Translated by Richard Brown, EntreMundos
1. Italy. “I will show you why a woman can’t direct an orchestra.”
Rossana Paz was 19 when she was accepted into a cello course in Italy. It was July, 2012. Traveling by herself made her very nervous. To her relief, she knew someone else there: Bruno Campo, the director of the Municipal School of Music and the conductor of the Guatemala City Youth Orchestra. Campo had also gotten a scholarship. In the midst of several allegations of aggressive behavior and sexual abuse, the city government helped finance his trip so he could leave Guatemala.
Rossana did not know this at the time.
Rossana Paz and Bruno Campo knew each other. Since she was 15, Rossana had played in the Youth Orchestra under Campo’s direction. She was the cousin of Campo’s girlfriend, and Rosanna’s boyfriend was also a student and a close friend of his. Campo offered to pick Rossana up when she arrived in Rome, and they agreed to split a hotel room while they were in Italy to save money. It never crossed her mind that she wouldn’t be safe with him.
Rosanna says, “To me he was someone very, very close. In the orchestra he was an authority figure, someone who always scared us a little, but outside he was also like a brother or father to me. It was hard for me to understand what happened. That night is one of the nights I remember most clearly. The night he raped me.”
Talking about this is hard for Rossana. The process of accepting that is was not her fault has been complicated. She breathes, her voice is quiet.
“It wasn’t just once. It was repeated. The pain and the fear are paralyzing. You really don’t expect someone so close to hurt you. Back then, I imagined rape like in the movies, like you’re walking in the street and they attack you. You never imagine it in this kind of situation.”
It wasn’t just once. It was repeated. It was never her fault. He had her under his control; she didn’t have anyone else in Italy to turn to.
It advanced gradually. One night he touched her and kissed her. She didn’t want him to, but Campo didn’t ask for permission. Rossana didn’t know what to do. She had seen how Campo reacted when people didn’t obey him. She was paralyzed.
Rossana remembers Campo telling her, “Since we’re so close, you’ll feel more comfortable with me, it’ll be better for you if I take your virginity.”
During the day, Campo treated her as if what was happening were normal. “You don’t like me? I’m not doing anything to you that you don’t want,” he told her.
She says, “He always made me feel it was a relationship. I really didn’t want to believe he was hurting me.”
He confused her, made her feel ashamed and guilty for what he did. She carried that guilt for seven years until now, when, at 26, she decided to break the silence, alongside three other women.
Campo looked for solace in Rossana. He said he was having a hard time, that he missed his ex-girlfriend, that he was doing poorly in his courses and that he felt his career was falling apart.
The more frustrated Campo was during the day, the worse he was at night at the hotel. One night was especially bad.
Rosanna says, “I was alone in the room and I was nervous. Thinking that he was going to arrive soon, and that I had to do something. Thinking about what options I had. Then he arrived. He’d been drinking. He started touching me again. But this time he was more aggressive. He was pushing me. I started pushing him back, and telling him no, to leave me alone.”
“I’m going to show you why a woman can’t conduct an orchestra,” Campo told her, as if he were trying to recover his power over Rossana. That phrase is seared in her mind. During the seven years she hadn’t been able to speak about the rape, that was the phrase that always reminded her of the pain.
He pushed her onto the bed and placed himself over her body. Rossana tried to close her arms and legs.
None of her begging, nor the pain, nor the blood from the penetration and from the bites in different parts of Rossana’s body stopped Campo. “Relax, it’s normal,” he replied. “You just have to relax.” As happens to most victims of sexual violence, Rossana says there came a moment when she was paralyzed and just waited for it to be over.
Campo was 11 years older than Rossana. Since he was a friend of her boyfriend, he knew she was a virgin and that this was important to her. He took advantage of the disparity of sexual experience between them. He knew she wouldn’t talk about it. Not to her boyfriend, and not to her family, because they all adored him.
Rossana reflects now on how Campo constantly harassed her, supposedly joking around, but always with physical contact that made her uncomfortable.
“It wasn’t until recently that the trauma got unblocked. It was really hard to relive it. You even relive the physical pain. For a long time, I had a feeling of guilt, and all those questions. What could I have done? How could I have avoided it? Now I understand what happened a lot better. I see it with colder eyes,” Rossana says.
Four months ago, in February, Rossana found out she wasn’t Bruno Campo’s only victim.
