Oviedo is these days that group of ladies who, on Friday morning, hours before the delivery of the Princess of Asturias Awards, meet at the Reconquista hotel, get in line and ask a television camera to please take a moment to take a picture of what you are doing. “What a good memory,” they say. They have gone to the hairdresser, they have put on makeup, each one has chosen a wardrobe for the occasion. Oviedo are those ladies fed up with the pandemic and wanting a celebration even though they can only take off their masks for a while. The city recovers one of its most important appointments. The awards They resemble those of 2019 again, they have been called by those of recovery. Neighbors wait for the winners and the Royal Family at each appointment. Not even a lamppost that has always been in the middle of the entrance to the Campoamor Theater, where the ceremony has returned after it was moved to a Reconquista room last year, is going to spoil the day. To avoid crowds and to obstruct the passage, the site is changed, a straighter path is created for the carpet and the party begins.
The bagpipes of more than 20 bands from all over Asturias have sounded again to receive the guests and the more than 700 people who have filled 60% of the theater’s capacity, which, taking advantage of last year’s break, has changed its aesthetics. The incidence in this region is low and despite the desire for normality, the organization has preferred to maintain the protocols against the covid. The pandemic has continued to be present at the ceremony, also among the winners. Katalin Karikó, one of the award-winning scientists in the Scientific and Technical Research category with six other colleagues for her work to develop vaccines against covid, recalled that her project, although to many it seemed “unconventional and science fiction” , has allowed them to demonstrate an “immense belief”: “If the result of our work could improve the life of at least one person, then we would have succeeded.” And so it has been on a global scale.
The Hungarian biochemist, mother of Moderna and BioNTech injections, who grew up in an adobe house without running water or electricity, has recalled that failure never stopped her or Drew Weissman, Philip Felgner, Uğur Şahin, Özlem Türeci , Derrick Rossi and Sarah Gilbert, the rest of the winners. “We use it to encourage us to think critically,” he stressed. And they plan to continue using this philosophy, technology and those techniques that seem like science fiction to investigate ways to prevent HIV, malaria, reduce cancer and treat many other diseases. “We know, the sick are waiting,” he concluded with a message of encouragement, “stay curious, ask yourself questions and stay the course no matter how winding the road ahead may be.”
The journalist, writer and activist for women’s rights Gloria Steinem has used her first visit to Spain to remember the lessons learned in this last long year of the pandemic. Steinem has recounted how in the United States, men, confined to their homes, have begun to know their own children, the importance and responsibility of caring. “On many occasions this freed people from the bondage of gender roles, which are actually quite new in the history of mankind,” he assured. Although at the same time it has underlined the increase, in many countries, of gender violence due to confinement. He has witnessed how the racism exacerbated by the Trump administration has strengthened the Black Lives Matter anti-racism movement. He has experienced the change in the definition of what is an essential worker, “the front-line personnel and the employees of the grocery stores tended to beat the bankers and the captains of the industry, it is something amazing!”, Has said in his particular tribute these trades.
But perhaps the most important lesson learned by the promoter and advocate of the ERA’s passage – the Equal Rights Amendment – in all 50 states across the country is the power of laughter. “It is the only free emotion, the only one that cannot be imposed,” he defended, recalling the fear that Hitler and Stalin had of people who laughed. “By valuing freedoms like spontaneous laughter, we preserve freedom forever.”
The value of a mother
Teresa Perales has traveled to Oviedo with her husband and a proud son who, during the reception prior to the awards ceremony, did not stop taking videos and photos with his camera. The Princess of Asturias Award for Sports has long ceased to be “Sebi’s poor daughter”, as a neighbor called her when, at the age of 19, she lost mobility in her legs due to neuropathy. In his speech, a tribute to his mother, to Sebi, he has traveled the path with which he has achieved 27 medals in six Paralympic Games, the last one a silver in Tokyo, in addition to another 22 metals in World Cups and 43 in European Championships. “Without letting obstacles prevent you, at least, from trying. And along the way, surround ourselves with people, friends, people who always tell us like my mother ‘I am here to help you’. Thus, even if the destination is different from the one imagined, the trip will have been worth it ”, said the athlete.
The chef José Andrés, Princess of Asturias Award for Concord, born in Mieres, raised in Catalonia and whose career has been developed in the United States, has defined himself as that immigrant from the world who since 2017 not only cooks in his exclusive restaurants scattered around different parts of the world, but at the tables, which he intends to make each time longer, of the most humble.
“In September I was with World Central Kitchen [la organización con la que comparte el galardón] on La Palma when the island was devastated by the volcano; at the Washington DC airport serving welcome meals to Afghan refugees; in New Orleans where a Category 4 hurricane left millions of people without electricity and many families homeless… And I was in Haiti itself, where World Central Kitchen undertook its first projects more than 11 years ago, and where I returned in August after another catastrophic earthquake ”, he summarized, recalling the work of the humanitarian organization he leads. “Voiceless and faceless people need people to take care of them, to treat them as people. They don’t want our alms, they want our respect and their dignity. And that is the power that a plate of food has ”. José Andrés will donate his part of the prize to La Palma and will double that same amount with his and his wife’s assets.
The speech of Emmanuel Carrère, distinguished with the Princess of Asturias of Letters, has had two parts. One of thanks, concise and direct. Another “inspirational”, the adjective with which the organization of the awards invited him to lengthen his words for the event: “I had written an agreed and even conventional speech, a reproach that they have sincerely not made me often.” To top it off, the author of The adversary has reviewed the daily work of the chronicle that he does in the trials for the attacks in Paris in 2015, published in France by the weekly The new observer and in Spain the newspaper EL PAÍS.
“The ambition of this trial is inordinate. It is also extraordinarily strenuous. Day after day we splash in blood, physical and moral wounds, heinous deaths, and lives cut short. It is a bath of horror in which we sometimes wonder why we inflict it on ourselves ”, he explained. The French writer inflicts this pain in search of “examples of humanity” and of “those places of human experience that most of us do not know.” On this journey in which he remains immersed, he has made a surprising discovery: “Catastrophe stories often reveal the worst in human beings. Here, none of that. We cannot imagine that a collective fiction of nobility and greatness of spirit has been created, yet practically only examples of mutual help, solidarity, often heroic gestures have been described to us. It is a mystery that at times turns what is abominable into infinite exaltation ”.
Although they have not participated in the ceremony, these days the presence in Oviedo of the creator of the performance in art, Marina Abramovic, who has received the Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts, and the Camfed organization aimed at improving the educational prospects of girls from countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi, distinguished with the Cooperation Award International. The thinker Amartya Sen has not been able to travel to receive the award in Social Sciences.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.