Journey Into the Heart of Chavista Darkness (Updated)

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    Fresh from a week-long junket to Caracas for the 10th World Poetry Festival, German poet Xochil Schütz reels from the scale and depravity of the propaganda state she soon realized she was full expected to shill for…

    El recital comienza tarde, pero comienza. Sin mí, pero los escucho. El director de la Casa de las Letras, presente en el evento, entona himnos de alabanza a Chávez. El numeroso público está entusiasmado. Se escuchan los primeros gritos de “Chávez”. Los poetas venezolanos invitados recitan poemas de alabanza a Chávez. Estoy recostada en el asiento de atrás del autobús que nos trajo aquí. Poco antes de mi turno, me obligo a salir del autobús y a subir al pequeño escenario al aire libre. Un pequeñín tambalea al micrófono y dice que Chávez una vez lo abrazó y que lo ama. La multitud está emocionada. Estoy segura que en cualquier momento en Venezuela Chávez será declarado santo y se convertirá en religión. Tengo la sensación de que nadie me creerá esto en Alemania. Pero en Alemania nadie tiene idea de lo que está pasando aquí.

    It’s always valuable to see these things through an outsider’s eyes to remind ourselves of just how far gone we are. Ms. Schütz closes with a soul-searching bit on what “dictatorship” means in this day and age, and here I think she goes a bit astray…

    The semantic debate is old and stale. Even today, the kind of unhinged rhetorical fanaticism Schütz witnessed isn’t joined by the kind of political violence that we normally see as a defining feature of dictatorship. But really, the question obscures more than it reveals: whatever label you want to put on it, the political system Ms. Schütz saw in action is clearly not ok.

    To me, it’s towards the end of the passage I cited above that she gets closer to the mark. Dictatorship/non-dictatorship is a European dichotomy, born of European categories and institutional structures that can’t quite capture the essence of the “not-okayness” she so clearly perceived.

    That not-okayness isn’t political in nature. Because chavismo, deep-down, isn’t really a political movement. Its essence is mystical, afro-caribbean, rooted in a form of spirituality that nobody in Germany has any kind of reference point for.

    What Hugo Chávez brought to Venezuela isn’t a “dictatorship” in any sense that would make sense to Erich Honecker or even Nicolae Ceaușescu. What we have is the takeover of the state, and much of the public sphere, by a new kind of religious cult that borrows heavily from the language of the political left to create a new devotional system.

    And no, that is in no way ok.

    Update: Just to get ahead of the silly tiff brewing in comments, I want to add that it doesn’t surprise me that people get horribly uncomfortable when I touch “la teclita” about the mystical-religious dimension of our shared Afro-Caribbean heritage – a heritage that remains as unmentionable and squirm-worthy as ever. After all: “even before starting to observe ourselves, to recognize ourselves and know who we are, before we were old enough to be curious about our identity and the means of formulating it, before that interrogative longing, the answer was given to us: we are western.”

    To stress the obvious, I’m talking specifically about Afro-Caribbean forms of religious expression and belief – santería, basically – not about black or brown people. Because Afro-Caribbean Spirituality is shot through our society, covering the chromatic scale more or less whole. I’ve met too many sifrinitas catiras from Valle Arriba who just won’t make an important decision before talking to their brujo to doubt it…

    I don’t believe it’s possible to sidestep these forms of religious expression/belief in a serious discussion of the collective psyche. Because they were there all along, in the cult of Bolívar, of Maria Lionza, of Negro Primero, in Sorte, in the brujo every family consults when they need a little extra help from el más allá…it’s just that they’ve blossomed aggressively in the last 15 years.

    Chávez’s special genius, his unique insight, was figuring out a way to tap into these strains and mobilize them for political ends. That genius is now being channeled into the formation of a state religion. Just ask Xochil Schütz, she’ll tell you.

    Obviously, it’s a lot easier to cry racism and refuse to stare these horribly uncomfortable facts in the face. And that’s your prerogative, certainly.

    1 COMMENT

    1. The Argentines might have some minor quibbles with the notion that populism and the personal followings that populists command are merely an “Afro-Carribbean” phenomenon. Just sayin’.

      • Caudillismos are varied.
        You do not have in Argentina hundreds of thousands of persons talking about the “comandante eterno”. They didn’t even do that with Perón, not even with Evita.
        Right now, in the XXI century, even Cristina found the silly paintings of her late husband just embarrassing.

      • I dunno whyr you talking about the Argentinians but Quico is right in his comments about chavismo:

        “Its essence is mystical, afro-caribbean, rooted in a form of spirituality that nobody in Germany has any kind of reference point for”.

        And neither have Justin aka Capt Cook. Justin: There is no way to deny this since Chavez.is becoming (or had become) a religious figure in any altar santero my friend… if that’s not afro caribbean spirituality I dunno what is.

        Argentinians have their own indigenous cultural tradition similar (and different) to the afro caribbean spirituality that you can see in Venezuela and other caribbean countries and Evita also became part of a similar cult to her persona.

      • Don’t be racist people… have you heard of Evita’s funerals and her mummyfied body… and hey! that was AFTER Argentina had been considered the shining star of the developing world for about a century.

        “afro-caribbean? this is very Iberoamerican!