2. How to create a despot who becomes a monster.
Isabel Ciudad Real is an institution in Guatemalan music. In 2006, when she was president of the Music and Youth Foundation, she received a call from the Guatemala City government. Mayor Álvaro Arzú wanted to start a school of music in the Metropolitan Cultural Center and invited the Music and Youth Foundation to join.
Ten years earlier, when Arzú was president of the country, they had worked on several projects together. One was a series of music programs based on El Sistema, a program founded by Venezuelan musician José Antonio Abreu that uses music to promote positive values and transform the lives of children and teenagers from underserved areas.
Isabel Ciudad Real and the Foundation accepted and joined the city government.
“This is when Bruno Campo takes a leadership role and wants to participate as much as possible in this process. He starts assuming the role of director in the artistic side of the program and in the Municipal School of Music,” Ciudad Real explains.
In an interview with Nómada from Europe via Skype, Campo remembers the creation of the school differently. He gives himself all the credit.
“Isabel began the idea of El Sistema [in Guatemala]. I founded our El Sistema so it actually became a real system. That was always Abreu’s vision.”
He says that after visiting José Antonio Abreu in Venezuela in 2005, when he was 23, he realized that Abreu had chosen him to bring the program to Guatemala.
Campo says that Abreu told him, “Go, start an orchestra, see who can help you, include as many as possible, and the more vulnerable the children are in their social situation, the more meaning your work will have.”
Campo says he returned and, with a group of friends, he started a small orchestra in the underserved neighborhood of La Verbena in zone 7 in December, 2005. He did it with instruments borrowed from Isabel Ciudad Real. It was a success, Campo says.
“Isabel and I had a meeting with president [Óscar] Berger to see if he could support us. He sent us to Wendy de Berger, because she was in charge of the presidency’s social initiatives. ‘Great,’ she said. Nothing ever happened. We went to the Minister of Culture, to the Minister of Education. In the end, we went to Mayor Alvaro Arzú in the city government. He was the first to meet with us. Somehow I ended up being the director. It was a title that fell on my shoulders.”
Isabel Ciudad Real met Campo in 1996. He was 14 and studied oboe in the National Conservatory of Music. Ciudad Real remembers him as a boy with a lot of talent—so much talent that in 1997, when she organized the first orchestral seminary in Guatemala for young people from all over the country with José Antonio Abreu, she asked Campo to conduct the national anthem. That’s how he became interested in conducting.
“All was going well. Until, I think, he became obsessed when he saw the possibility of growth. He was a good leader, but started wanting to reach his objectives without going through a process and started treating people badly,” says Ciudad Real.
Other professionals in the field didn’t feel comfortable with Campo either. Among them was the orchestra conductor Igor Sarmientos and Municipal Choir director Fernando Archila, who both worked at the time with the Music and Youth Foundation. They warned that his temperament was not suited for the position.
“His goal was to have an orchestra so he could show off, so he could become the protagonist of the Guatemalan musical movement he dreamed he’d be. But the real value of the project was in the kids,” remembers Fernando Archila.
Things got out of hand. In 2009, the Music and Youth Foundation decided to break their four-year agreement with the city government because they could no longer work with Campo. The city government sided with Campo over the Foundation directed by Isabel Ciudad Real.
The city government provided facilities and part of the budget for salaries and instruments at the school. But without the Music and Youth Foundation, Campo had to create another entity to raise private funds to maintain the project.
That’s how the association, System of Orchestras of Guatemala (Sistema de Orquestras de Guatemala—SOG) began, explains Fernando Archila.
“From then on, he took control. He became the musical director, he had his board, and financing from the city government. Apart from that, there was another association, Musical Youths (Juventudes Musicales) that he got funds from, as well as trust assets. The funding that the SOG was going to have available was fabulous. The problem was that they gave absolute control to a single person: Bruno. No one audited him or questioned his methods,” says Archila.
One person who worked very closely with Campo at the School of Music explained to Nómada that after the creation of the SOG, Campo got closer to the leaders in the Guatemala City government.
“He had no problem saying that his work at the School of Music could be a platform to keep rising, even to an important political position,” this person says.
Many of the 22 people interviewed for this article in the last three months agree that there was a personal friendship between Campo and City Manager Ricardo de la Torre, who was described as “his godfather” and “his protector.” However, de la Torre refused to speak with Nómada and this friendship has not been confirmed.
