Spanish journalist and writer Juan Luis Cebrián reviewed the Spanish Transition and his role in the newspaper El País since its foundation in 1976. The interview is among the new series of the White-White Dialogues, in a conversation with the director of Instituto Cervantes London, Ignacio Peyró.
Current Honorary President of El País, the newspaper with the greatest dissemination and prestige in Spanish today. He is also part of the PRISA information, education and entertainment group, Cebrián (Madrid, 1944) and was executive chairman of the parent company until January 2018.During the interview, Peyró highlighted how “We are all witnesses of History, but only a few have the opportunity to decisively contribute towards shaping it” in reference to Cebrián. He is considered to have left a “greater footprint” on the last century of Spanish public life, in part due to how he co-founded Cuadernos para el Diálogo in the 60s.
Dazzled by Fleet Street
London has been important in his life. First, as a young man dazzled by the journalistic atmosphere that was breathing in the streets around Fleet Street and the eternal image of England, at that time complete with shillings. It was – in fact – here that he wrote one of his first journalistic scoops: an interview with Spanish politician Manuel Fraga, in which he is seen wearing a bowler hat across Hyde Park.
Cebrián also lived here during the entrance of the United Kingdom in what was then called the European Common Market. Back then, he spent almost a month writing reports and interviewing many people. By chance, he was also here on the night of the victory of the Brexit referendum, where, also by chance, he met Boris Johnson.
Impressed by Margaret Thatcher and Fidel Castro
“One of the privileges that I have had in my life for dedicating myself to journalism has been to meet many Heads of State. Some very interesting, such as Margaret Thatcher and Fidel Castro, who I always say are the two politicians who have personally impressed me the most, as they used to say the same in public that they said in private, a very rare thing in a politician,” added Cebrián.
El País is a newspaper which maintained a strong intellectual vocation from the beginning, with Rafael Conte, for example, as a literary critic, and intellectuals such as Jesús Aguirre or Francisco Ayala, who contributed to marking the intellectual fervour of the newspaper. Cebrián acknowledged that he had the privilege of being a great friend of the writer Gabriel García Márquez and took many trips with him. His friends also include Juan Goytisolo, whom he defined as one of the most unknown characters in Spanish culture, alongside writers like Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa.
Member of the Spanish Royal Language Academy since 1996 and member of the Conseil de Surveillance du Monde, Cebrián studied Philosophy at Complutense University in Madrid, where he graduated in Information Sciences, after graduating from the Official School of Journalism (1963).
Gabriele Finaldi, next guest of the Blanco-White Dialogues
The director of the National Gallery, Gabriele Finaldi, will be the next guest of the Blanco-White dialogues on March 18th. Prior to Cebrián, the dialogues at Instituto Cervantes London were attended by chef José Pizarro; writer Eduardo Mendoza; and dancer and director of the English National Ballet, Tamara Rojo.
The Blanco-White Dialogues bring great characters related to Spanish culture and relations between Britain and Spain to the British public. In a relaxed environment, prone to confidences, the guests have an in-depth conversation and are open to the public.