    2. But, somehow, Kepler is not brilliant enough to figure out that this post is some plain old racist bullshit. Strong personalist followings have arisen all over the world, not just the “Afro-Carribbean” world. This post is Quico’s coded way of arguing that “Afro-Carribbean” people are innately ignorant and therefore especially prone to being mesmerized by populist figures. Any serious comparative analysis of Latin American history would quickly reveal that it is a really stupid theory and racist to boot.

      • This is 2013.
        If you are really as intelligent as you think you are, you should know the difference between diachronic and synchronic. You are trying to compare Venezuela of today with Argentina or the Soviet Union of 1952.
        You couldn’t even compare Venezuela of today with North Korea’s personality cult. They are completely different and the second one is more than anything based on terror. Venezuela’s is not.
        And there is another thing Francisco did not touch here. Venezuela might be the country with the strongest sense of cargo cult in all of Spanish America. Again: only in some areas of Africa and Papua New Guinea would you see something similar today.
        I repeat: TODAY.

        • We’re talking about the populist tradition here, not communism. Chavismo belongs to the former tradition, not the latter. Populism is a particular type of phenomenon that occurs when most of a society has few organizational linkages to the political process and is thus prone to look to a strong populist figure as a means of achieving its political objectives. In the Venezuelan case, the long economic decline beginning in 1980 created the level of social dislocation that would ultimately give rise to Chavismo. In other words, there are logical ways of understanding and explaining the personal followings that populists come to command. The “Afro-Carribbean” culture argument does not stand up to comparative scrutiny.

          • A while back, Kepler claimed in one of his posts that he was, in his words, an “African-American”. I am therefore surprised that he could not see the naked racism in Toro’s reference to (sic) “Afro-Carribbean”. Toro, your racism comes out once again…..
            And, by the way, Toro, the correct spelling *is* Afro-Caribbean.

            • Quizás es porque yo no me la paso viendo racismo hasta en la sopa.
              And I make a clear difference between genetics and cultural traditions.
              Of course, cultural traditions get a different dynamics when economic and educational conditions are bad.

              I can recognise there are different superstitions and levels of superstition. By the way:
              Russians might be more superstitious than quite a lot of people more to the South. Is that racism? No.
              Something else, Pipo, and remember this very well:
              not a single ethnic group has been less racist than another one. This is a very widespread problem, even if some groups had got the upper hand when interacting, by reasons well explained by Jared Diamond in his book on Guns, Germs and Steel.

            • Kepler, A veces el sancocho está lleno de picante y no te das cuenta hasta que sea demasiado tarde! I am not a partisan of the theory of environmental determinism that Jared Diamond revived in the book that you cite.

            • He explained it is not determinism. Differences in technological development did not start in the XVI century. Anyway, this is OT. End of conversation.

            • It doesn’t surprise me that people get horribly uncomfortable when I touch “la teclita” about the mystical-religious dimension of our shared Afro-Caribbean heritage – a heritage that remains as unmentionable and squirm-worthy as ever. After all, “even before starting to observe ourselves, to recognize ourselves and know who we are, before we were old enough to be curious about our identity and the means of formulating it, before that interrogative longing, the answer was given to us: we are western.”

              It bears noting that Afro-Caribbean forms of religious expression and belief are shot through our society, covering the chromatic scale more or less whole. I’ve met too many sifrinitas catiras from Valle Arriba who just won’t make an important decision before talking to their brujo to doubt it…

              I don’t believe it’s possible to sidestep these forms of religious expression/belief in a serious discussion of the collective psyche. Because they were there all along, in the cult of Bolívar, of Maria Lionza, of Negro Primero, in Sorte, in the brujo every family consults when they need a little extra help from el más allá…it’s just that they’ve blossomed aggressively in the last 15 years.

              Chávez’s special genius, his unique insight, was figuring out a way to tap into these strains and mobilize them for political ends. That genius is now being channeled into the formation of a state religion. Just ask Xochil Schütz, she’ll tell you.

              Obviously, it’s a lot easier to cry racism and refuse to stare these horribly uncomfortable facts in the face. And that’s your prerogative, certainly.

            • “I can recognize there are different superstitions and levels of superstition.”

              As if superstitions weren’t prevalent in all of Latin America, not just the Afro-Caribbean parts. There’s nothing “Afro-Caribbean” about, say, the common Catholic belief in the healing powers of “holy water,” for example, yet somehow it’s all the rave around here to blather on about how “Afro-Caribbean” customs are the superstitious ones. There’s a lot of pots calling the kettle black around here. (Or, as my Dominican mother-in-law likes to say, “El burro hablando de orejas.”)

              Truth be told, the entire new world is generally more superstitious than Europe. For example, U.S. citizens are more inclined to express a belief in ghosts than Europeans. At the risk of stating the obvious, religion itself is invariably rooted in superstition, and the Western hemisphere is more religious than Europe.