In exchange for absolute power in the Municipal School of Music and the SOG, Campo delivered concerts with the teenagers and children of the orchestra for the city government, controlled by the Unionista political party. The concerts were good. And they involved exploitation. During the campaign seasons of the 2007 and 2011 elections, they gave up to three concerts per week in underserved neighborhoods, know as “conciertos de barrio.” Without any compensation for the 75 children and teenagers from the most impoverished areas of Guatemala City performing in white and green city government jackets every two or three days. The cellist Rossana Paz, then a teenager, remembers that concerts had Unionista party signs and fireworks at the end.
To the outside, the city government and the Unionistas shined through the music project for underserved kids, and Campo was the star.
On the inside, the reality was darker, one of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.
3. The pattern of abuse and complaints by female students.
The image of Campo’s charismatic personality, which the city government of Ricardo Quiñónez still boasts about on social media, plummets in light of the testimonies in this article.
Nómada’s sources testify to a range of verbal and physical abuse and sexual assault—a pattern of systematic abuse that began long before Rossana was assaulted in 2012 in an Italian hotel.
Campo’s temper and propensity for anger are recognized even by the three people he himself asked Nómada to interview so they would defend him. None of them wanted their name included in this publication.
One of them said, “He had a very bad temperament and was terribly immature. He wanted to change the world and was frustrated that people didn’t understand his mission. So he got angry, and on three occasions I saw him throw things at the musicians in the orchestra. Once, a [young guy with an] instrument started early, and he threw a shoe at him.”
One of the young men Campo threw not just shoes but also water bottles at was Daniel Zuleta. He was a student in the School of Music and played flute in the Youth Orchestra from 2007 to 2012. He remembers Campo as aggressive. Especially with female students.
Julio Julián began as a choir teacher in the SOG in 2010. He explains that Campo never treated him with disrespect, but that he witnessed how the school’s atmosphere became that of a dictatorship. All communication went through Campo. He was the only one who talked to the city government, and he kept the music teachers down. The few who dared talk back to him were fired.
He says, “The teachers were subdued. During the sessions the habit was to just ‘keep your head down’ and listen. They feared him.”
Rossana Paz describes him the same way.
“Bruno Campo taught us to shut up. You would see that it didn’t go well for those who spoke up or didn’t do as they were told. He kicked them out very violently. He humiliated them, with very strong language.”
Rossana Paz adds that the project was directed at children and teenagers who in many cases came from violent environments. “They maybe normalized this aggression even more,” she says, worried.
Professor Julián says that he made sure to protect his choir students from Campo because he didn’t like the way he treated students. In the sessions he shared with Campo, he says he witnessed mistreatment that ranged from cursing for bad play to hitting. He describes Bruno as aggressive and obscene.
“He would always come on to the young ladies. He would get near them, touch their backs or hug them. It was very strange, and I didn’t like it. He was like a Casanova with the female students.”
Maru Amato is a 26-year-old flutist. She entered the Youth Orchestra in 2008 when she was 15. She met Campo for the first time in her own home. Rossana Paz is her cousin, and her older sister was Campo’s girlfriend. Her mother had accepted him into their home and family like a son.
Maru remembers that Campo’s harassment began subtly. It advanced slowly, from verbal slights to physical aggression that was humiliating for her as a teenager, and that he justified it as “games.” For example, one day when Maru was wearing sweatpants, he pulled them down in front of all her classmates at the school. Another of Campo’s favorite “games” was to touch her breasts to make them move. Or to kiss her on her mouth without permission and laugh. He did this repeatedly when they were alone, says Maru, and sometimes in front of other people.
She tried to talk to her mother about what Campo was doing. “Just ignore him, he’s very immature, and he’s just playing around,” she would say. Even she couldn’t believe he was an abuser. For at least three years, Maru tried to pretend that it was a normal sister-in-law relationship, until she decided to distance herself from him when she was 18.
With María Libertad Sáenz, a 22-year-old cellist, Campo took to harassing her for her appearance when she was a teenager in the school. He would say she was ugly, that she wasn’t feminine, so that later he could manipulate her. “Finally you’re getting pretty,” he’d say, winking at her. Or he’d grab her by the waist and look at her breasts.
It was only years later that Maru, her cousin Rossana, and María Libertad accepted and recognized they were abused, that they are survivors. This lapse between the events and recognition of what they were is very common in victims of sexual violence.
“Some of us [students] knew that it wasn’t ok. But we all normalized it, and to a certain point we’ve even repeated his way of teaching with violence. We have to change that,” Maru Amato explains.
