by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
January 30, 2007
JOSÉ MARÍA PERÉZ-RUIBAL, 88, WAS A DEVOTED FATHER, BRILLIANT SCHOLAR, AND DISTINGUISHED TEACHER
CUZCO, Peru, Jan. 30, 2007 [Updated Feb. 7, 2007]-- The streets of ancient Cuzco are a little emptier tonight. My father-in-law, his family's beloved "Papa José," passed away in a hospital in Cuzco at 8 p.m. after an illness of two months. Professor José María Peréz-Ruibal Gonzales was 88, and all of his family and the city he loved and the thousands he educated will miss him profoundly.
It is hard not to weep even now, hours later, when I think of this good, gentle, caring and committed man who spent his lifetime teaching Cuzqueńos and Peruvians the great literature of his country's ancient conquerors, the Spanish, and yet was a fiery supporter of the political causes of Peru's poor and oppressed.
Like his devoted and loving wife, Victoria Rodriguez Tohalino - our dear "Mama Vicky" - he spoke some Quechua, the language of Peru's indigenous descendants of the Incan empire, and so he had a grasp of the full range of his timeless culture and great compassion for all its people. A faculty publication of the National University of San Antonio Abad del Cusco recently published a cover story that extolled his service and his erudition.
Cuzco, which is 3,000 years old and rests at 11,500 feet in the Peruvian Andes, is higher than the nearby ruins of Macchu Pichu and is said to be the oldest city in the Americas, founded more than 2,200 years before the rise of the Incan civilization, which was extinguished there with the death of Tupac Amaru in 1572. Professor Peréz-Ruibal, who was born in Cuzco on Sept. 22, 1918, was a lifelong resident and friend of the city, intimately familiar with its rich past and prosperous present.
His passing was announced on television, radio and in the Cuzco newspapers, prompting an enormous outpouring of condolences to the Perez-Ruibal family. More than 80 large floral wreaths were received from friends and family, and more than 300 people - many of them fellow and former members of the College of Sciences - his beloved Ciencias - gathered there for a funeral service and procession in his honor. At his internment in a mausoleum reserved for distinguished Cuzqueńos, dozens of hands reached to guide his coffin to its final resting place.
Papa José was overjoyed when his daughter, Mireya, came to Cuzco from Florida several weeks ago to care for him, hoping to help return him to health. His daughter Maria Victoria, or "Cucha," as we call her, and his sons Edison, Franklin and Ivan, were the joy of his life. His greatest sorrow was to lose his son, Ivan, when Shining Path assassins shot him to death in his office at the university where he taught economics, apparently because Ivan wasn't far enough left to suit them.
More than 10,000 people attended Ivan's funeral. Many believed that Papa José's remarkable son, then a minister of tyoruism in the Cuzco mayor's cabinet and leader of a large labor union, was on the fast track to the presidency of Peru; the loss of Ivan was a terrible blow that his sorrowing father nonetheless suffered with grace.
Long after his retirement from teaching, he loved to read all the daily newspapers and talk about politics and life. He would meet his friends almost every day in the warmly-lit cafes that dot the city. Most were retired members of the faculty from Nacional Universidad San Antonio Abad, where his lectures on Spanish Literature were always popular, and where he retired with elaborate and well-deserved ceremonies honoring his decades of teaching.
Papa José, who was barely five feet tall, was short in stature but his giant influence as a teacher and parent will be long felt. His son Col. Edison Peréz-Ruibal is commander of police in an entire state in Peru. His son-in-law, Cesar Molero, is in charge of Cuzco's motorcycle police; his daughter, César's wife Cucha, is a leader of her community and a progressive social worker; his youngest son, Franklin, is a municipal water engineer.
Each of them, and all of his cherished grandchildren, reflect the high intelligence and sturdy, ambitious and focused character of their patriarch. Among his former students are some of Peru's most distinguished scholars, generals and public officials, many of whom were present at the funeral rites.
Papa José's grandchildren, Eduardo Luna, M.D. and Cecilia Luna Del Risco, Alejandro (a star soccer player) and Fatima Molero, Franklin, Eric and Stephanie, Edison, Jr., Elvia and Irena, along with Ivan's daughter, Kathy, are all bright, intelligent young people who shared their grandmother's deep devotion to their grandfather.
It is the custom in Cuzco to have a wake for the dead the night after death, and to bury the deceased the following day. Accordingly, the wake was held on Monday, Jan. 31, and Papa José was interred on Feb. 1.
All of us will miss him more than we can say. He was a good, loving man whose smile and bright eyes will stay with me and all of his family forever.
In Loving Memory Of Papa José