              For Quico’s Afro-Caribbean argument to make any sense, one would have to show that the level of idolatry surrounding populist figures has been significantly more prevalent in the Afro-Caribbean parts of the region than elsewhere. The claim does not stand up to scrutiny. There have been significant periods in which countries with extensive Afro-Caribbean cultural influences have NOT been prone to populism. Populism is typically associated with the collapse of a country’s party system (as in the case of Venezuela). Yet other countries with Afro-Caribbean cultural influences have had stable party systems for the last 40 years. In the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, for example, no figure outside the countries’ dominant parties have emerged to command a mass following. Moreover, Venezuela from 1958 through the mid-1990s had a stable two-party system, with centrist parties. The modern rise of populism in Venezuela was brought about not by Afro-Caribbean culture but rather by the long-term economic decline of the country.

            • Chavismo, per se, have deeply roots into afro-caribbean spirituality. Like I said in another comment, Chavez is already in the altars of many santeros. You cannot link populism to x country or ethnicity, or say all populism have the same root, that to me is a little simplistic… and yet they all do have similar causes, like economic unrest…. but in addition to those common links you ALSO can link the populist of certain countries to certain cultural heritage, obviously, in this case, in the case of Venezuela, it has deep roots in African culture, like in Domican people, like Panamanians. So yes, Adolph Hitler was a populist just like Hugo Chavez but totally different flavor. Populism in Venezuela has an aura of mysticism that doesn’t come totally from the Spanish conqueror. And it’s not even a point of discussion, I dunno why you are complaining and screaming racism? I honestly don’t see it. Because it’s the politically correct thing for the white guy to say in the conversation?

              Jamaica has British rule so safely we can put them in another jar.

            • Well, I don’t think I’m “screaming” racism, but I would say that this is pretty much a racist folktale. In the absence of any real evidence that the level of idolatry surrounding populist figures has been significantly more prevalent in the Afro-Caribbean parts of the region than elsewhere, you and Quico don’t have anything real to go on here.

            • Justin, the origins of Santeria are African and Caribbean. Quico was making reference to Santeria and used the term Afro-Caribbean, seemingly correctly. You not only called the race card, you now insist that he has to prove himself innocent or racism rather than you prove him guilty. What’s that called?

            • Actually, what Quico did was suggest that countries with Afro-Caribbean influences are especially prone to being mesmerized by populist figures. It’s right there in the post. The problem is that he has failed to demonstrate that this is the case.

            • No Justin he didn’t said that all populist are because of black people, he said that Chavismo populism in Venezuelan (in the Venezuelan context) have deep roots in the afro caribbean spirituality aka also known as Santeria. Your argument is generalized and out of context my friend.

            • This is what Quico wrote:

              “Because chavismo, deep-down, isn’t really a political movement. Its essence is mystical, afro-caribbean, rooted in a form of spirituality that nobody in Germany has any kind of reference point for.”

              This is transparent nonsense. The day that Hugo Chavez first came into the public limelight by giving his “por ahora” speech, nobody associated the guy with Santeria. A mass following began to develop around “el comandante” not because of Santeria but because of the steep economic decline of the country since 1980. When an economic decline started to hit people so hard that their caloric intake is drastically reduced, the conditions became ripe for the demise of the country’s old party system and the rise of a populist figure.

              Quico Toro really should be embarrassed about spouting such transparent nonsense.

            • “New Rorschach test: Suggest that X has Afro-Caribbean roots and watch these PSFs conjure up demons.”

              Setting aside the question of whether Quico’s folktale is racist (which I think it is), the bigger issue is that he has not even attempted to substantiate the argument in a serious way, using comparative analysis. I’m happy to entertain criticisms of Chavismo. I’m not happy to entertain facile folktales.

            • No Justin you r right, Chavez at first he was this citizen of the modern world wearing a suit and a tie and swearing to Jorge Ramos of Univision how much he love democracy and shit, the lunacy came later. So when the man took off their civil clothing and starting to wear the fatigues and the red color clothing… THEN the phenomenon took roots in that context of Santeria and did strengthen itself from it. Not to forget the way he imported Cubans to Venezuela and Cubans are way more into santeria rituals than Venezuelans. I don’t know why we are even discussing this?

            • “No Justin you r right, Chavez at first he was this citizen of the modern world wearing a suit and a tie…”

              Chavez didn’t enter the political scene wearing a suit and tie. He entered the political scene in his fatigues on February 4, 1992, under a particular set of conditions in which a long-term decline in people’s living standards had caused huge numbers of people to revile the old political class. The roots of Chavismo have diddly squat to do with Santeria.

            • Justin: You know perfectly well what feathers is trying to say, when she refers to Chávez entering the political scene. To spell it out for you, and if I may read the obvious between her lines, feathers referred to Chávez entering the political stage, visible to the Venezuelan public at large, as an electoral candidate in the presidential elections of 1998. Do you remember reading about this? Or were you too young at the time?
              Among Chávez’s 1998 promises: he was going to do away with corruption of the 4th Republic. On a scale from +10 to -10, how well do you think he did?

            • “Among Chávez’s 1998 promises: he was going to do away with corruption of the 4th Republic. On a scale from +10 to -10, how well do you think he did?”

              He didn’t do very well on that score, but that’s not what this thread is about. The thread is about the roots of Chavismo and the roots of idolatry around populist figures. I’m saying that, if you put the phenomenon of populism into comparative perspective, you find that countries with Afro-Caribbean influences are no more prone to being mesmerized by populist figures than any other. It’s necessary to look at other factors to properly understand the phenomenon.