The flutist Amato adds that she remembers when Azucena’s case became public at the school.
“She exposed him, and they protected him. We were part of it; we denied it, as if it were her fault. We all thought, ‘She seduced him.’ It is something I feel guilty about now.”
María Libertad Sáenz says that after leaving the Municipal School of Music, she realized that the culture of violence in the community of musicians repeats itself in other spaces. Sometimes even the sexual violence as well.
“This whole process of recognizing Bruno Campo’s harassment and acts of micro-violence has helped me to see other situations in which I’ve been attacked or put down in other places. That began with him and with the things that I normalized being his student.”
In addition to other students from the Youth Orchestra, two female staff members of the Municipal School of Music also shared their experiences with Nómada. Both wish to remain anonymous.
One says that Campo tried to kiss her several times without her consent. In the testimony of the other woman, whom we’ll call Nancy, several of the phrases Campo used with his other victims are repeated. “Relax, I'm just playing. Don’t you like it?” he would say when he harassed her in his office in the historic post office building.
He would approach Nancy until she was cornered and he was almost touching her. Nancy rejected him. “You should take advantage. I’m not going to offer this to you too many times. I have many others,” Campo insisted.
It happened so many times that Nancy was afraid to be alone with him in his office; she always looked for an excuse take another staff member with her.
The last time Campo harassed her, she threatened to report him. “And what are you going to report? I’m just playing, I’d never do anything without your permission,” Campo replied.
4. The (broken) dream of music
Azucena Salinas dreamed of playing violin. She was 13 when she joined the Children's Orchestra in 2010. There, among the multitude of instruments and in the melodious symbiosis of the orchestra with her violin and bow, she felt utter happiness.
Sometimes she managed to sneak into Youth Orchestra rehearsals. She listened with great enthusiasm. The kids of the Children’s Orchestra all aspired to one day have a seat there, among the best students of the music school under the direction of Bruno Campo, conductor of the Youth Orchestra and the leading authority of the Municipal School of Music in Guatemala City.
“Imagine, he directed the entire System of Orchestras in Guatemala, he founded it. I saw him as an idol. He had something special, he made us feel the music. I was dying to be in that orchestra.”
For Azucena, the School of Music was her life. Every day, she traveled 30 kilometers by bus from the village in Palencia where she lived with her mother and brothers to arrive at rehearsal in the old post office building in Guatemala City’s historic downtown. She spent all her time with her classmates. In the mornings she was at the school that the city opened for children in the orchestra, and in the afternoons they rehearsed their music. Azucena felt fulfilled.
One day in 2010, Campo called her to his office. Azucena was still in the children's orchestra and remembers the naive feeling of joy when Campo’s secretary came to take her to his office.
“I got excited. I thought, ‘Wow, Bruno Campo wants to see me in his office. Is it something about my playing?’ Everyone had a lot of respect for him.”
The conversation was short, indifferent. Until Campo changed the subject.
“Why are you so shy? You’re very pretty. I really like you,” he told Azucena.
She was surprised. She didn’t understand the situation. He was 27. She was 12.
Her first reaction was to think of Campo’s girlfriend, a 17-year-old who also played violin and had supported Azucena since she’d joined the Children’s Orchestra. They were very close.
“But you have a girlfriend,” Azucena replied, confused.
“My girlfriend will always be there. I don’t want us to be boyfriend and girlfriend, I just want you to know that I like you very much,” Campo finished.
He had never been so direct with Azucena, but on other occasions he had made insinuations. About her smile, her hair, her skin, her eyes. This harassment was easily confused for compliments from a man she idolized.
“I thought he said it with tenderness, like you’d talk to a young girl. Or maybe a friend. But not like that day. I didn’t know what to tell him. I wasn’t sure if it was good or if it was wrong,” Azucena says.
Campo was the conductor of the Youth Orchestra, but he interacted with all the girls and boys of the Children’s Orchestra as well. Everyone wanted to be close to him. Azucena did, too. He was charismatic, and when he appeared in the hallways or classrooms his presence and power were noticed, recalls a music teacher. He was affectionate with children, the teacher says. He was interested in their musical development, and if he thought that someone had talent, he would make sure they’d be evaluated for a seat in the orchestra he conducted. This was Azucena’s dream.
