Rights activist, archaeologist, architect honored in Spain

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Alvaro Barrientos

Polish historian, essayist, former dissident Adam Michnik gestures after being awarded with Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities during the 2022 Princess of Asturias Awards ceremony in Oviedo, northern Spain, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. The awards, named after the heir to the Spanish throne, are among the most important in the Spanish-speaking world. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

OVIEDO – The Polish editor-in-chief of one of Eastern Europe’s most popular newspapers on Friday urged those who believe in democracy to defeat the Russian president in his invasion of Ukraine and warned against the rise of “populism, nationalism and authoritarianism” in the West.

Adam Michnik, a human rights activist turned editor of Poland’s liberal Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, delivered a passionate speech upon receiving this year’s Princess of Asturias Award for communication and humanities.

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A team of refugee Olympic athletes, a celebrated Mexican archaeologist and a Japanese architect were among the other prize winners honored Friday at an event attended by Spain’s royal family. The awards are considered among the most prestigious in the Spanish-speaking world.

“(Vladimir) Putin cannot win this war,” Michnik said during the royal gala in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo.

He said the conflict in Ukraine is “a war against the democratic world as a whole.”

“We have sought to defend two essential values, freedom and truth, now threatened by the criminal aggression of Putin against Ukraine,” Michnik added.

Michnik was a dissident who was a prominent figure in Poland’s Solidarity pro-democracy movement and was imprisoned in the 1980s for his efforts to end his country’s repressive communist rule. The awards jury said Michnik had risen to become “a symbol of freedom of speech.”

Other prize winners had equally dazzling achievements. Eduardo Matos Moctezuma led the excavation of the Great Aztec Temple in Mexico City, a landmark event in the archaeological world, earning him this year’s award in the social sciences category.

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban took the Concord Prize for his pioneering work on designing temporary shelters for people affected by natural disasters and armed conflict.

Ellen MacArthur, a British sailor who set world solo yachting records before creating a charity that advocates for a sustainable way of life, received the Asturias award for international cooperation.

The Olympic Refugee Foundation and the refugee Olympics team, who the prize jury said enshrined the values of integration, education, solidarity and humanity, took the sports prize.

Four foreign scientists got the technical and scientific research prize for their pioneering work in artificial intelligence.

Juan Mayorga, one of Spain’s most popular and respected playwrights, won the award for literature.

The fine arts award went to two renowned figures from the world of flamenco, singer Carmen Linares and choreographer-dancer María Pagés, both from southern Spain, for modernizing the Spanish dance form.

The prizes, which earn the winners 50,000 euros ($49,800), are handed out annually by a foundation named for Spanish Crown Princess Leonor.


AP reporters Aritz Parra in Oviedo, Spain, and Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal, contributed to this report.