            • Justin Delacour,

              Again, the onus is on you. In the context of the post, “afro-Caribbean influence” refers to Santeria, suggesting that it is a country involved in Santeria which would be especially prone to being mesmerized by populist figures. Whether right or wrong a suggestion, you attributed such an association to racism, a tie which you have failed to demonstrate in this case.

              What do you call it when people play the race card without proof of racism?

            • I think you’ve got it backwards, Extorres. If Quico is going to offer a racially charged argument that Afro-Caribbean cultural influences make a society more susceptible to being mesmerized by populist figures, the onus should be on him to illustrate through comparative and historical analysis that there is evidence to support the argument. Since he’s presented nothing in the way of serious evidence, though, I’m left to assume that he’s relying on little more than folktales of an essentially racist nature.

            • Justin,

              No, there is no doubt that Santería’s origin is from Africa and the Caribbean. Mention of Afro-Caribbean influence is not necessarily a racial mention, as you suggest. The onus is, therefore, on you to prove that it is, since that is your claim.

              What do you call it when someone keeps accusing others of racism and not willing to back it up?

            • “Chavez didn’t enter the political scene wearing a suit and tie. He entered the political scene in his fatigues on February 4, 1992, under a particular set of conditions in which a long-term decline in people’s living standards had caused huge numbers of people to revile the old political class. The roots of Chavismo have diddly squat to do with Santeria.”

              Arguable…. but let’s say you r right. From that “loco” to the person in suit and tie he became passing to his time in Yare being groomed by many people…. okay, it’s inconsequential, because right now, we are not talking about that man who was popular, and became poster child of how to be a populist, we are talking about the mystical myth, bigger than a flesh and bone person. I know you are understanding this, you r just arguing because you don’t want to concede your argument 🙂

            • No, Feathers, I really truly don’t buy the Afro-Caribbean nonsense because there’s no general pattern in the region that supports Quico’s thesis.

            • It’s racist to rely on mere stereotypes and folktales (rather than comparative and historical analysis) in attempting to make a claim that some ethno-cultural variable is the cause of some political phenomenon that one finds undesirable. Of course, the point isn’t that ethno-cultural variables can’t be associated with particular political phenomena. Rather, the point is that there are obvious problems with offering such claims in the absence of serious evidence to support them. To rely on mere ethnic stereotypes in proffering claims about whole societies is usually oppressive, for it perpetuates a pattern whereby individuals are attributed certain characteristics on the basis of their ethnicity or nationality rather than on how they actually behave. Given that Quico doesn’t have serious evidence to support the claim that societies with Afro-Caribbean cultural influences are more prone to being mesmerized by populist figures, he should consider taking more care in how he discusses such issues.

            • “It’s racist to rely on mere stereotypes and folktales (rather than comparative and historical analysis) in attempting to make a claim that some ethno-cultural variable is the cause of some political phenomenon that one finds undesirable. Of course, the point isn’t that ethno-cultural variables can’t be associated with particular political phenomena.”

              So yes we can attribute ethno-cultural variables to a particular phenomena called the mythical sea creature called Hugo Chavez, or no?

              “Rather, the point is that there are obvious problems with offering such claims in the absence of serious evidence to support them. To rely on mere ethnic stereotypes in proffering claims about whole societies is usually oppressive, for it perpetuates a pattern whereby individuals are attributed certain characteristics on the basis of their ethnicity or nationality rather than on how they actually behave. ”

              The problem with your argument is that you are looking at it with your gringo eyes like this is 1960’s Memphis, when we talk about afro-caribben culture all Venezuelan are and feel included somehow. It’s part of who we are. it’s very much the essence of the Venezuelan idiosyncrasy, somethings we love, somethings we hate. This is what you r not getting it, the negative connotation with afro-caribbean culture it’s you who are giving it to it. You r confusing being populist with the myth, and creating a myth per se it’s not a negative thing, for example, lady gaga before and after, and it happens in all cultures, but Quico specifically was referring to our own particular Venezuelan flavor (in which is very hard to understand for a German because their idiosyncrasies are so different to ours) and obviously giving those characteristics to a president is very very dangerous *in any culture* like I am sure you have studied all over political history.

            • The problem with your argument is that you are looking at it with your gringo eyes like this is 1960′s Memphis, when we talk about afro-caribben culture all Venezuelan are and feel included somehow.

              Even if one were to interpret Quico’s point generously and say that he’s talking about Afro-Caribbean influence on ALL Venezuelans, there’s still a problem with relying upon a mere stereotype of the mesmerized Santerista. The problem is still that, if you put this question into comparative and historical perspective, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that the stereotype is helpful for understanding the politics of Venezuela. There’s no real evidence that Venezuelans are any more culturally inclined to being mesmerized by a populist figure than other Latin Americans. The evidence is much stronger that the relatively unique socio-economic conditions under which Chavez emerged were particularly conducive to the development of personalist populism.

              And again, I would say your interpretation is generous. When Quico says Afro-Caribbean culture has mesmerizing effects upon the society, the obvious connotation is that these effects are deeper within those segments of the society that are most influenced by Afro-Caribbean culture. I question whether Quico is being entirely honest when he suggests that he’s talking about Venezuelans in general.

            • I’m going to consider your appeal to Kepler’s race as a racist sentiment on your part. ElPipo, your racism comes out once again…..