Azucena didn’t believe in herself much. When they met in his office, which began to happen more frequently, he made sure to mix comments that bothered her with compliments about her playing and encouragement to apply for auditions to participate in seminars. Each time his insinuations went a little further, and they began to involve touching the 13-year-old girl.
“I never knew how to react. There are times when you feel confused, and you think, ‘It’s Bruno and he’s flirting with you.’ And then you react and you think, ‘No, I don’t want this.’ I thought, ‘If I react badly, my future in this place is over, or he’ll turn against me,’ and that’s exactly what happened.”
One afternoon, Campo called her to his office again. He said he wanted to show her something and grabbed a set of keys. He took her to a room where they kept the double basses and closed the door.
“I didn’t understand what we were doing there. He turned off the light, put me against the wall and began to kiss me on the neck. I couldn’t do anything. I was paralyzed. I was in shock.”
She couldn’t even talk, much less scream. Azucena says that Campo stopped only because he realized that she was crying as her tears wet his face.
“Don’t cry. I don’t want to hurt you. I’m not doing anything you don’t want,” Campo told her.
She didn’t want any of it. She was a girl. In a hushed voice she told him she didn’t want this, and left the room.
Azucena wanted to tell someone what was happening. But she couldn’t. Many nights she slept over at the home of her friends Maru Amato and her sister, Campo’s girlfriend. She wanted so badly to confide in them and tell them what had happened, and seek support from them. But she couldn’t. She was afraid they wouldn’t believe her, that nobody would believe her.
“How would they believe me if he was Bruno Campo?”
5. The mothers who confronted Bruno.
Azucena Salinas was improving quickly with the violin. She practiced every day until she finally got an opportunity to enter the Youth Orchestra at the beginning of 2011.
“When I took the exam, I did great. I passed. I couldn’t believe it. I can tell you that 2011 was the best and the worst year of my life,” says Azucena, now 22, with a bittersweet smile, resigned.
Campo’s harassment became constant. His attempts to touch and kiss her against her will when they were alone in other rooms of the school and even at Campo’s girlfriend’s house were frequent. Campo began to get frustrated that Azucena wasn’t giving in. He changed his strategy from sexual aggression to harassment. He took advantage of the fact that Azucena, at age 13, was under his direction in the Youth Orchestra and humiliated and scolded her in public.
“I think maybe he got fed up with insisting and that I didn’t give in. It seemed like he was looking for some way to hurt me.”
A person who worked with Campo at the Municipal School of Music and who requested anonymity remembers that Campo also insisted on speaking badly of Azucena with the school staff.
“He complained about her constantly. The said he couldn’t stand her anymore, that she wouldn’t listen. She’d become a thorn in his side, that’s for sure,” this person says.
One night, in October, 2011, Campo humiliated her during a rehearsal in front of the entire orchestra. Azucena liked another student at school and they spent a lot of time together. He decided to use that against her and said, “Azucena, I need you to begin to behave more like a lady, don’t behave like that with the boys.”
The whole orchestra was silent, looking at Azucena, who was mortified. It was a cutting insult in a sexist society. Overnight, nobody wanted to be near Azucena.
“Bruno stopped insisting. But I was left without friends. I ate my lunches alone. I studied alone. I arrived and left alone. Everyone heard about what Bruno had said. I had a friend, and we were inseparable. Even her mother found out and forbade her to see me so that people wouldn’t think she was like me. He left me with no one there.”
Azucena told her mother, Brenda Archila, what Campo had done. She was furious and confronted him in a meeting. Blanca López, the school’s academic coordinator in 2011, was also there.
“You’re abusive, you’re picking on Suzy. You want her to let you do things to her. You’re shameless! Since she didn’t want to give in to all your abuse, now you have it in for her.”
“Look, ma’am, at no point have I harassed your daughter. Azucena is the typical girl who goes around flirting with teachers. You know what? Sometimes she runs up to me on the stairs, grabs me, hugs me, and kisses me behind the ear. Really, Blanqui!” replied Campo, looking at Blanca López, the coordinator.
Blanca López looked worried, recalls Brenda Archila, Azucena’s mother. She didn’t say a word. She just listened.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve heard that you’re harassing girls in the ballet and choir! You won’t keep treating my daughter like that!”
“A lot of girls are crazy, they go around saying all kinds of things about me. But it’s not true. And what are you going to do, ma’am? Do you have evidence?” Campo asked.
“Of course! If it’s my daughter who’s saying it!”
