus’ dog, Argos is the...grand father of Kanelos and Loukanikos, the iconic dogs that we see participating in the protests in Athens these days.’

The director of the Maria Tsakos Foundation , Margarita Larriera, stated: “The people of Uruguay know better than anyone how a financial crisis can affect a people, but such crises may come and go. Greece might be going through its own Odyssey nowadays, but its cultural heritage constitutes an invaluable treasure which is gracefully shared with all citizens of the world.”

The renowned Greek-American actor, Yannis Simonides, vice-president of The Readers of Homer, commented: “Even if these readings had lasted 48 hours, the auditorium would have remained full. Uruguay is a country with a profound love and appreciation for Greek culture. Homer’s epics are taught in all schools, while the invaluable work of the Maria Tsakos Foundation has enabled thousands of Uruguayans to speak Greek and thoroughly appreciate Greek music and literature. It is here that I found the most fertile ground for the development of the ‘Jornadas Homéricas’ idea, and I am grateful that the enthusiastic response of thousands of participants proved my instinct correct”.

Parallel to the two marathon readings of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the programme of ‘Jornadas Homéricas’ included conferences led by distinguished Hellenists from Latin America, theatrical performances of the Iliad,the Oresteia and Electra, fine art competitions for students, music and choir concerts, all free to the public and dedicated to the diachronic spirit of Homer’s epics.

(Posting date 30 May 2010)

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