            • Looks like el pipo is channeling Rev. Al Sharpton.

              For the life of me I don’t the racist reference? Can somebody explain???

          • “The “Afro-Carribbean” culture argument does not stand up to comparative scrutiny.”

            It totally does stand up. what are you talking about? All this years in school studying Latin american studies and you still don’t know shit for shinola apparentely. That’s why Xotchil who Chavistas thought she was gonna be another Chavez lover propaganda pawn in Europe due to the name her parents gave her, saw a flashback to Germany’s past but with a different flavor.

      • Wow. Talk about a touchstone phrase that brings about guilt associations in folks like Justin Delacour and el Pipo!
        When Quico uses Afro-Caribbean along with mysticism, he is not sending out Morse Code for “innately ignorant” and “prone to being mesmerized by populist figures”. That Delacour and Pipo try to argue this line of thought says more about them than they realize.

        I especially loved the doesn’t-explain-sh*t-from-shinola sentence from Delacour: “Any serious comparative analysis of Latin American history would quickly reveal that it is a really stupid theory and racist to boot.”

      • It’s not ignorance, Capt Cook, it’s part of their culture that came from Africa and later mixed with Indigenous and the Spanish colonial who as any Catholic, have a penchant for a paternalistic papist figure. It’s who we are!

    3. Every country is to some extent, sui generis, but I think it would be a mistake to underestimate Chavismo’s connection to Peron and Mussolini, on the one hand, and the leader-cult which flowered in every communist country during Stalin’s era. Obviously, such cults impede reasoned consideration of policies, and convert citizenship into an exercise in adulation. They are often military in origen, and are deeply inconsistent with a practicing democratic polity.

      http://www.nytimes.com/1985/07/21/weekinreview/even-minor-personalities-can-spawn-major-cults.html

    4. One of the people we can blame for the yearly fiasco of propaganda that is the World Poetry Festival in Venezuela is the poet, essayist and journalist Luis Alberto Crespo, who for many years was the director of the Casa Nacional de las Letras Andrés Bello, which organizes the festival. Crespo is one of Venezuela’s most important living poets, and for many years he ran El Nacional’s literary supplement Papel Literario. Crespo’s poetry has never been propagandistic and yet he helped create this sad situation at the World Poetry Festival. He has of course been rewarded for his propaganda work, as he now serves as Venezuela’s Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris.

    5. This thread of kitzch religiosity based on the cult of some idolized personality is common to many tyrannies in different parts of the world . In our side of the world one of the persons writing most lucidly about this phenomena is Alejandro Katz whose articles for Buenos Aires La Nacion I heartily recommend to everyone . He writes about the follies and vices of Kirchernismo but his comments could well apply to our own Chavista regime .
      In one of his articles dated 04-09-2012 ( El Kirchernismo como Dogma de Fe) he writes : “. . Para que la necesidad de creer se convierta en creencia es necesario construir un relato, que es antes teológico que político: la unidad religiosa entre Dios, el hombre y el mundo se metamorfosea en la unidad entre el Estado, el gobierno y el pueblo, que forman así un nexo indisoluble. Un nexo que se funda, como observa Mark Lilla, en la renacida idolatría de la tierra y la sangre, en la histérica obsesión por el pueblo, en la glorificación de la violencia revolucionaria, en el culto de la personalidad. Un nexo que explica el radicalismo ferozmente antipolítico de un movimiento mesiánico que carece de programa, puesto que el objeto de su gesta no consiste en ocuparse de las condiciones de vida material de la sociedad sino del Destino del Pueblo, …. De allí la aspiración a una nueva Edad Dorada en la cual el individuo será por fin sustituido por el grupo y la sociedad por el Estado, “

    6. to put the term “afro-caribbean” in the article was an invitation to be called racist, I think that it was an unnecessary word to put here; the base of the chavist cult is more about poverty and class warfare than just race, they would like to make us believe the latter but I think that race is really a non-issue in Venezuela since we are all homogenously heterogeneous

        • the discalimer was quite necessary since when you use the word afro-caribbean not everybody will think that you mean the sorcery part of that culture.

          I think that you are overestating the influence of “withcraft” in venezuelan society, I have heard many times from the Maria-Alejandra-Lopez-type of opposition that chavism is associated (even protected) with sorcery, claims that I find very silly, I don’t think that those religions have much influence within chavismo.

          They just promote those cults as a way to say that they support the traditions of our oppressed ancestors… the same way they use the aboriginal people, only for the propaganda shows, nothing serious, just bs.

    7. My sense of what she means by a feeling of dictatorship is just the overpowering and ubiquitous presence of Chávez and Chavismo in absolutely everything she did. I’ve learned loads about Venezuela in the last year, and it still shocked me to read her article. The weirdest bits for me were the parts where she described a blatantly obvious disconnection between what they said (socialism has made everything awesome!) and what was going on (the state of her hotel, of the houses she visited, of the school, etc).

      It’s also surprising to see how far this goes throughout all levels of the Venezuelan state. I’m part of the Latin American Student’s Society in my university in Canada and we work closely with different consulates. The Venezuelan consulate is absolutely verboten, it is impossible to get as much as a leaflet in their office if it is not an event that will promote chavismo or socialist ideology. Even if you’re having a football tournament for instance.