But Brenda Archila left the meeting feeling helpless. To her, Campo’s cynical attitude and his attempt to blame and discredit her daughter showed that he felt untouchable. And perhaps he was. She knew that Campo had power in the Unionista-controlled city government.
“It hurt so much, I was so angry, but I was afraid to report him. Nobody would believe us. And there were other girls, but they were also afraid to talk. That guy is awful, I really got to hate him. After that episode, Ms. Blanca [López] also changed with my daughter, as if she thought Suzy was bad.”
Brenda Archila, in her house in a village 30 kilometers from the historic downtown, didn’t know what to do. Azucena begged her not to take her out of the School of Music. The orchestra and the violin were her world. She aspired to a professional career in music and had already advanced so much in a year. Her single mother, who worked as a domestic worker in zone 16, could not afford private violin lessons or to pay for a different private school. Azucena remembers it like this:
“I loved that place. Even during my vacations I went in to practice, in spite of how uncomfortable I felt when he was around me. But you normalize it, and I learned to live with it so I could play violin.”
Her mother decided to distance Azucena from her aggressor. On December 29, 2011, for the 15th anniversary of the Peace Accords, Azucena Salinas played her last concert.
6. “Let’s have a threesome.” Another teenager talks.
Brenda Archila was not the only mother who confronted Campo. A year earlier, in 2010, the mother of another student at the School of Music also reported to Blanca López that Campo attacked her 16-year-old daughter.
“Lisa,” a 26-year-old woman who prefers to remain anonymous, says that Campo harassed her while she was a student at the SOG in the Youth Orchestra. She rejected his advances, but Campo tried to grab her hand and insisted, “Are you aware of what you’re doing? You have to be a good woman. You won’t have many opportunities to be with me.”
Lisa’s best friend studied at the School of Dance, which was also located at the Metropolitan Cultural Center in the historic post office building. Campo began to harass the two teenagers together, no matter how hard they tried to avoid him.
Lisa says, “‘We would make a good threesome,’ he told us once. I was 16, and I just thought, what’s wrong with him? I found it offensive. He was always propositioning us to be with him and saying that we should take advantage, maybe because of the position he had.”
In a recess in May, 2010, he called them to his office. He whispered in their ears to kiss each other. Campo grabbed Lisa by the waist. Both were shocked. Campo insisted, “Why not? This is an opportunity. I’ll only give you one chance, and only because it’s you two.” Lisa’s friend reacted. She warned him that he was being abusive and threatened to report him to the director of the School of Dance. Defiant, Campo replied that they could do whatever they wanted.
That same day, Lisa told her mother what had happened in Bruno’s office. Her mother immediately went to speak with Campo and later with Blanca López. Campo denied everything and Blanca López decided to support him, recalls Lisa.
Faced with this sexual harassment and assault complaint against Campo, Blanca López’s response was to suspend Lisa.
For her interview with Nómada, Lisa asked her mother why she never filed a complaint. Her mother answered that she and her sister were going to report it and go to the media, but they were warned by Blanca López that if they involved the authorities, she would make her daughter’s life impossible at any school.
So Lisa left the School of Music and the municipal high school for musicians at age 16. Her case went unreported.
Blanca López and Campo have known each other since they were children, when they studied together at the National Conservatory of Music. She began working in the School of Music when it was founded in 2006 and in 2012 she replaced Campo as director. She is still the director today.
However, she refused to answer Nómada’s inquiries about why she chose to believe Campo in the face of accusations of harassment and sexual assault, and why she never acted or informed city authorities.
7. The "pebbles on the shoulder" of Bruno Campo.
Bruno Campo is currently in Denmark, where he works with youth orchestras. In an interview with Nómada, he described his work with the Municipal School of Music in Guatemala City with nostalgia. He calls it his contribution to his country and a time when he became friends with City Manager Ricardo de la Torre and other professionals through the project.
His nostalgia fades when he is confronted with students’ accusations. He becomes uncomfortable.
“There is no teaching method that justifies being disrespectful.”
“Do you think that you were ever disrespectful?” Nómada asked.
“My dear, you’ve asked me a question that hurts a little. Let’s see. On one hand I feel all this positive pride of how it was the most beautiful thing to create this project. And I also carry my share of small pebbles on my shoulders for when, if in some moment of stress, one raises his voice, or something like that.”
