I was a famous international gold smuggler in the decade of the nineties. I was spied on by the CIA and by the Secret Service of my own country, Argentina. In 1997 I was arrested and subsequently passed through seven prisons in the United States and one in Argentina, losing my freedom for eight years and two months. I was described as “The Boss of the Mafia of Gold” by the media, in a well-publicized case that made the headlines of the Argentine newspapers for a long time. An account of my crime was also published in the acclaimed newspaper The New York Times in the United States. I was responsible for creating fraudulent exports of gold of more than one thousand million dollars in association with Argentine and multinational companies, for which I was arrested and put on trial in Argentina and the United States. Due to my imprisonment I suffered a devastating bankruptcy and all my companies in the United States, Argentina, Switzerland, Puerto Rico and Uruguay collapsed in 1997. At the same time on a personal level my important collection of South American Art, my personal assets and all my proprieties vanished in a second.
I was born and grew up in a middle class family of Buenos Aires, and was looked after with a lot of care and with the example of two loving parents. I had everything I needed in my childhood and as a teenager I was educated at one of the best schools of Buenos Aires, going on to obtain my University degree. So… how did it come about that I became an international white-collar smuggler and thief? In this book I answer this question and describe what my illness was like as I succumbed to destructive addictions. I explain how I went from a lifestyle of uncontrolled luxury to having nothing and to being rejected by society as a whole, as well as losing the love of my own family and contact with them. I also tell how I was a slave of pleasure and desire, speaking in detail about my process of self-destruction that was the direct consequence of my compulsive addiction to money.
In this book I describe what my journey to inner spirituality was like and how it saved me and allowed me to be released from big mistakes and shame, to be reborn, to love and to achieve a peaceful life far removed from that of the ego-ridden megalomaniac and money addict that I once was. Here I explain how I jumped from a negative preoccupation with the mind (creator of superficial and peripheral conflicts) to the deepest and radical change. I show how I achieved my current rebirth in a creative way. In a very intimate conversation with the reader, whom I invite constantly to participate, I describe my life and my changes in two well-defined spaces:
• In a Horizontal World with twenty true stories, without chronological order, I show my life before and after the change. In this linear and temporary space ruled by the mind I tell my true stories. There, where fear and money rule, I explain how the real world causes our hard inner struggle, an intense drama in a life full of confused perceptions and unrelated experiences.
• In a mystic Vertical World and focused in the heart, I express myself in twenty poems and in twenty artworks that illustrate the book. I tell how the most radical change is possible by just being reborn from the verticality and vulnerability of the heart. I describe in this space how I generated my self-forgiveness, and the most important of all: I speak of the recovery of a state of pure love achieved in harmony and communion with my children, my family, friends and my environment in general.
It is not easy to classify this book as a purely non-fiction title. Or simply as an autobiographical work, or as a book of poetry, or of art, or of self-help. “Enrique Piana and Half of His Suitcase” is a mixture of all these classifications and many more. By its nature it has direct appeal to bookshops and art galleries, and alongside my live performances of its poems and stories that I am currently doing, the book can find its place in other settings, too. Bringing the book, performances and workshops to penal institutions and to rehabilitation clinics is another interactive target, as well as to MBS (Mind Body and Spirit) festivals. Through its chapters I show myself as I was – a man who suffers, screams in pain, cries because of his shame and looks for his self-forgiveness in the midst of darkness. In contrast, I also sing and dance for joy at having undergone a subsequent radical change, showing my new ecstasy, laughing at everything from a fresh second childhood achieved by choice. The twenty true stories of my life are written in an entertaining and gripping narrative style, whilst the poetic orality of my twenty poems contains language ranging from a certain baroque beauty to a harsh cutting edge contemporary style. My mystic artwork illustrates the book and comprises of digital photographs of twenty original works on canvas painted in acrylic, with the background of the Cosmos acting as a mirror, and showing me as being a witness of myself rising above all my miseries and degradations of the past.
The pages of this book try to deal with the most important topics of existence. That is why three chapters of this book are about love between man and woman. Another three are about my mystic and illuminating experience when making the pilgrimage along the French Way to Santiago de Compostela in 2014, and the incredible characters I met on the way. There are several chapters about how I lived a life of luxury before my arrest and was later reborn by letting myself be carried away by the “River” of life. I myself die in one of my poems disclosing my emotions behind my own epitaph. I speak with God in poems about life and love that I have performed live to some very receptive audiences in Europe. In other chapters, I speak about my shame, selfishness and the egocentric irresponsibility of my former life; describe the pleasure-seeking that was at the heart of my money addiction; recount my days in one of the worst prisons in the USA and under house-arrest; speak about global poverty and apologize to the hungry children of the world; speak up for a woman’s role and rights; reveal my experience with sex and Tantra; comment on political crisis and international violence; explain my own methods of meditation and my search for Truth. I tell how I got the love of my family back, and how I play with my children like a child even nowadays. Many other topics in “Enrique Piana and Half of His Suitcase” reveal me as a man who has totally recreated himself in body and soul under the light of a mystic number that is magically present in all the poems: 7.
