In the main hall of the Ateneo de Madrid, that splendid 19th-century modernist chair through which illustrious figures such as Einstein, Teresa de Calcuta and Ortega y Gasset have paraded, a Spanish handyman, a “passionate and atypical” diplomat, was paid homage this Tuesday who, among his thousand and one insomnia, was able to console the political orphanage of Argentina in 2001For instance.
He also campaigned for the rights of the most helpless children in the universe and improved the lives of hundreds of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in Spain.
It was Carmelo Angulo and he died of cancer at the age of 75 on the last day of November last year.
This is why his countless friends, family and collaborators wanted to remember him at the Ateneo de Madrid, the private cultural institution where Carmelo presided over the Ibero-American Section.
“Everything was passion in him. Everything was projects”, defined Luis Arroyo, president of the University.
When the news of his death spread, as it did in life, the world, his family welcomed a handwritten letter of condolence signed by “Bergoglio”.
The current Pope Francis met Carmelo Angulo in Buenos Aires at the beginning of the 21st century in those days when Argentina was burning.
Cardinal Bergoglio was archbishop of Buenos Aires and Angulo had landed in that land devoured by the 2001 crisis as a representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Even today there are those who remember that the day when Carmelo Angulo appeared in the Curia of Buenos Aires, it was Bergoglio himself who opened the gate to let the car in. “If we cardinals are not here to open doors, what are we here for?” They say that the current Pope has responded to a surprised Angulo.
His diplomatic genetics prompted him to propose a discussion table to regenerate the social fabric destroyed by the Corralito and the five presidents in eleven days who governed Argentina at the time.
Angulo initiated and coordinated, together with Church members, what is known as the Argentine Dialogue.
“Intense and rewarding”
“It was the most intense and gratifying thing I’ve done in my life in international diplomacy: just getting so many people to sit down and reach agreements, even if some of them couldn’t be completed. Deep down I feel Argentinian, I’ve spent seven years there and this is part of my life,” the Spanish diplomat recalled to the Télam agency in January 2022, 20 years after the creation of that space for transversal reflection.
On Tuesday, and in front of the full hall of the Ateneo de Madrid, some members of that Argentine Dialogue sent a video to join the tribute.
They did it from the Santa Catalina Monastery in Buenos Aires, where this space for reflection and debate was born twenty years ago.
“We are grateful for the humanist commitment and supportive dedication of dear Carmelo Angulo, who contributed so much to face those difficult and dramatic moments of this beginning of the century”, underlines the video in which the bishop emeritus of San Isidro, Jorge Casaretto, and the former spokesman of former president Raúl Alfonsín and former spokesman of Diálogo Argentino, José Ignacio López.
“How can we fail to thank you forever for that stubborn search for the common good, that precarious and incipient construction of a space that saved us from disintegration and that was able to support institutions even today in crisis”, added the video of which the ex coordinator of the dialogue table, Cristina Calvo, the sociologist Liliana de Riz, the author María Carbó, the lawyer Marta Oyhanarte, the former ambassador Carlos Sersale di Cerisano and the diplomat Vicente Espeche Gil.
Carmelo Angulo’s initiative made him a Spanish Ambassador to Argentina during the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. He has also been to Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico.
José Manuel Albares, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation was expected to attend the tribute at the Ateneo de Madrid. But a frantic session of Congress prevented it.
However, he sent a recorded message: “Our collaboration and the foreign image of our country owe a lot to Carmelo Angulo,” said the minister.
Angulo was also director of the Institute for Cooperation and Human Development of the Camilo José Cela University and coordinator of the National Plan for Business and Human Rights in the Human Rights Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.
Between 2014 and 2018 he held the position of chairman of the Spanish committee of UNICEF.
“Carmelo has mobilized Spanish society. He has managed to lead the movement of solidarity towards children, young people in Spain and in the world. He was able to bring the capital of Spanish solidarity to territories in need,” said Gustavo Suárez Pertierra, current president of UNICEF in Spain, during the tribute.
“I’m prepared,” he told María José Arregui, president of the Luzón Foundation, which fights against ELA, days before he died.
Arregui shared with those present that Carmelo’s father was a notary and that, as a child, he accompanied his father when it was his turn to make wills for people who were about to die.
“He told me that witnessing those situations had taught him a lot about life,” said the president of the foundation.
“Carmelo has embraced and vibrated with our cause,” he added. We thank him for having him by our side and on our side”.
The memory of Rosa Montero
The writer and journalist Rosa Montero met Angulo in her early twenties. And she wanted to go on stage to remember that.
“He couldn’t go through life without getting involved,” said the writer.
“If there’s one word that defines it, I think it’s elegant, and I’m not talking about physical elegance,” she clarified. “The inner elegance that is harmony, knowing how to navigate the sea of life in all climates, from electrical storms to calm,” added Montero.
“I just want to say one more thing: it’s a pain to lose someone like that. But he lived life with sheer intensity and enjoyment,” he told her.
“He died, as Rilke said, his own death. In fullness. This is wonderful. And he is a man whose life made the world better,” the writer noted.
“My father prepared me for a world where change seems to be the only constant. I inherited his aesthetic sensibility, his dancing hands. Luckily I didn’t inherit his nose,” added Mara, one of his four children, who was present at the tribute.
Tuesday evening, at the Ateneo de Madrid, more than one cried. And when the stage lights went out, it was blaring Citizen of the Planet (Citizen of the world), the song by Simon and Garfunkel that Carmelo Angulo loved.
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.