Mario Vargas Llosa has been awarded by the Board of Civismo with the 2018 Civil Society Award, in an event held at the Ateneo de Madrid, in front of a full auditorium. This award recognises his commitment to freedom, understood as a constant throughout his life and professional career, and also his invaluable contribution from the literary and intellectual sphere, where he has become a benchmark in the defence of democratic values and the strengthening of civil society; of which it has been an active part for decades.
“Freedom is the best thing that has happened to us”, said Vargas Llosa, quoting Cervantes, and adding that it is “the one that enriches life the most, inseparable from the essence of civilisation”. He recalled that “as a young man he did not believe in freedom, like many others in Latin America”, and that it was on a trip to Cuba when he realised the deficiencies of socialism, after Fidel Castro ‘impressed’ him but did not ‘convince him’. Revisiting his relationship with freedom, he has evoked the time it began for him in Barcelona when he arrived to Spain in the 1970s before nationalism transformed it, destroying “the tradition of openness and the universal vocation” of the Catalan capital. He has urged not to deny the Spanish Transition, which has brought “extraordinary progress to the country”, or liberalism, which, in his opinion, is one of the most ‘misrepresented’ concepts, to the point of being considered “not only a political insult but also moral insult”.
“Freedom is that which enriches life the most, it is inseparable from the essence of civilisation”
Mario Vargas Llosa
The person in charge of delivering this award has been the previous winner, the spokesperson for the Libres e Iguales platform, Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, who has highlighted that Vargas Llosa embodies the values of the French Revolution. “He is a liberal and, what is more difficult, a free man, who faces life without excuses or alibis, while assuming his responsibility”. And she added that, above liberty and equality, and even literature, the word that best defines Vargas Llosa is fraternity, due to his intellectual and moral disposition. “In its fraternity fits even a world, of course that of the Spain of the 1978 Constitution, which is one of reconciliation, and constitutes the best antidote against xenophobia and nationalism”. She concluded by noting that, contrary to popular belief, “liberalism is fraternity, because it considers the individual as an equal, as a brother”.
Apart from Álvarez de Toledo herself, this award has also been awarded, in past editions, to the former President of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, who received it precisely from the hands of Vargas Llosa; the playwright Albert Boadella; the journalist Carlos Herrera; and José Piñera, former Minister of Labour and Social Security of Chile.