Katrice Horsley, National Storyteller Laureate for Great Britain in 2012, wrote at the end of her Prologue that introduces this book:
“I have been humbled by my knowledge of Kike, I witness his courage, strength, playfulness and feel my life is better for my knowledge of him. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for being a catalyst for change, a page turner in the book of my life.”
Liz Weir, the famous international storyteller and author from Northern Ireland, who has told stories for children and adults in the five continents, wrote about the title of this book and its corresponding story, which is the first chapter:
As a storyteller I know that a tale really needs to grab the attention and engage the emotions of the listener. When I first heard Enrique’s Half Suitcase story it did both. His passionate narrative demonstrates how humanity can overcome bureaucracy, how desperation can cause us to go to great lengths to follow our dream. Here one man retains his dignity and shows his compassion in the face of provocation. A message which touches the hearts of listeners and now, thankfully, readers as well.”
Under the influence of this book a vital new space has been created. Initially this movement was about a spontaneous encounter among people who read this book as a PDF – its message attracted them and they wanted to take it into other languages and places. Later this space evolved by itself into fresh pure air, revolutionary, designed in a free and very creative world, wherein the most radical change is always possible. A lot of people are arriving at this “Espacio Media Valija” today and sharing their stories of change, some are simply participating or relaxing and listening to the others. Some of them arrive to redesign their life from a deep and very personal change.
Nowadays I travel all around the world as a pilgrim in search of a bed and food, reciting my poems, showing my artworks and telling my stories. My present life has a mission, which is to float and be carried away by the “River”, and as an artist and delivery poet to share all my experiences in a way that I define like this:
“My words are not teachings.”
By this, I mean that I recognize the way to freedom and change is unique, very personal and different for each person. Continuing on with this theme I am currently creating my second book that includes twenty poems and twenty artworks celebrating the naked body.
My second book book is called “FREEDOM!”
Enrique Piana Velland
Some people say that to be a hero, you must also be a fool. The Hero will be told that the quest is impossible, he will be devoured by giants, seduced by sirens and indeed, if common sense prevailed the Hero would stay home and never accomplish anything. He would stay safe and never grow. He would certainly never have a story to tell.
Luckily for us, in the pages of this book we will find a story of a Hero who was brave enough to be a Fool or perhaps a Fool who was brave enough to be a Hero. The story of a man who surrendered all to follow a path and trust that it would take him where he needed to go. Enrique Piana Velland decided to narrate a new story for himself, to stop focusing on wealth and possession and ego. He narrated himself into a Wise Man through accepting his Fool, through embracing his Hero and through forgiving his young, greedy, frivolous Prince. Forgiveness can be the most fertile soil for growth.
I, more than most perhaps, am aware of our ability to narrate a new story for ourselves. I was born into a family full-fat with love and stories. A family that was poor in terms of pocket but rich in terms of love and joy. However, as a child I struggled with speech, became silent within schools and new situations, withdrew into a land of fantasy where I had some control. The story narrated to me, about me, by others, was one of a child lacking confidence, a child unlikely to succeed, born into a dysfunctional family in an area of high social deprivation. The opposite of the story that started Kike’s journey. I believed this as a truth for many, many years, however I was lucky enough to have stories that enabled me to fantasise and dream myself into other me’s, into other ways of being. Stories provided me with a range of mirrors that offered me differing reflections of myself. Perhaps, in his youth, Kike only perceived one image reflected, one of a carefree, rich boy, offering gifts to others. It was while I was living in Ghana, in my early twenties, that I started to become aware of other narratives that existed, social narratives concerning beauty, intelligence, and ways of being. I suddenly realised what was true in one country, was not necessarily true in another. This was the start of my journey to narrate myself into my potential and ability. My story can always change as long as I comprehend I am the narrator of it. It is rather wonderful that the girl who struggled with speech and confidence ended up being the National Storyteller Laureate for Great Britain, the girl with no voice to tell her story became a woman who helped people find their voices and tell their stories. It is an honour to do such work and I am constantly humbled by the stories I hear.
My story intersected with Kike’s at the point where we were both beginning major changes in our lives,(though perhaps we did not appreciate quite how momentous those changes were at the time.) It was as though we needed to witness each other in order to begin our most painful yet rewarding journeys. Perhaps we found solace in the knowledge that both of us were about to speak the unspoken words that had been causing our spirits such sickness for so long. The most toxic words are those that demand to be said, yet we swallow down for fear they may hurt others but in swallowing them, we ourselves endure a slow death.
I have been humbled by my knowledge of Kike, I witness his courage, strength, playfulness and feel my life is better for my knowledge of him. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for being a catalyst for change, a page turner in the book of my life.