The indelible mark of Antonio Pasquali, director of CRESALC
Defender of the plurality and diversity of identities, Antonio Pasquali considered himself a “UNESCO priest”, always faithful to the status’ preamble that reads: “The organism must work to ensure the preservation and promotion of the fruitful diversity of cultures for humanity”, as he indicated in one of his interviews. The writer, philosopher and communicologist not only had an outstanding career at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, but was the third director of the Centro Regional de Educación Superior en América Latina y el Caribe CRESALC (Regional Center for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean), which is now the Instituto Internacional para la Educación Superior en América Latina y el Caribe IESALC (International Institute of Higher Education for Latin America and the Caribbean).
On October 5 at 5.19 am, the Venezuelan journalist Milagros Socorro announced the death of Antonio Pasquali on the social network Twitter, in the city of Reus, Catalonia, Spain. He had just turned 90, and was staying with his children and family. As of the publication of this note, Socorro’s tweet already had 1,300 retweets. This avalanche was an expected response to say goodbye to Pasquali, who constituted a reference for several generations of communicators from Latin America, thanks primarily to the ideas embodied in Mass Communication and Culture, a book written in 1963, in which the way of understanding communication and information, as well as the power of the media, is discussed.
However, the speed of the 2.0 communications of this century draws a very different landscape from that of the 60s, and Pasquali was able to analyze it in texts and interviews: “The network is becoming a basic support of democracy worldwide (…) Internet has made the utopia of all emitters, and a conquest like that does not reverse itself. In the near future we will have to fight for this vital space of freedoms not to be confiscated,” he told Socorro in an interview published in Revista XXI, on July 21, 2006.
A profile of Pasquali by the journalist Alonso Moleiro makes a panoramic review through his formation as a philosopher at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, his passage through La Sorbonne, Florence, Oxford and Cambridge, until his subsequent return to the Universidad Central de Venezuela, where he took on the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the School of Philosophy – of which he was director – and in the School of Social Communication, where he founded the Chair of Studies on Communication Theory. “Through the years, Pasquali’s speech left behind his Marxist bias in order to evolve towards a passionate defense of freedom as a civil criterion and a fundamental component of the communicational fact, based on a very acute interpretation of technology as a social phenomenon”, says this article published in El País.
In 1974 he founded the Instituto de Investigación de la Comunicación ININCO (Communication Research Institute) of the Universidad Central de Venezuela and coordinated the Ratelve Project, a broadcasting policy proposal that promoted a competitive, complementary and planned model of public radio and television. At the same time, in July 1978, Arturo Uslar Pietri, Permanent Delegate of Venezuela to UNESCO, informed him that the Executive Council had appointed him Assistant Deputy Director General of the Culture and Communication Sector of that international organization at its headquarters in Paris.
In 1983 he was appointed Deputy Director General of the Communication and Information Sector of UNESCO, a position he held for two and a half years, and in 1986 he was in charge of the Centro Regional de Educación Superior en América Latina y el Caribe (CRESALC, now IESALC) based in Caracas, until 1989. His coworkers remember his humility, his cultured speech, his love of chocolates – which he made himself to give as presents at Christmas – as well as his arrivals at the office in a Vespa, and his loyalty towards his coworkers, with whom he always stayed in contact. It was an honor for the Institute to have had his expert criteria during that period.
Pasquali promoted the Unión Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Radiofusión – ULCRA, 1985 (Latin American and Caribbean Broadcasting Union) and the development of the Nuevo Orden Mundial de la Información y la Comunicación-NOMIC, 1970 (New World Order of Information and Communication), and participated in the gestation of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Investigadores en Comunicación-ALAIC, 1978 (Latin American Association of Communication Researchers): “His word will be with us forever, because his work transcended the routines and commitments of the moment, and was linked with the most sublime efforts to unravel the world he lived in, its society and culture,” says the ALAIC Website in a posthumous note.
The Brazilian Marco Antonio Rodrigues Dias, former director of the Unesco Higher Education Division (1988-1991), recalls that they met in the 70s: “Antonio Pasquali was one of the great researchers of communication studies in Latin America in the seventies. I met him when I was coordinator of the communication course at the Universidad de Brasilia, between 1970-72.
Together we defended a new world order of communication. He was a brilliant man, an extraordinarily gifted, intelligent, competent individual, owner of a very strong personality (…) an enthusiast of the use of communication for the benefit of society as a whole ”.
About his vision on communication, he explained to Jesús Piñero that, when he made the leap from philosophical-moral to communicational thought, he began to see and think about communication from a moral perspective, taking the presence of the other into account. “And still today, when I am 90 years old and am without a voice, I denounce the insufficiency and imperfection of a very ventilated concept today, that of freedom of expression (…) we must defend freedom of expression with the same force with which we must defend the freedom of reception, which is as important as the first”, reviewed a note published in The Stimulus.
In an article published by Crónica, Raul Trejo Delarbre, a Mexican researcher, remembers him as a “promoter of communication as an indispensable resource of democracy” that studied the media from a perspective based on philosophy, and in order to understand its implications on people and their contexts; “With obsessive thoroughness he collected figures on the development of communication in Latin America; with a permanent capacity for astonishment he went from the study of the press and television to the critical enthusiasm for the internet ”. He particularly remembers his time in Mexico in 2013, when the Asociación Mexicana de Derecho a la Información (Mexican Association for the Right to Information) and the and the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the UNAM paid him homage. “On each visit Pasquali took the time to go to the market to buy Mexican spices. He extended intellectual creativity to a joyful gastronomic hobby“.
Venezuelan intellectuals also bid him farewell on the social network twitter, including Luis Barrera Linares: “Solid, honourable, courteous, upright, that was Don Antonio Pasquali. We should not forget his citizenship lessons, his passion for the facts of language”; and Alberto Barrera Tyszka: “We must also celebrate that Antonio Pasquali chose to be Venezuelan, who gave us the luxury and wonder of being one of / with us, who gave us a life full of intelligence, restlessness and solidarity.”