He explains that the incidents of violence, of throwing things at teenagers in the orchestra, were accidents. Things, his baton and lectern, he says, simply went flying from his hands because of his passionate gesticulations.
To the accusations of sexual abuse, Campo responds with his interpretation of harassment and the #MeToo movement:
“Maybe I could have done things a little better. With my age now, because the issue of #MeToo has broadened all our perspectives: As a young person of 22 or 25 years old, affectionate, hugging and everything, that’s something I wouldn’t do now. I’d be much more careful now.”
Campo did not answer the question of whether he wouldn’t do those things today because he knows that they are crimes, or because more women are reporting them.
Despite this lecture on the meaning of the #MeToo movement, he insists on teaching women how they should confront their aggressors. He wrote in an email to Nómada:
“I do remember that my relationship with Maru was as a brother-in-law; affectionate, a family relationship. I teased her a lot, with games and even tickling. Obviously, it was a mistake and inappropriate, something I see now as mistakes of immaturity, and this causes me great sadness. But I didn’t do anything like what she told you with any bad intentions. If she felt any of that as if I were groping her and in some movement felt that I ‘touched her breasts,’ I feel very bad and I am ready to clarify to her that that wasn’t my intention, and offer her an open and honest apology.”
He continues, “It’s awful that she never told me, with me in touch with her family to this day, and that is something younger generations should learn: [Not] shouting it to the press years later after harboring negative feelings in silence, but expressing it to the person exactly and directly in the moment, resolving the conflict, and communicating it to an adult if necessary and immediately drawing a line of respect, that is the healthy thing to do.”
Campo insists, in an interview with Nómada and in several emails afterward, that there is a conspiracy by resentful people to defame him, that he feels pity for them, and that they “start rumors and hide themselves behind anonymity.”
But of the seven women who accuse him of sexual violence, only three chose to remain anonymous.
8. A time bomb reaches city hall.
The abuse came close to blowing up in 2009. That year, Isabel Ciudad Real of the Music and Youth Foundation found Campo’s disrespectful and aggressive behavior toward music teachers and administrative staff intolerable. She especially remembers a situation where she saw Campo humiliate a teacher with shouts and insults in front of students.
“The main objective of the project was the promotion of values and ethics through music. [His behavior] went totally against these values. I spoke to him, and from the Foundation we spoke to him, but he didn’t change. So we had to talk to the Guatemala City Cultural Council.”
The Foundation proceeded to inform the Cultural Council about Campo’s abusive behavior with staff and teachers (they still didn’t know about the sexual abuse) because they could no longer support the project with Campo as director. On the Cultural Council sat, among others, Maria Teresa Martinez, Richard Smith, William Orbaugh, and Tita Maegli Novella. The Council decided to support Campo, Ciudad Real remembers.
“We left because of him. It was a form of violence that we could not support. I think they downplayed it, because they focused more on the [project’s] output. For the mayor [Álvaro Arzú], the output was what mattered. For us, the process was most important. We left the instruments as a donation, and the Foundation left.”
Isabel Ciudad Real emphasizes that she didn’t know about the allegations of sexual abuse until the beginning of 2009.
In the following years, between 2009 and 2012, the abuse continued and the internal tension increased. With the withdrawal of the Music and Youth Foundation and confrontations with music teachers and the mothers who began to report sexual violence in the school, Campo was under increasing pressure.
Fernando Archila, director of the Guatemala City Choir, has worked with Campo since 2012. They met at the National Conservatory of Music, and they never got along, Archila says.
“Bruno decided on the funds and how to use them. He decided whom to pay and whom not to pay, whom to fire and whom to keep. When one of the teachers had a group of good students, Bruno would take them into his orchestra. He used the whole system for his orchestra. That’s how he managed to come off looking so good, that's why the city authorities admired him. But it was at the cost of putting everyone else down. And over time the verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and labor abuse got worse. He became a ticking time bomb.”
Campo had positioned himself as the only contact between city authorities and the School of Music. But a source from the Guatemala City government confirmed to Nómada that at the beginning of 2012, City Manager Ricardo de la Torre received an anonymous complaint about Campo. The complaint not only accused Campo of verbal and physical aggression, but also of inconsistencies managing the budget.
In January, 2012, the board of directors of the SOG held a meeting with Ricardo de la Torre to convey their decision to hire Verónica Molina as executive director of the SOG to structure the relationship between the SOG and the city, which until then had been handled exclusively by Campo.
