It is a responsibility that Dr. Eduardo Gargurevich, professor of Spanish and Hispanic studies, did not expect.
From a single serendipitous encounter, Gargurevich grew from being a young admirer of a national Peruvian figure to becoming caretaker of the man’s legacy.
As a college student in his native Lima, Peru, Gargurevich became enamored with the writing and poetry of Alejandro Romualdo, one of Peru’s most well-known cultural figures from the 1950s through the turn of the century.
Purely on a whim, one day Gargurevich decided to knock on the famous man’s door.
“I liked his work, and I wanted to talk with him about his poetry, so I took a chance,” says Gargurevich, never anticipating how that fateful knock on the poet’s door would follow him all his life.
The student and the master soon settled into a comfortable routine of weekly visits, where they would talk about the state of literature in Peru, about Romualdo’s frequent travels abroad, and what the poet was currently writing.
Their relationship deepened when Gargurevich based his bachelor’s degree thesis on Romualdo’s poems, working from personal papers loaned by the artist himself.
As Gargurevich’s academic career brought him to the United States, he remained in touch with Romualdo, and the two visited each time Gargurevich returned to Peru.
In 2008, Gargurevich learned that Romualdo had been found dead in his home. Given his outspoken political views, many people suspected foul play. But it was determined the artist died from a heart attack. He was 81 years old.
Some time later, Romualdo’s daughter, a noted jazz singer in Brazil, sent Gargurevich an email asking if he would be interested in organizing her father’s collection of papers.
In a Lima warehouse, Gargurevich was surprised to find 24 large boxes stuffed with Romualdo’s lifelong artistic output – published works, notebooks, letters, manuscripts, photographs, drawings and paintings, and complete texts of political debates.
“I am privileged to protect and use these papers. No one has seen much of this material,” he says. “It is a big responsibility to be entrusted with all of it. I am very careful whenever someone requests access to it.”
Gargurevich doesn’t think he should be the sole interpreter of Romualdo’s art, and he is looking for an institute or museum in Peru willing to house the collection and make it accessible for study.
With the exception of a few poems, Romualdo is less known in countries outside Peru because his poetry has not been translated into English. He is widely known in European countries, especially Spain and Italy, where he studied; in Cuba where he lived for several years in solidarity with the Cuban revolution; and in Russia and China, due to his socialist and ideological sympathies.
Romualdo’s words do live on today in Gargurevich’s classrooms, where students in beginning Spanish and upper-level literature classes study his poems.
“His writing is good for learning language because he used language so precisely,” says Gargurevich. “Romualdo was a keen observer of life, and his gift to us is his ability to illustrate the power of his vision in a rich dimension.”