      This is what I think Quico referred to as the “normalcy” of Colombia. I went to a cultural event hosted by the consulate, not one single mention of ideology, the government or anyone (beyond promoting the services of the consulate itself, which is fair enough), it was all about the cultural talk we were having. I have family and friends of family who work for the Colombian government (all of them professionals with graduate studies) and they’re a far cry from being fervent santistas. It just means that you can dissociate ideology from you know, the “normal” functioning of the state.

    8. Ms. Schutz’ article is well worth reading. A journalistic tour de force written by a poet! Para muestra un botón:
      “Cuando le digo a la joven colaboradora del festival que debo cambiar algo de dinero, me exhorta a que los cambie con ella, de forma personal. Quiere viajar a Europa dentro de poco. La entiendo; aunque su abrupta exhortación y algo en su tono de voz me hace desconfiar. Que el gobierno ha establecido una tasa de cambio extremadamente baja, que los venezolanos tienen dificultades para acceder a divisas y que por eso se pagan altos precios por moneda extranjera en el mercado negro, eran cosas que había leído antes de emprender el viaje.

      Más tarde, la joven me ofrece canjear mis euros por un precio que en realidad está 80% por debajo del precio promedio del mercado negro e incluso muy por debajo del cambio oficial. Me siento engañada. Me cuesta encontrar el valor para decirle a la joven que me está ofreciendo muy poco dinero. Cuando me oye, hace como si estuviera enterándose de que existe un mercado negro y me monta una escena de gran sorpresa. Poco después me ofrece un tipo de cambio un poco más alto que el anterior y me explica que debido a que ella trabaja para el Gobierno no puede pagar precios de mercado negro. Acepto el trato (que aún es desventajoso) porque temo que en los próximos días tendré que lidiar con frecuencia con esta joven y no quiero arruinar completamente el de por sí ya incómodo ambiente. A pesar de eso no me siento muy bien.”

      • The best part was Xóchil’s description of the “jóven’s” phoney-baloneyism, at the end of the German poet’s visit.(*) And yet, Xóchil doesn’t quite get it right. While she labels the falseness as due to the political paradigm put in motion by Chávez, Xóchil doesn’t realize that the deformation of character has less to do with politics and more to do with inherited cultural baggage, centuries-old, and predominantly in the female domain.

        (*)
        “La joven colaboradora del festival que a mi llegada cambió tan desfavorablemente mi dinero me abraza fuertemente al despedirnos en el aeropuerto y me dice que tenemos que mantenernos en contacto, pase lo que pase. Estoy asombrada. ¿Será que tiene mala conciencia? ¿O tal vez no tiene consciencia de qué es justo y qué no? No lo sé. Más tarde alguien dirá: “Ni lo uno ni lo otro. Está echada a perder. El sistema político la ha deformado tanto que se acostumbró a ser falsa”.”

        • In the female domain? I don’t know. I am aware Venezuela has huge problems with male Chauvinism, women treat their male kids like future pashas, but I don’t see the link to the specifics of what the author wrote there. Could you explain?

          • Could I explain? Gladly. Women are bitches. (I should know.) And they inhabit with more frequency than men the phoney-pretend-imagination spectrum, where men would not allow it so easily among their own kind. I find that these behaviours are pervasive among those who engage in petty competitiveness, to make up for their lack of skills in critical thinking and/or their lack of post-secondary education. Now, you can find this bitchy-phoney-female indices the world over. But speaking of the greater Americas, with which is I’m most familiar, I find these indices tend to be higher in certain southern latitudes. Nuff said. Por ahora.

            • wow.. “women are bitches”. Talk about generalizing.. would like to hear your explanation of that comment to a significant female in your life, assuming you have a mother, grandmother, wife or girlfriend. you just wrote off 52% of your fan club.

            • Syd, me imagino que acabas de salir del manicomio.
              You, Syd, are admittedly a bitch, but do not expand your poison to other women. How dare you call all women bitches! And let me tell you that your comment trying to tie lack of post-secondary education to bitchy behaviour is out of place and elitist. There are plenty of women in my country that lack post-secondary education that are not bitches. I doubt that you would know them, though, as you are not a true criolla.
              Vuelve al manicomio, mija.

            • Uuuuy, no le toques el nombre, feathers. El pipo/La tipa ya está sumamente alterada. De lo resto, estoy de acuerdo: un aburrimiento.

            • Yes, it was an exaggeration of mine (women are bitches), born of seeing too many petty competitive mentalities, not just in the sifrina set. And in spite of that exaggeration, I retain my theory, that there is a direct relationship between the lack of critical thinking skills in a certain population and the rise of petty competitiveness that can sometimes be viewed as bitchiness.

              And when I note the lack of critical thinking skills, I’m not referring to the expert manipulations involved in winning a beauty pageant, or in landing a husband, or in hoodwinking a foreign visitor to gain travel currency at an extra-official rate.

          • Kepler, when I read that passage of the author’s, I was reminded of comments I used to occasionally hear in west berlin in the 1990s, about folks from the other side, comments like “el systema politico la ha deformado…” . Don’t know if those kind of observations continue today.

