By Fadrique Iglesias
The use of inference is a fertile source for drawing a framework for solid experimental, and eventually, scientific learning. When a person relates inferences regarding ideas, capacities, and opportunities (and also impossibilities), that person awakens the creative force that lies within.
Fortunately there is an evolutionary chain of evidence for this proposition that goes back thousands of years. As an exercise in historical memory, we merely have to look around ourselves and ask what explains the success of a particular activity.
Bolivia, a country that contains some of the highest mountains of the Andes, is rich in traditions and indigenous cultures, though this is perhaps apparent only to the lucky and the curious, partly due to its landlocked location and inaccessibility, again due to these same mountains.
Nevertheless, it appears that the myth of enclosure is little by little becoming relegated to the status of a legend or founding history of the country. In reality, the development of towns and cities on the eastern plains, the advent of globalization, the Internet, and migration from the countryside to the cities as well as at the international level has enriched this capacity to learn and exchange knowledge, and in so doing, transforming itself into an opportunity for multidimensional and eclectic training.
However, there are still some areas, most of them symbolic, where the possibility of transmitting successful models, especially role models, is not so simple. Persons in North America who have worked extensively with role models, often nurtured by a broad sports and cultural industry, have their equivalents in the peoples and cultures of the Aymara, Quechua, Guarani, and in the melding of beliefs inherited from the West and influenced by Eastern culture, as embodied in the figures of the mallkus, caciques, tribal chiefs or senseis, gujis, and high priests or achachilas. Their teachings have been adapted to everyday life, through not as castes, religions, or doctrines, but rather in everyday activities. This suggests the need to create or develop new positive patterns of behavior, sometimes complementary and others not yet a part of the new realities, not with the goal of homogenization, but rather as a motivating factor, through which we can view ourselves in the mirror.
Of course everyone is pleased when a neighbor or a fellow countryman wins a regional bicycle race, writes a literary work, or becomes owner of a small business. This usually means that something went right, and that some of the values that made the achievement possible are shared by his community of origin.
The feeling of identity and belonging is the most unique heritage that people have. Unfortunately, in many cases, positive role models in contemporary societies often acquire their value through market criteria. If a musical group becomes a commercial success, it becomes famous; if the forward of the community soccer team plays in the Copa Libertadores tournament, he will be more esteemed.
In Latin America, and particularly in Bolivia, positive role models have historically been more hidden from view, and if this is not the case, celebrated primarily as something exotic. Fortunately, thanks to globalization of preferences and cultural democratization, this model is changing. Thus we have a world-class rock/pop star such as the Argentine Gustavo Cerati, a comic actor and screenwriter such as Mexico’s Chespirito, a folk group as The Kjarkas of Bolivia, or an artist at the level of Argentina’s Quino. It is now no longer necessary to be commercially successful in northern hemisphere markets to gain recognition. Instead, this success is complementary to the achievements of figures that have risen to the peak of market success, such as Shakira, Abreu and Dudamel with the Simón Bolívar Symphony, Vargas Llosa, García Marquez, Fernando Botero, or the group Calle 13. The three cultural domains—international, national and regional—are essentially complementary because aesthetic values do not appear to be universal, but rather local, with their concrete and specific references and their contexts, which in the end are our most original and immediate reference points.
Constructing positive role models is not always a matter of planning. Many times it happens spontaneously and in a particular situation. Still, the most fertile period where such models can have an effect is during childhood. For this reason, sport is a powerful transmitter of values and goals in early childhood. Many people would like their children to learn Aristotelian philosophy, to develop an iron discipline, to easily address the tough questions posed by science, and be great novelists. But children above all need something simpler: play, and that is the primary essence of sport.
As stated by Jorge Valdano,* Argentine soccer champion and former sports director of Real Madrid, sport nurtures the link between body and mind, a concept that achieved success in ancient Greece, in addition to the social and spiritual components advocated by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Olympic vision.
Valdano highlights the three characteristics of sports activities: the desire for representation, passion, and the aesthetic dimension. Taken together, these make up the innate learning ability that all people possess, which they acquire almost unconsciously. Ultimately sport is a game, and in the words of Valdano, the game is perhaps the precursor to art and culture.
It will therefore be important, in this emerging region of the world, to use sport for role models. Soon, for the first time in history, the Olympics will be held in South America, in Rio de Janeiro, and the second time in Latin America, which took place more than four decades ago in Mexico. There is no lack of successful examples of sport serving as role models. It is simply necessary to take better advantage of them. The World Cup in Brazil will be held only two years from now. Together, these events can serve as an excellent showcase for promoting role models, through an emphasis on play and education.
For the first time in the region, sport will be the standard against which social interactions are measured, in addition to socio-economic success and even politics. It will be necessary to take advantage of the media hype during the lead-up to an international sports event and use it as reference point.
And when the spotlight shines on the stage and cuts through the darkness to give an aspect of magic to the show about to be performed, when the spectators are in their seats, we should be ready with the script, a plan for enrichment that our children will remember for decades to come.
Fadrique Iglesias was a member of Bolivia’s Olympic team and Latin American runner up in the 800 meter competition. He is a specialist in local development and culture and a columnist in the Bolivian media.
* Jorge Valdano was a world champion on Argentina’s Diego Maradona soccer team in 1986 and player, trainer, and sports director for Real Madrid. Veldano’s ideas referred to here were contained in the documentary Further, higher, strontger (Más lejos, más alto, más fuerte) from the 2011 series Antología – Temas, Radio Televisión Española.