“It was a meeting between the SOG board of directors and Ricardo de la Torre where I was formally presented. He [de la Torre] said, “Well, perfect, but Siegfried Morales will come in to work as her [Verónica Molina’s] counterpart.”
It was agreed that the SOG would pay Siegfried Morales Q5,000 per month. He already had another position in the city government, but he temporarily replaced Campo as Executive Director of the school while an audit was carried out. Verónica Molina questions the results of the audit because of the friendship that existed between Ricardo de la Torre and Siegfried Morales.
“This process was a fiction. Siegfried didn’t do anything there.”
Verónica Molina found innumerable inconsistencies between the Municipal School of Music and the SOG. There was no formal agreement that structured the use of funds or contracts. However, Campo received a monthly salary not only from the city, which gave him a clean record certification when his contract expired, but also from the Musical Youth Association and the SOG.
Through the city, the SOG operated a private school with around 500 students called the Educational Project of the System of Orchestras (PEISOG). The school was founded so that the children and youth of the orchestras had time for rehearsals, but it was never registered. It operated with the paperwork of another school. The only one who had access to the school’s income, to the fees of the students, was Campo.
Before Veronica Molina entered, the SOG had won a $300,000 grant from the USAID Violence Prevention Program.
“The agreement the whole time had been that the SOG was going to receive this money to create and strengthen the city orchestras. The SOG was going to implement it. But [Campo] was so cornered within the city government that he had already planned his departure. He began to say, ‘with the 300,000 that we are going to receive from AID, I will create my own orchestra and I will no longer need the city government.’ That was what he wanted, to take advantage of the structure.”
Veronica Molina, Siegfried Morales, and Campo had to share an office. Molina, the new executive director of the SOG, remembers that from the beginning she saw things that weren’t right. One day she arrived at the office to find Campo on a desk receiving a massage from a female student about 13 years old. Other times he was showing male students pornography on his computer. Rossana Paz corroborates this. She says that when she returned from Italy, Campo wrote to ask her to delete a file with pornography from the computer of his old office.
9. The letter from mothers and fathers.
On March 14, 2012, a group of 19 mothers and fathers of students of the School of Music wrote a letter addressed to Mayor Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen, in which they presented Campo’s mistreatment and abuse. They requested a personal meeting with the mayor to address the situation.
“Even physical abuse, because many students have been hit with the baton and arrogantly addressed with profanities, with the usual threat of removing them from the program if they protest,” the letter reads.
The family members also complained to the mayor about how the school’s management not only demoralized the students, but also the music teachers: “Unfortunately, as the director [Campo] says, here this maxim reigns: ‘If you don’t like it, leave.’”
The city government never granted the meeting with the mothers and fathers. Campo was neither removed from his position nor prevented from having contact with the teenagers in the orchestra.
Mayor Álvaro Arzú forwarded the letter to Lucrecia Rangel, the Guatemala City government’s director of Education and Culture.
In an internal email dated March 20, 2012, between Campo and several members of the administrative staff, Campo confirms that the previous day he received the parents’ letter from Lucrecia Rangel, along with the observation that there was “too much pressure on the children.” Rangel asked him to reduce rehearsal time.
10. The protection of Arzú’s administration (and the current applause).
The physical abuse reported in the letter was completely ignored by Campo, Lucrecia Rangel, and Mayor Alvaro Arzú Irigoyen.
Moreover, not only were they ignored, but also the city government helped to get Campo out of Guatemala.
Campo’s last concert with the Youth Orchestra was on May 17, 2012, though his contract didn’t expire until September of that year. Neither the trip nor the scholarship was announced to the orchestra or School of Music staff. One day he simply did not arrive, and they were told he’d won a scholarship to attend courses in Italy. Many were very surprised.
Part of the trip was paid for with Guatemala City government funds allocated for youth programs.
Instead of suspending Campo and investigating the serious accusations against him, the city government helped him leave and subsidized the beginning of his career in Europe, where he continues to work with young people.
In fact, the city government, now in the hands of Ricardo Quiñónez, still applauds Campo. On March 8, the musicians of the National Radio Television Orchestra of Albania selected him to receive the favorite conductor award in their conducting contest. Three Guatemalan media outlets documented the news and the city government congratulated Campo on its Facebook page on March 15.
Nómada sent several interview requests to City Manager Ricardo de la Torre through the city government spokesperson. When it was explained that they pertained to the accusations against Campo, the city government stopped responding.