Oliver L Campbell : A Tribute to
Edmundo Ros and Baruj Benacerraf
The recent death of two Venezuelan personalities has gone largely unreported in the Venezuela press, doubtless because they lived so little time in the country and were not thought of as being Venezuelans. However, one gave great joy to thousands of people and the other helped to save the lives of thousands of people.
A Tribute to Edmundo Ros
Edmundo Ros died in Alicante, Spain, on 21 October aged 100. He was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on 7 December 1910 of a Venezuelan mother and Scottish father. At the age of 17 he went to live in Venezuela to study music. He joined the Military Academy Band and was also the timpanist with the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra. In 1937 the government gave this promising musician a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London. A snag with giving scholarships to study abroad is that not all the students return. This happened with the Fundación Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho which was set up in the 1970s to send Venezuelan students abroad, and Edmundo Ros must have been one of the earliest examples. He never returned to Venezuela but instead set up a five piece band in London, the Edmundo Ros Rumba Band, which introduced Latin rhythms to the United Kingdom.
The augmented band, which played at the Coconut Grove Club in London, soon became immensely popular with high society and counted Princess Elizabeth and Prince Rainier of Monaco among its patrons. I can recall, as a young man, dancing to his music and singing along "They call him Cuban Pete, He's the king of the rumba beat." Not only was Edmundo an accomplished musician, but he had pleasant singing voice and an engaging personality. During the war and following years of austerity he cheered us up with his music and radio broadcasts.
Edmundo Ros was a contemporary of Victor Silvester, another popular band leader, who advised him to adapt English music and give it a Latin beat. He took this advice and did so with the march "Colonel Bogey" which he turned into a merengue that was used in the film "The Bridge on the River Kwai." The march was very popular during the last war and the troops put words to the music which referred to some physical peculiarities of Hitler, Goering, Himmler and Goebbels. His most successful recording, The Wedding Samba, sold three million copies. One of my favourites, which still gives me a tingle every time I hear it though it is seldom heard nowadays, is the Haitian folk song "Yellow Bird." Somewhat belatedly, at the age of 90, Edmundo was given the OBE in the 2000 New Year Honours' List. Perhaps Queen Elizabeth recalled the happy time she had dancing to his music in the 1940s and felt he should be so honoured before it was too late.
The opinions are mine but I am indebted to "The Guardian" newspaper's obituary for much of the factual information (http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/oct/22/edmundo-ros).
A Tribute to Baruj Benacerraf
Baruj Benacerraf died on 2 August aged 90. He was born in Caracas on 29 October 1920, the son of Sephardic Jews whose father had emigrated from Morocco to Venezuela. The father was an entrepreneur who set up successful textile and shoe businesses and opened a bank. He subsequently moved to Paris, where he could buy textiles for export to Venezuela. His son Baruj was only five at the time and he spent all his school years in France so he was essentially French in culture and outlook. He was 19 when the war broke out and the family decided to move to New York.
Baruj studied biology at Columbia University and graduated in 1942. He then went on to study medicine at the Medical College of Virginia, having been rejected by 25 medical schools which included Columbia, Harvard and Yale, because he was a Jew. He served in the US Army Medical Corps during the war and in 1949 he returned to Paris to work there. In 1956 he went back to New York to start work on his research on immunology. In 1980 he won the Nobel prize, together with two other immunologists, for his work identifying why some people were more susceptible than others to certain diseases and why their capacity for creating immunity to them varied so much. This work was immensely important in determining the suitability of organ transplants between donors and those receiving them.
A Jewish synagogue In Caracas was vandalised in 2009 and swastikas were sprayed on the walls. Venezuela has always been a tolerant country where discrimination by race, colour or creed is most rare so recent expressions of anti-Semitism are regrettable. They emanate from the Palestine and Israel conflict which has nothing to do with the Jewish Community in Venezuela. The Benacerraf family in Venezuela and the Jewish Community who live there must be proud that one of their number has contributed so much to medical advancement. Thousands of people will thank Baruj Benacerraf for his pioneering work on immunology that has allowed their organ transplants to be successful and not rejected.
I am indebted to "The Daily Telegraph" newspaper's obituary for much of the factual information. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/medicine-obituaries/8772338/Baruj-Benacerraf.html).
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Oliver L Campbell , MBA, DipM, FCCA, ACMA, MCIM was born in El Callao in 1931 where his father worked in the gold mining industry. He spent the WWII years in England, returning to Venezuela in 1953 to work with Shell de Venezuela (CSV), later as Finance Coordinator at Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). In 1982 he returned to the UK with his family and retired early in 2002. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
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Petroleumworld News 11/11/2011
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