THE BUILDING´S RESTORATION, SECOND PART. You may remember that early in 2009 I wrote about the Colón´s restoration plan, referring to the then Executive Director Martín Boschet ill-inspired blueprint sent to the managing company SYASA stressing drastic diminution of production facilities and corresponding increases in meeting places for VIPs and so on. Although the plans were disowned by then Director General Horacio Sanguinetti and by the Minister of Urban Development Daniel Chaín (I wrongly wrote "Emilio" last week) and furthermore a correction to those plans was issued by a small group of independent experts, as time went by it became evident that a less drastic version of Boschet´s plan was indeed being applied.
All during 2009 the City Government stressed that the restoration work was proceeding at full speed and denied that production would be impaired, and a full-scale media fight was on between those that approved of the general direction and those who disapproved. I am with the nay-sayers because the amount of evidence is to my mind irrefutable, even if the Government put all the barriers they could to avoid disclosure of damning facts.
LEGAL PROTECTION. Several members of the Colón´s personnel led by Máximo Parpagnoli as plaintiffs asked for protection of the Colón´s movable and immovable patrimony before Judge Guillermo Scheibler. The judge, accompanied by members of the theatre´s Directorate, plaintiffs, the lawsuit´s lawyers, the Colón´s lawyers, the Master Plan´s Sonia Terreno, the City´s attorney and photographers from the judicature, proceeded to inspect and document in extensive visits the Colón building (acceding to many places that had been off-bound to VIP visitors and employees during the whole year), and with some changes in the accompanying party, the Municipal Exhibition Center (a vast building assigned to the Colón during 2009, close to the College of Law of the B.A. University), the National Library and the Lavardén warehouse in Barracas (about 100 containers). The judge´s sentence unfortunately failed to give a verdict on the immovable patrimony, and will thus be appealed by Parpagnoli and others. But he did order the authorities to adopt urgent measures of protection both of goods and workers; he verified selectively many containers and found many in bad condition; it became evident that the Colón´s Director General Pedro Pablo García Caffi had lied in the Legislature when he said that outside the theatre there was no patrimony: there is and a lot: costumes, photographs, recordings, stage designs, and a big etcetera. The judge also testified to appalling working conditions. After this sentence legislators will require the presence at a meeting of the Culture Committee of García Caffi, Chaín and Minister of Culture Lombardi to explain the situation of the theatre (García Caffi had fled from the Legislature last year when required to justify the transference of almost 400 people).
Fabio Grementieri, as a specialist in restoration and expert for the plaintiffs, declared: "there has been no systematic and correct inventory" (indeed, there are plenty of denunciations of missing goods and a four-page list of disappeared documents concerning great artists´ visits was in Internet some months ago) and "the criterions of conservation and restauration are quite distant from international recommendations on cultural patrimony". "It is urgent to implement a rescue plan impeding the further deterioration of the building and of its chattels".
REPORTS. 1)Parpagnoli presented an excellent report in seven pages about the inspections, quite lapidary (I¨m sorry space precludes quoting it) about the multiple defects found.
2) The City Auditing office presented its conclusions on the period 2005-7 of the Colón Master Plan. Basic points: huge delays on most pieces of work connected with Master Plan-derived bids; and vast price surcharges.
3) New York-based World Monuments Fund has included the Colón in a list of a hundred Monuments and Sites in Danger; a highly esteemed organisation, the WMF is justly alarmed. Architect Juan Martín Repetto of our National Commission of Museums, Monuments and Historical Places, has attacked the WMF claiming that the NCMMH has always monitored the Master Plan and that matters are alright. Grementieri roundly rebukes Repetto and believes the NCMMH has quite failed to condemn the abundant wrongs of the MP.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS. I find it deplorable that the mood of our society tends to support Macri and García Caffi minimizing or ignoring their gross mismanagement of the Colón and revealing hoary prejudices that have little to do with knowledge of the facts or equanimity. The general feeling is that those functionaries will reopen the Colón and that´s the only thing that matters. Ignorance is behind this attitude, but also prejudice and superficiality. When I explain to people details of what has happened with the personnel and the restoration works many seem amazed but diffident, and their old grudge against labor unions comes out. Well, these have made grievous mistakes over the years, but they are completely right now. They want a reopened Colón but not with 400 people transferred arbitrarily or with wrong restoration procedures that will look good …if you don´t scratch the surface. Some things have been done right, of course, but too many haven´t. I predict a difficult year, although warts and all I want a functioning Colón.