El Amo del Uncanny Valley


S-Bol’s 229th birthday won’t be an ordinary one. Right in the middle of the presidential campaign, the Chavernment will use it to push its electoral narrative while continue the adaptation of our history to its ideological purposes.

First, a new state-of-the-art computer reconstruction of Bolivar’s face has just been unveiled. Turns out the Libertador was, let’s say, lucky to live before the invention of photography.

I guess what we saw during our lifetimes in paintings and banknotes was, to put it politely, “artistically” kind. The final 3D version is unmistakably creepy. “Los Amos del Uncanny Valley” indeed.

After that presentation, some findings of the investigation about Bolivar’s death were given, after the exhumation of his remains two years ago. The tests (carried out in the UK) indicate that neither sifilis or tuberculosis were responsible of his death but cerebral edemas, probably produced by histoplasmosis (a pulmonary infection). Histoplasmosis symptoms are, it seems, easy to mistake for tuberculosis.

Tomorrow, the cult of Bolivarianism will finally have a temple of its own as the new personal mausoleum of Simon Bolivar (located behind the National Pantheon) will be formally opened, even if some people doubt it will be ready. According to press reports, Bolivar’s remains have been already moved there.

The construction was accelerated to the point one worker died in a labor accident days ago. The project was maked by constant delays and it went way overbudget. Almost half of the entire Culture Ministry’s budget for 2012 was committed to finish this mausoleum.

These new developments unfold while Chavez has made of “independence” the main theme of his electoral platform, in order to avoid taking about his 14-year record. However, it looks like he will cling once again to the past glories of our history, as his own version of independence has brought more harm than good to Venezuelans.

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  1. That isn’t so ugly. Check out photos of Abraham Lincoln. In besides, this is a hundred times better than many of the portraits that seem to me to portray him with very effeminate features.

      • It is the worship of the Bolivar myth and the transformation of that myth into a near religious mania that is creepy. Using computer software to reconstruct the appearance of someone from skeletal remains is merely a modern forensic tool.

        Note that after all of Chavez’s speculations about how “Bolivar was assassinated by the Imperialistas.”, the final conclusion was that he died of complications due to a mundane bacterial infection. So much for the magnacidio theory…

      • Very creepy, Two years ago I went to the Mare-Mare hotel in Puerto la Cruz and they have a portrait of Bolivar, painted to resemble Chavez, that was even more creepy.

  2. “I guess what we saw during our lifetimes in paintings and banknotes was, to put it politely, “artistically” kind.” For a country that has been obsessed with this guy since long before Chávez showed up (G. Blanco, Gómez, P. Jiménez, and our democratic leaders were pretty pro-Simon), it shouldn’t be surprising to assume that Bolivar was “photoshopped”. The same way Chavism revives the image of a healthier and aesthetically more convincing Chavez, and Nazis did with little Adolf, Soviets with Lenin, etc., a cult of personality -albeit a dead personality- will always assume he was handsome leader. There’s no such thing as ugly mythic leaders.

      • True, another important question is: why is knowing what the guy looked like a bigger priority than solving any of the many things that are terribly wrong in/with the country?

        • Bingo. And its corollary: why is knowing what the guy died from a bigger priority than solving any of the many things that are terribly wrong in/with the country?

          “But there’s nothing terribly wrong in/with the country that another 6 years can’t fix!” said the chavistas.

          • The saddest part is that this 3-D picture is the conclusion of a two-year project that began with Chavez pondering on whether or not he actually died of an illness or was (suspense pause) murdered. So for better or for worse, the death and alleged murder of a man 18 years shy of his 200th death anniversary have been the main crime in the country’s papers. What is it with Latin Americans and their fetish for the past (not to be mistaken with actual histographical research)? Nos va a dar tortículis tanta miradera pa’ trás

      • The original was several shades lighter.

        Would not be surprised if they morphed Chavez face into the original. Just a light touch of subliminal messaging

  3. An important wrinkle: Chávez goes through all the trouble of digging up the damn Libertador, messing with his eternal repose, picking over his bones and sending them off to a lab in London to get analyzed to determine whether the Bogotá oligarchy really did kill him.

    The tests come back and show he likely died of Histoplasmosis, a disease whose symptoms are easy to mistake for Tuberculosis.

    So there goes the poisoning theory, right?


    No obstante, el mandatario insistió, durante sus palabras desde el salón Ayacucho del Palacio de Miraflores, en la tesis de que el Padre de la Patria podría haber sido envenenado.

    Entonces pa que hicieron sopotocientosmil examenes vale!?!?

  4. As I look at this reconstruction I am convinced that HCR has more common features with the founder than HCF.
    Am I right or am I right?

    • You are delusional. Too many generations mixed to find any resemblance.
      And HCR is handsome. Bolivar is actually very ugly. Imagine if they would have shown his teeth too. In an era without dentists and orthodontics, most likely he had bad teeth too!!

  5. Call it coincidence or whatever, but ever since Chavez interrupted Bolivar’s repose it has not gone well for him.

    I for one am glad this has been so. Bolivar se arrecho and now Chavez is paying the piper!

  6. I kinda remember seeing some of Bolivar’s personal effects.

    To me they seemed on the small size, and I formed an impression that he was a compact person.

    These new ‘photographs’ give an impression of a tall person, a la Abe.


    • The impression of a tall person is due to the perspective, the point of view. If this were a photographic portrait, for instance, the camera lens would be tilting, say about 30-45 degrees. It’s a technique to render the subject more important.

