Ten years blogging the Chávez era

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“These days, what I find hardest to convey to my friends who live outside Venezuela is this strong undercurrent of farce that now permeates public life here.”

Quico’s first post on Caracas Chronicles went online ten years ago today. Much has changed since then, but as you can tell from the quote above taken from that very first post, much hasn’t. Farce continues to permeate public life.

We could write about how the country has changed and what it all means, but today, I want to write about how Caracas Chronicles changed my life.

Back in 2003, I’d just moved to Chile with my wife and my baby girl. My career was in a kind of flux, and as a consequence I spent a lot of time online, in this new country where I had few friends.

Frankly, I was pretty bored. A friend from home suggested this blog (what is that?) written by a Venezuelan who wrote for the New York Times. I started reading it, and I was hooked.

Of course, the surreal – yes, farcical – events back home made it easier to remain hooked, as did the odd yet strangely alluring community of commenters – you know who you are. I quickly became a regular.

Time went by, and Quico and I became friendly through the Internet. One day, he asked me to start collaborating with him on the blog. I guess I did an OK job, even though my initial strategy to use my wife’s name as a seudonym was a tragic mishit that still haunts me. Through ups and downs, Quico and I have remained friends and collaborators and, yes, we even met personally on more than a few occassions.

People sometimes ask me why I keep writing here. The best answer I can think of is that, by writing, I understand my country and myself better.

Because CC may seem like a place where Quico, Gustavo or I rant about what’s in our heads, but that’s not how it actually works. CC is an intellectual community, as close to a public square as anything I’ve experienced. I learn from Quico and the rest of you every day, and by trying to explain myself to you and receiving your feedback, I refine my way of thinking about Venezuela.

To put it in more concrete terms, there are many things I wouldn’t understand or know how to explain about Venezuela without the perspective I get from you all: the importance of a public sphere; the urban-rural cultural divide; the many discourses that permeate our collective way of thinking; the way public sector workers really think; the concept of kleptodysplasia; or how wrong it is to stage a fancy wedding in the middle of a socialist revolution.

I’ve gained other things in the process. I have learned that writing on my little keyboard can make a difference. I’ve learned to refine my writing and, sometimes, go for it. I’ve developed a few pet topics that I obsess about, such as the concept of opportunity costs, or the need to solve Venezuela’s infrastructure challenges smartly. I’ve learned to accept constructive criticism. My life has been made richer by meeting many of you personally.

The stakes a couple of weeks from now could not be higher. But today, let’s pause and remember this moment, this little space in the Internet that we – all of us – have helped create. Let’s treasure this level of – why not say it? – enlightenment we’ve reached, because we used to know things, and now we know them better.

And let’s hope the road from here on leads us to better places.

1 COMMENT

  1. Dude this blog is so old you have links to NYT articles when it was free!

    Congrats guys, this is truly a labor of love and it shows every day. You make our lives so much richer and I know I love you for it.

  2. Sometimes when our perceptions are not proportionate, you give the gift of maturity.

    Thanks for that irreplaceable and greatest of all gifts.

  3. Thank you for being part of CC–I have my family reading it too–and of course, you know how hard it is to explain to North Americans the insanity that is Venezuela these days. Few believe me. I often post CC emails on FB I believe North Americans should be interested in. But there are few comments–Sigh!

  4. media drones such as yourselves do sevre a useful purpose on the par of the National Enquier, PressTV in Iran or Pravda in todays Russia = total disinformation but I do get a laugh every now and then from it.

    Thanks for the memories and after your disappointments this coming O-7th what new stories and falsehoods await?

    Rojo Rojito

    Cort

  5. I laughed all over again with that chat where you decide to become Juan Cristobal.
    From a reader’s perspective, it feels like CC has been the one invariable element throughout the past ten years. I moved to a different country, switched jobs, spent a year in the hospital with my daughter, and the one part of my routine that has remained the same is reading CC every day.

  6. Congrats to FT, JC and GEHA. Many kudos…

    Now can we stop the MOH impersonation and get back to what’s going on down in Graceland? There’s a bit of a fire going on right now, you know?

  7. Your CC is a welcome addition to in turbulent times: a consistent reference point does help allow one to keep one’s bearings once gotten in the first place. Keep up the good work. And, PS-wise. so to say, will you be back in your terruño to vote?

  8. Congratulations Francisco, Juan and Gustavo. I am not much into blogs, but this one is something unique and in its own small, modest way, important. It is as you say, a public square, and you three bring to it unique, interesting, intelligent and complementary perspectives. When I first discovered this site I frankly just was struck that such a thing existed.

    Thanks for shining a light and thanks to your ever-interesting readers as well, particularly the venezuelans in venezuela and abroad, for doing the same. Thanks Francisco for showing that if you channel your passion, it brings good people together, enriches others, and becomes your path.

    • Megadittos to Mr. Toro, Mr Cristobal, and our new “best friend”Gustavo.
      And, you have some wonderful bloggers commenting too-Canucklehead, for example.

        • “SO…. a pirate walks into a bar, and he has a huge steering wheel from a ship, stuck in the front of his pants. He sits down at the bar(don’t ask how) and demands a drink. The befuddled bartender quickly complies, and hands him the drink. Finally, unable to contain himself any longer, the bartender says “Um, i dont mean to be rude, but do you mind me asking about that… huge thing… i mean… doesn’t it bother you?”

          Pirate’s answer: “Yaaar drivin me nuts!!”

  9. Thanks for all the obvious reasons, and (from inference) for supporting Reader comments and dialogue (a really integral part of this very successful Blog experience).

  10. Loved the very different photos you each chose to accompany your post. Very telling! La torta de Quico se convierte en factor “uy” con su divino arreglo de mazapán colorado y pepitas plateadas. (Muy CCC!) ILike the difference between a white poodle and a chocolate lab. Jajajaja!

  11. Good stuff always, JC, even when I disagree with you, you are coherent and know how to make your points.

    Vergation! 10 more, at least!

  12. congratulations to the CC team. it’s pretty inspirational how you guys continually punch out intelligent, well written posts. this is from an aussie who has been to vnz a few times with my long time caraquena girlfriend and is now addicted to this blog.

  13. Congratulations guys. As a Venezuelan far from home I have come to depend on CC, as well as other Vene blogs, to know what is going on at home. I stopped looking at the Vene papers on a daily basis many years ago, but I continue to religiously read your blogostngs, and maybe even mre, the comments!!

    Keep up the great work, and who knows, hopefully in the next 10 years this blog will tell the story of the rebuilding of our dear Venezuela.

  14. Congrats. ¿Por qué no aprovechan el aniversario para cambiar la configuración de su RSS Feed, para que los posts se lean completos dentro del lector de feeds y no haya necesidad de hacer click en “seguir leyendo”. Yo utilizo gReader en Android. No tengo problemas con el Blog de Miguel, sólo con CC…

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