            • This is a real story. Hans was a truckdriver in East Germany, his job was to pick up a load in town A , take it to town B ,ride the truck back to the garage and then he was off for the rest of the day . Come the end of East Germany his company was taken over by a West German Company and he begun his day as always, picked up a load at town C took it to town D and returned to the garage. As he was leaving for home an hour before noon he was stopped by his new boss who told him ‘Wait Hans you cant go, you still have two more trips to do today ‘, Hans was shocked to learn that he was expected to work the whole day , His mind , his expectations had been moulded by the work culture of east german comunism . !!

    9. The pragmatic side of an empty ideology. In a Petro-State with 3 million Government employees plus their family members plus Mision/Pension/Comunas handout receivers, its the all-powerful patronage-distributing State that determines, at least publicly, the reigning ideology/messianic superficial cult worship. Venezuelans in general, at the non-public level, do not, in my opinion/experience, viscerally feel the cult worship of Chavez, and do so less and less as time passes. This is, in my opinion, different from, say, what still happens with Peronismo in Argentina. It may have to do with the different cultural origens of the Venezuelan population, or it may have to do with the generally fatalistic Venezuelan “Viva La Pepa” mentality–i. e., live today, for tomorrow we may die (very possibly, in what may be the country with the world’s real highest homicide rate).

    10. What Xochil found bizarre and oddly discomfitting in her Venezuelan experiences was finding things that are the mark of a totalitarian system without the overt police state features that usually accompany it . For example a poets reunion is dedicated to extolling in a primitive frenzied way the near divinized figure of a recently deceased political leader,If the reunion had been held any where else the figure of Chavez would have been ignored in favour of other topics dear to professional poets. This marks the total abrogation of the line dividing the personal and social space from the politically sectarian one which dominates a totalitarian society . Something typical of totalitarian govts. Also all throughout her visit all personal and public discourse is saturated with the coarsest form of political propaganda , a propaganda that depicts a fanciful state of affairs which is in total disconnet with the reality she can observe directly for herself, this again is another feature of a totalitarian regime . The thing is that on the surface the Venezuelan regime does not resemble what an european would imagine is a traditional conservative south american dictatorship, The regime is not born of a military coupt d etat , something resembling ordinary elections are still held etc etc . It has the ‘feel’ of a totalitarian regime even if on the surface its not supposed to be one . There is an element of confusion about her experience which she finds anomalous and distasteful . What Francisco points out is that Chavismo is a sui generis movement with features it share with other tyranical regimes but also with a surrealist caribbean cultural flavour that makes it difficult to understand for a west european . The african influence is clearly part of Caribbean culture so we shouldnt be crying racism just because its mentioned . Its part of what distinghishes carribean culture from that of people in mexico or the andean countries or the south cone where the african element is less obvious .

      • Wow, I’m genuinely surprised people are having such a hard time with this!

        “Afro-Caribbean” in the sense I’m using it just refers to santería…nothing more, nothing less. I would’ve spared myself a lot of grief by writing

        “Its essence is mystical, suffused in Santería, rooted in a form of spirituality that nobody in Germany has any kind of reference point for.”

        Instead…

        • Quico,

          Though I agree with your depiction of the “not-okayness” of Chavismo’s Heart of Darkness, I do find the latter part of your post uncomfortable; be it “Afro-Caribbean” or “Santería” the implication is–as other readers have noted–classically racist.

          It is hard not to draw the following conclusion from your argument: Venezuelan society minus the presence of Afro-caribbean religiosity or Santería, would be a somewhat better place. Others might even think that if we simply stuck to (“our”) Western Catholicism, or perhaps, even better, if we abrogated the latter in favour of Northern Protestantism, we might just make it as a developed nation.

          I tend to think that the better line to take would be to critique the non-democratic elements distributed throughout any cultural arrangement a society might have, and to emphasise and engage with the democratic. Otherwise, it would seem that we are simply looking to model ourselves on what perhaps Anglo-Saxons or Northern Europeans have already shown to be successful, and that anything else humanity might offer is merely surplus.

            • “Venezuelan society minus the presence of Afro-caribbean religiosity or Santería, would be a somewhat better place.”

              The other thing, putting this in a Briceño Guerrerista context, is that Afro-Caribbean spirituality arises in reaction to “the wound produced in the pre-European cultures of the Americas by their defeat at the hands of the conquerors, and in African cultures by their passive transfer to the Americas under slavery” – and I don’t know anyone, including (especially) chavistas, who doesn’t think Venezuelan society would be a better place if indigenous people hadn’t been violently conquered and Africans hadn’t been enslaved and transported.

              We live with the aftershocks of those crimes. Hugo Chávez was a master of riding those aftershocks to power.

            • Afro-Caribbean spirituality arises in reaction to “the wound produced in the pre-European cultures of the Americas by their defeat at the hands of the conquerors, and in African cultures by their passive transfer to the Americas under slavery”

              Bullocks. I would suggest travels through Africa, beyond the cities, where the roots of Afro-Caribbean spirituality lie. That spirituality has nothing to do with wounds produced, as a result of the “passive” transfer to the Americas under slavery. (Btw, slavery long existed among various African tribes.) Nor does that spirituality have anything to do with the wounds caused by conquerors. I strongly suspect that spending a year among the Guaicas will wash those Briceño Guerrero ideas away. Not that some of the ideas have no merit; it’s just that sometimes, people desperate to understand, look for answers from those who may not be entirely accurate in their reflections.

