Last weekend the usual summer assembly was held, inevitably this year with few in live presence and many remotely hopefully for the last time.
After 2 consecutive terms of Francesco Lo Mastro the presidency was entrusted to Francesco Sauro.

The new Board of Directors, on the other hand, is made up of: Tullio Bernabei, Gaetano Boldrini, Leonardo Colavita, Ada De Matteo, Antonio De Vivo, Alessio Romeo, Natalino Russo and Marco Vattano.
The members and the new CD take the opportunity to thank the outgoing CD and the president Lo Mastro for the work done in recent years, especially for the ability to keep the Association alive and active even in really complex times like the ones we are experiencing.

Below is a short interview to introduce the new president Francesco Sauro.

President after 9 years as vice president; almost a natural passage. Did you expect this election?

I joined La Venta when I was 21. For me this association represented a myth, as well as its founders, of whom I was deeply in awe. Over the years I have found myself sharing ideas and dreams with many partners, and then trying to better target projects and activities alongside that giant that was Giovanni Badino. Finally, the last six years with the council led by Francesco Lo Mastro have been a further phase of personal growth. At these elections I felt that I could no longer hold back, despite the difficult time that expedition speleology is going through, given the global situation. It was my duty to make myself available and I am grateful to the association that has given me confidence.

It is well known that you have a life full of work tasks. Do you think it will be difficult to reconcile them with the commitments that this new assignment will require?

Indeed, it is a complex period of my life full of work projects, research and professional activities. Of course, it won't be easy. But as always, it is the passion for exploration that guides us on this path. La Venta remains a large organization, in which there are many people with a huge wealth of experience. I am convinced that with the support of the founders and the active support of the younger members, I will be able to carry out the new assignment. The new board is a beautiful blend of founding members, others who have spent many years on the association and some recently joined, in their first experience on the board of directors. The important thing is to leave calmly! But also to set goals that match our dreams.

In this last year, La Venta has also undergone a transformation dictated by force majeure: like many other associations it has had to change its company name and statute to become an APS. Were there any major changes? How will they affect the life and activities of the Association?

The last year of a forced break from projects served precisely to focus on these bureaucratic aspects that we did not want to underestimate. La Venta has been renewed with a new statute in line with the new requirements imposed by the reform of the Third Sector. This also allowed us to review the internal organization, the insurance aspects, the management of the members. It was an enormous effort, carried out above all by the outgoing president Lo Mastro and by the founder Antonio De Vivo. I am really grateful to all the outgoing board for leaving me an association that has already been reformed from this point of view.
These changes will certainly have an impact on the future life of the association. At the same time, however, we do not want the Venta to change its original spirit, which is that of a close-knit group of friends who want to get to know new territories and do something concrete to safeguard and disseminate the wonderful world of caves.

The Association has stopped for nearly two years as regards shipments due to the Covid-19 pandemic. How do you expect these next 3 years to be?

The restart will necessarily be slow. We have many projects in the drawer, from the volcanic caves of the Galapagos and Iceland, to the glaciers of the Alps, from the quartzites of Colombia to the salt diapirs of Iran. But, at least for some time, traveling will no longer be as simple as the pre-pandemic period, and it will carry with it important responsibilities regarding the preventive actions to be taken in contacting populations living in remote places. . I believe it will be very important to develop projects that are deeply shared with speleology and local institutions. Shortly before Covid-19 spread globally, we were engaged in an expedition to Palawan (Philippines) together with Filipino speleologists. It was a satisfaction to see that in the last year, while we were unable to travel, they continued with the explorations and documentation work they had begun together with our partners.
For La Venta, the important thing is that each project opens a path to awareness of the importance of geographic exploration, with particular attention to the underground world. It is not always necessary for us to walk it to the end.

Is there a particular goal that this new CD has for its mandate?

There are several. But one that matters to me is the involvement of new speleologists and researchers who want to try their hand at complex and ambitious geographic exploration projects. I would like to make La Venta become a tool to help fulfill the exploratory dreams of people who come to our door showing the same spirit of adventure and friendship as we do. In this sense, I have some ideas that we will develop in the coming months. But to be able to set up effective support it is also necessary to find new economic resources to invest in projects. Speleological exploration is no longer a niche sector. The new communication channels, digital photography, the action of speleologists have made this activity more and more "visible" and appreciable. It is important that institutions and sponsors understand its potential and support it.

We conclude by asking you: despite the problems linked to the economic crisis and the pandemic crisis, La Venta's exploratory and editorial projects have been numerous in recent years. Are there already new projects on the horizon?

On the publishing front, the book on Naica and the crystal caves will be released very soon. But others are certainly waiting to be written, such as the one on quartzite research. We also hope to start again this summer. We will give our support to the “North side of the Alps” glaciospeleology project, together with various other Italian and foreign associations. Furthermore, from the autumn we are confident that we will resume the activities planned in Colombia, Chiapas and Iran. But a project that I would like to set up in the coming years is also that of studying lava caves in different contexts, such as the Galapagos and Iceland. This is one of the few underground worlds that La Venta has not yet properly investigated. I think that the scientific research that I have carried out in recent years on the extraterrestrial caves and lava tubes of Lanzarote will be able to give this new push to document and explore this type of underground cavity too often underestimated


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