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Poet, filmmaker Galeano praises BYU’s “unique environment" during visit

Florida State University's Dr. Juan Carlos Galeano addressed BYU students, faculty members, and others in a pair of lectures on January 30, 2020.

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An internationally acclaimed author and poet, Dr. Juan Carlos Galeano delivered a pair of lectures at Brigham Young University on Thursday, January 30.

The first lecture, held in the basement of the Joseph F. Smith Building, highlighted his poetic work. He read excerpts from his books Amazonia, Historias del viento, and Yakumama, and he then fielded questions from students and others in attendance.

Later in the day, Galeano hosted a Q&A at the International Cinema after a screening of his film El Rio (2018), a feature-length documentary illustrating the life of indigenous people in the Amazon.

Galeano began his first presentation by recognizing the "unique environment" at BYU, lauding the faith-centered approach to education and its ideal relation with poetry.

"Poetry is a religious way to see the world," he explained.

Much of Galeano's work, both poetry and the film, centers on the environment (especially the Amazon River) and its relation to humankind. A native of southern Colombia, Galeano was raised in the Amazon region and his art echoes the intimate connection he feels to that area.

His poem "Aprendizaje," among others he read, specifically highlighted themes and experiences from his childhood, drawing upon the contrast between nature's peace and the ongoing Colombian civil war.

The film delved into the relationship between inhabitants of the Peruvian Amazon and the surrounding environment. Taking a highly spiritual tone, Galeano highlighted their belief that the river, trees, and all living things have living spirits. Also mentioned in the film was the increasing pollution and harm to the river that poses a threat to the area's inhabitants and ecosystems.

Galeano's visit was timely, as the Royal Statistical Society announced last month that its "International Statistic of the Decade" was 8.4 million, representing the land deforested in the Amazon rainforest since 2010 that equals 8.4 million soccer fields.

Dr. Juan Carlos Galeano teaches Spanish American poetry and cultures of Amazonia at Florida State University.

Samuel Benson (Sociology, '23)

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