CHINA / POLITICS
"I am Just a Grain of Sand in the Vibrant Cultural Exchanges between China and Latin America"— A Uruguayan Family's Bond with China Across Generations
Published: Jul 14, 2021 06:02 PM
In 1975, a Uruguayan teenager named Pablo Rovetta came to China with his parents and has been studying, working and living in China ever since. Speaking Chinese with an authentic Beijing accent, Pablo Rovetta prefers to be called his Chinese nickname "Lao Luo" (old chap Luo, as Luo sounds similar with "Ro" in Rovetta). He has been a witness of China's development and progress towards prosperity, and a participant in the cultural exchanges between China and the world. He has been through China's transformation and seen firsthand the country's enormous achievements in all respects.

Lao Luo's story with China began with his father, Vicente Rovetta, who was a member of the Communist Party of Uruguay and a bookseller. In the 1950s, Vicente set up a book store named "Nativa Libros" in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Vicente's store introduced books on China to many readers in Uruguay and Latin America, and he effectively became an important facilitator of cultural exchanges between China and Latin America. From 1966 to 1967, Vicente visited China twice, during which he met with both Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Even 20 years after that, Vicente felt excited whenever he recalled the scene of the meeting. He had never expected to shake hands, hold talks and take photos with the two great men in Chinese and world history, not able to find a proper word to describe how he felt at that extraordinary moment.

 Vicente Rovetta in a convivial conversation with Mao Zedong in 1967

Vicente Rovetta in a convivial conversation with Mao Zedong in 1967


Back then, Lao Luo was still a young boy who knew little about China. However, the Chinese tea, calendars and paintings at home and the many Chinese books in his father's study all brought him closer to the Chinese culture. Lao Luo still remembers the books in his father's study, especially a comic book Yu Gong Yi Shan (How a "Foolish" Man Moved Mountains). At that time, he was also fascinated by the works of Lu Xun, Lao She, Ba Jin and other Chinese writers.

In 1975 when Lao Luo was 17, he came to Beijing with his parents and his sister. He studied at Beijing Language and Culture University and then Tsinghua University, having seven years of wonderful life on campus. He loves China and enjoys making Chinese friends. Friendly, optimistic and resilient was the first impression he had about the Chinese people. His life has been closely linked to China ever since. Lao Luo often tells his friends proudly that his family is one of the longest-staying Uruguayan families in China, and he himself maybe the longest-staying Uruguayan in the country.

Pablo Rovetta in China

Pablo Rovetta in China


In 1986, when his parents were heading back to Uruguay, Lao Luo chose to stay because he did not want to disconnect with China. In the following 30-plus years, Lao Luo witnessed many historic moments of the country. He saw firsthand China's reform and opening-up and how this country left behind backwardness and has grown into the world's second-largest economy. He was particularly impressed by China's success in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, which in his view is unprecedented in human history. In an interview, he said approvingly about China's determination to tackle poverty and its relentless efforts to explore solutions to it. He stressed that China's success in poverty reduction in recent years cannot be achieved without the commitment and leadership of President Xi Jinping. 

Lao Luo is proud to be one of the pioneers promoting cultural exchanges between China and Uruguay. He has, as he once said, made his modest best to share life experiences in China with the Spanish-speaking world and present as many aspects of Chinese culture as possible. He worked at the China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration for more than a decade, during which he was involved in the translation of several Chinese literary works and authored the book Los Años Setenta en China (In China in the 1970s) that tells the historic events he experienced in China. He opened the "China — Reflexiones Orientales" website to introduce China to Spanish-speaking readers. His experiences were also included in Historia Oral: Tesigos del Intercambio Cultural Entre China y América Latina. Despite his numerous contributions to the cultural exchanges between China and Latin America, Lao Luo talked modestly of his efforts as "just a grain of sand in the great undertaking."

In 2018, Lao Luo's father Vicente passed away. Lao Luo took over and has continued to promote cultural exchanges between China and Latin America. The half-century-long connection with China of the two generations of the Rovetta family epitomizes China's relations with Uruguay and Latin America. Their story continues and their friendship with China will be passed on from generation to generation.

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