  7. Appalling. They should dedicate the original resting place to the worker. What a grotesque Buffoon is this president.

  8. They’re presenting the image almost as a definitive one, but this reminds me of a scene in that Kevin Costner movie in which he plays a spy and they use a software algorithm to fix a picture that points to the spy, paraphrasing, the computer guy says if we told the computer that the picture was of a baboon, what would come out is a baboon.

    The process described for creating this image is based on a 3D image of the skull. That part is an undeniably good basis. But the way they describe choosing the thickness of the soft matter covering the skull and the amount of subjective tweaking involved seems much more prone to discrepancy from reality, I think, than having an artist painting someone who is posing and who will only pay if the likeness is acceptable.

    • They’re both pretty subjective–i.e., better paint me “well” if you want me to pay you well. Maybe a computer composite of all the paintings made of him while he was living would be a better likeness…Still, “Jane Doe” facial approximations based on skulls of unknown (often murdered) unidentified women in the U.S., and placed in law enforcement data bases, are often sufficient for their relatives to be able to identify them.

      • If only that’s what they had done. They used pictures of people in the same anthropological bucket to then determine nose width, nostril flaring, lip delineation, wrinkles? And the way they “determined” was later tweaked with a sculpting software that let the software artist mold as he pleased.

        Your Jane Doe example simply demonstrates how important the shape of the skull is in determining recognition, but not necessarily whether the facial approximation would be more like the original than a hired work of art for which Jane Doe may have posed. A software to “uglify” artist renderings may be a better approximation by what you point out, or maybe a software that determines the statistical discrepancy between photos and artist renditions being used to back calculate his picture from his paintings. But all this noise over something with such a huge and subjective margin of error?! Interesting, but unconvincing.

  9. segun elchiguirebipolar, and I quote

    Con motivo de la conmemoración del 299no. Aniversario del Natalicio de un blanco terrateniente burgués que fue criado por una esclava y educado desde temprana edad por costosos académicos, el Presidente de la República, Hugo Chávez, dedicó unas sentidas palabras de júbilo al fallecido mantuano caraqueño.
    “Nos encontramos aquí, hombres y mujeres del socialismo, para honrar la memoria de este potentado oligarca esclavista terrateniente” afirmó el primer mandatario nacional en cadena nacional. “Para nosotros es importante esta fecha porque los ideales de este mantuano blanco, amamantado por esclavas explotadas y educado en su casa y en los imperios europeos de la época por la más rancia intelectualidad, son la guía de este proceso socialista de reivindicación de los desposeídos. Por ello le quitamos presupuesto a hospitales y escuelas de los más pobres, para construir este fastuoso monumento que a partir de hoy no sólo servirá para recordar a nuestro Libertador, sino que será uno de los cagaderos de palomas más avanzados del continente” dijo Chávez, mientras las 20 personas presentes se peleaban para ver quién podía irse antes al Sambil

    It’s all tongue in cheek, guys, try not to bust a gut laughing …

  10. Can those famous plastic surgeons in Venezuela make Chavez look like Bolivar? Is this what the Cubans were trying to do with Chavez?
    On the other hand why didn’t Bolivar’s image come out more looking like Chavez?

  11. This really made me very sad (Faria’s lines when displaying the photos – quoting from N24)

    “La jefa de gobierno destacó como Venezuela camina rumbo al socialismo, siguiendo la gesta de Simón Bolívar. “Vamos a desvelar una copia de ese rostro verdadero de nuestro Libertador, donde si se ven sus orígenes, donde no está modificado, donde no quiere parecerse a un europeo, donde se parece de verdad a un venezolano”, aseveró Faría.
    Por otra parte, resaltó las raíces indígenas, negras y europeas de los venezolanos, presentes en Simón Bolívar. “Toda esa mezcla enorme en ese ser humano maravilloso que es el Padre de la Patria”, agregó.”

  12. Personally, I think the new look is like the ugly broether of Ricardo Montalban. He needs a midget next to him announcing the arrival of “da plane, da plane.” LOL

  13. And what exactly did you expect from a reconstruction? Any of us would be lucky to look passably human if “reconstructed”. In fact it seems at time to be a corpse with eyes open, at times a Mme. Tussaud’s wax figure, or one of these rubber and clay reconstructions. There’s always that blank expression and vacant stare.

    But surely do chavismo and Chavez go back to their roots. Cashing in on the myth of Bolivar. One can only hope that most Venezuelans are neither infantile nor gullible enough to fall for these overdone theatrics, the better for Hugo the Clowning Bully’s farce to have the opposite of the intended effect.

    • Whatever the intended effect, one is unmistakable: all this discussion over a creepy subject matter has successfully diverted attention from where we should be placing it.

        • Peñaloza dixit: “La votación masiva es el único antídoto contra el fraude”.
          Then he says: “el proceso entre el cierre de las mesas de votación y la llegada de los resultados a la Torre Teleport toma entre tres y cuatro horas, un tiempo que coincide con el requerido para ¡masajear! la data y hacer los ajustes requeridos para un determinado resultado”.

          That inconsistency (o es una cosa o la otra) and a few others in Omar Lares’ opinion in el universal don’t inspire confidence in the integrity of Peñaloza’s argument. In the meantime, he’ll likely add to his adherents among the Ma Alejandra Lopezes.

  14. Now scientifically speaking, can these type of recunstructions determine the colors? Eyes, hair, skin? Or just shape?

  15. I was curious to see if there were any photo images of Bolivar, and so I googled “Simon Bolivar photos”. In fact, there are none. Bolivar died before photography was perfected enough to become commercial. However, in doing so, I was struck by all the different depictions of this one man. Try it…

    • Bolivar died not long after the earliest surviving photograph was taken. He was depicted widely, before and after his death, at different stages in life. No wonder there are many different depictions. However they depict a man similar to the reconstruction.


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