Sunday, January 6, 2008

Professor Luis Aguilar, R.I.P.

No eyes twinkled brighter, and no Georgetown professor’s history lectures were infused with more joy than those of Luis Aguilar, who passed away in Miami last night.

In a lecture in his Revolutionary Movements in Latin America course, he used an anecdote to teach that the concept of democracy carries different meanings in different places. Professor Aguilar told us about a political rally he attended in rural Peru, where he stopped listening to the high-minded rhetoric and approached a campesino at the back of the crowd to ask him what democracy meant to him. “La democracia,” he replied, “es que nadie me pegue” (“that no one beats me”).

He was Cuban to the core – maybe that’s why he had such a sense of hospitality that he invited students to his home one night to drink wine and talk – but his national experience was not central to his teaching. He had attended school with Fidel Castro and his impressions of that experience, as I remember, almost had to be dragged out of him by students.

His post-professorial newspaper articles in El Nuevo Herald nearly always included references derived from his classical education that made me scramble for the reference books.

Those articles also evinced a generous spirit; Armengol reprints a poetic one in his blog, where a prophet answers the question, “When are we going back to Cuba?”

El Nuevo’s obituary is here.

[Herald photo.]


leftside said...
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Anonymous said...

Phil's comments about Lundy brought back my own fond memories of such a wonderful man.

Leave it to leftside to mar this post with another of his warped rants.

Phil Peters said...

Marred no more.

leftside said...
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Anonymous said...

leftside, what you posted was in extremely poor taste and Mr. Peters rightly took offense to it.

Phil Peters said...

I have deleted two comments because I’m not going to host a crummy political debate here about Professor Aguilar, above all in the period between his passing and his burial.

Unknown said...

Transcurría el inicio de la década de los 70, cuando entré a georgetown university. Tuve la oportunidad de ser alumno del profesor Aguilar en sus lecturas de Historia y durante los años de estadía en washington d.c. compartí su profundo conocimiento y amena conversación. Hoy, al enterarme casualmente de su fallecimiento, invoco a El Creador por el descanso eterno de su alma y guardo los recuerdos de sus enseñanzas. Haroldo Romero.

leftside said...
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theCardinal said...

I had the pleasure of attending some of Dr. Aguilar's lectures at UM and found him to be one of the most brilliant and cultured minds that I ever encountered.

Every lecture was an adventure in discovery. You had no idea where he was going to go...and as he told stories, sprinkled us with anecdotes he would always pause for a moment ans say, "and the best book to read about this is..."

It is tragic for such a remarkable man to be stricken by such a disease. Mr. Peters, thank you for your poignant post.

Wotan said...

5. 11. 2011 23:17
I was never so completey charmed and made to feel as my study should continue as by this expressively alive master and defender of the Latin view of History. He loved to be baited with questions he hadn't heard in a while and smiled in anticiption of explanations of Regis Debray or Angola, as J was oldest in the two classes that made my love of History abiding. I regret that I was in Chile 7 years and feel the loss of a man who inspires me still. Politics had nothing to do with his kind gentility. May you know my shame at never thanking you.
John E. Tisdall