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Raúl Zurita is awarded UA's Doctor Honoris Causa Degree

The University President has announced the creation of a joint Academic Excellence Centre with Latin America with a view to further developing this relationship

Zurita: "I lived in Chile during the dictatorship; I survived both those grim times and my own self-destruction". Writing poems was my way to resist, to avoid madness, to not give up. Writing is my own private resurrection". 


Alicante, 5 March 2015

Today, Raúl Zurita, the most relevant Chilean poet after Pablo Neruda, received the University of Alicante's Doctor Honoris Causa Degree as a tribute to his work and his international presence. The University of Alicante is, as it was with Mario Benedetti, first to award this honour to the poet. 

Darcy Fuenzalida, President of Federico Santamaría Técnico University of Chile, Juan Pablo Prieto, President of Viña del Mar University of Chile, Francisco Marambio, Ambassador of Chile in Spain, Mariano Fernández, Ambassador of Chile in Germany, and Felipe Palau, Director General of Universities, Higher Education and Sciences, attended the ceremony. 

Celebrations began before the ceremony, with the planting of an araucaria and the unveiling of an engraving of the poet's verses on a rock, which will be placed opposite the emblematic Control Tower, next to the verses unveiled by Benedetti when he was awarded UA's Doctor Honoris Causa Degree in 1997.

José Carlos Rovira, Professor of Latin American Literature and sponsor of the new Doctor Honoris Causa, gave a heartfelt Laudation where he analysed the path that Zurita has walked as a poet and as a person, and highlighted the importance of his work, always tightly linked to his own personal experiences during Chilean dictatorship.

After the Laudation, President Manuel Palomar solemnly granted Raúl Zurita the Doctor Honoris Causa Degree of the University of Alicante. In his acceptance speech, the poet told some of his experiences during Chilean dictatorship, explaining how poetry became a way out of despair for him: "Writing those poems was my way to resist, to avoid madness, to not give up. I felt that it was necessary to fight suffering and pain with art and poetry that were stronger than all the damage that was being done. I lived in Chile during the dictatorship; I survived both those grim times and my own self-destruction". Zurita explained his writing comes from a sort of unrepairable despair, and, at the same time, an awkward kind of joy. "To write, you need to set yourself on fire, burn yourself to the ground until there is not a wisp of muscle, bone or flesh left. To write, you put life on hold, and therefore put death on hold too. I write because it is my own private resurrection", he said. 

Zurita defined poetry as "the overwhelming kingdom of violence, and also the not less overwhelming kingdom of mercy". According to him, the history of poetry is a record of adversity and the countless names of tragedy: Helen, Menelaus, Hector, Andromache and the ashes of their devastated castles, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Baghdad and Gaza. But it is also the kingdom of mercy. The Chilean poet also stood for the importance of defending our mother tongue, which for him is "an act of love, enduring love that lives beyond death" and ended his speech saying that "poetry is my contribution to building the Paradise, even if, according to all evidence, it is just a mad daydream". 

President Manuel Palomar closed the event with a speech where he talked about Raúl Zurita's long career as an artist and also as a member of the academic and cultural community, highlighting his close scientific and academic collaboration with the UA, which started already decades ago.

Palomar also emphasised the academic, scientific, cultural and social commitment of the University of Alicante with Latin America. This commitment translates into strategic actions and alliances such as Miguel de Cervantes Virtual Library (whose main objective is to digitalise and spread Latin American culture), the award of UA Doctor Honoris Causa Degree to Mario Benedetti in 1997, Havana Project (born in 1996 from an agreement between the University of Alicante and the Office of the Havana City Historian), the Mario Benedetti Centre for Latin American Studies, international gatherings such as the tributes to Pablo Neruda and Gonzalo de Rojas, countless cooperation projects, courses, seminars, research activities and PhD projects. In his speech, the University President announced his "intention to diversify these relations by creating a joint Academic Excellence Centre with Latin America, which will be the backbone and the coordinating unit for the activities mentioned above, and will also help us increase UA's presence and commitment by means of study, research, PhD and Erasmus plus programmes, as well as other exchange programmes for teachers and students".

Palomar added that "boosting internationalisation is an essential bet for the future". The University of Alicante has mobility agreements and partnerships with over 700 universities in more than 100 countries throughout the world. For this reason, Palomar is claiming the role of the UA "as an ambassador of this region, whose large network of connections can be positive not only for the university, but also for the townships around it and, potentially, their institutions and companies".

On the event of this award, the University of Alicante's Mario Benedetti Centre for Latin American Studies has organised a wide range of activities entitled "Tribute to Zurita", which started last Monday with a press conference to announce the creation of Zurita's portal in Miguel de Cervantes Virtual Library and the celebration of an International Colloquium on the poet. This afternoon, the tribute will continue with a poetry reading where eleven poets will read verses by Raúl Zurita in several spots in the city of Alicante. At 11 pm, in Clan Cabaret pub, Zurita himself will read some of his poems as the coda to the celebrations. 

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