            • In my as yet limited experience with Native societies, the core concept of la pacha mama (Andes), or mother earth, extends to all Native societies throughout the Americas. It has nothing to do with victimhood, and everything to do with beliefs handed down from generation to generation to generation.

              Some of those core beliefs get ratched up a notch, as result of victimhood, or as a mechanism to create social cohesion. Take for instance … yesterday at a local Pow Wow, I chatted with a young man from the Oneida First Nations, who learned the language from his grandparents, who teaches the language to children, and who speaks the language in public forums. There are few Natives who today speak in the language of their ancestors. We spoke of the suppression of language by others, and how harmful it is to the concept of early personal identity, both of us aware that many Native languages have died out, not through natural attrition. He brought up the parable of the Creator giving different songs to different bird species, to allow them to speak in their own “voice”, none of these birds having to learn a new language. In other words, the cardinal is not forced to learn how to speak crow.

              That parable has elements that could have been created as a way to heal the wounds of colonization and apartheid cultural genocide. Or perhaps it always in the lore, long before the “conquerors”. Likely there are other parables that arise as a reaction and as a cohesive force. But the core belief system is, I strongly believe, untouched by colonizers.

            • In Venezuela aborigine society and its cultural artifacts were almost totally wiped up during our pre independence period . What remains is for all purposes a minute shadow of what it formerly was,and mostly in very isolated places. Venezuelan aborigines never developed a civilization .. They are important as an emblem of the regimes concern for history losers (part of its victimolatry cult) and because some of the features of their mentality survive among the traits that furnish the mind of the general population . They were wiped out less by the force of the conquerors arms than by the virile libido with which the latter went after the aborigine women . Their contributions to todays world include three marvelous inventions , the tropical hammock ( el chinchorro) ,the hallaca and the arepa for which we thank them. The man were very lazy in their performance of ordinary work but also ferociously proud of their warrior status and hunting prowess. The women were very hard working and diligent . also much victimized by the manly macho warriors who showed off their virility by beating them up at the slightest provocation ( Bonpland dixit) !!. Genetic studies of Venezuelans show that whatever their appearance there is a bigger number of european genetic elements than aborigine elements in their genetic background , comparable to the results for Uruguay . The genetic imprint of the aborigine is lower than that found in Brazil !! The aborigines also had no notions of personal property , every thing was very primitive and owned in common !!. .

            • The man were very lazy in their performance of ordinary work but also ferociously proud of their warrior status and hunting prowess.

              You cannot ask generational hunters and warriors to do your agricultural sh*t for you. Ain’t gonna work. Meaning, no one should interpret the aboriginals in Vzla’s pre-Independence history as lazy until they know much more about that aboriginal history. And in Venezuela — though we learned a fair bit more about aboriginals than did those in my age group, in North America — we didn’t learn enough. Perhaps because, as you noted bb, the Spaniards decimated the aboriginal population by another dividing method: something quite close if not a match to rape.

            • Claro que si, without going too far I can say my mom’s is daughter of immigrants. She became very sick when she was young, and my grandparents who speak little Spanish and after a visit to the doctor and no seeing much improvement decided to take her to the witch doctor (I imagine that somebody advice them to do it so).

              And, the business of reading the cards, come from santeria, everybody does it in Venezuela like nothing. Same in Brazil, people can be all colors but they all have those african and indigenous traditions mixed in the soup.

              Not the fault of latin americans that gringos cannot get it since they decided not to to mix, kill everybody and the one drop rule that we never had.

            • Thank you very much for this reference – a brief glance suggests that it is, indeed, well worth the time it takes to read it.

    11. Santería, as far as I know, is a word mostly used to the Cuban version of some of these sub-Saharan-based beliefs. The stuff about María Lionza, etc, which was already present in Venezuela, was close but not the same. It has evolved and become much stronger with the many thousands of Cubans arriving to Venezuela. I have it from first sources there are santería
      events organised within El Palito, by Cuban and Cuban-educated bosses there. There have been complaints , but no one dares to talk about that outside work (beyond telling us that on an off the record fashion). The brain washing there is enormous.
      The presence of Santeros is particularly strong in such areas as Puerto Cabello now and that was not the case 30 years ago (even if there were always lots of brujos etc in the area…now you see everywhere there people in white, shops of santería and the rumour of a lot of santeros becoming “very very very rich”…some hint at santeros and certain mafias actually become one)

      Chávez came from Otomaco and indirectly Guamo territories.
      https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otomacos

      Remember the Espiritu de la Sabana Chávez so often mentioned.

      Disclaimer: my Carib ancestors had a bone to pick with these guys 🙂

    12. Francisco , thanks for clarifying the connection between chavismo and the santeria cults , quite frankly I didnt get it from your reference to afro caribbean culture , Although santeria definitely is of african origin , among the countries that come to mind when thinking of santeria is Brazil which is not a caribbean country , Maybe santeria is more cuban than brazilian but I know very little about this topic.

      Did hear rumours a couple of years ago that Chavez was a devotee of santeria rituals but wasnt aware that it had spread to the rest of his followers !!. That is perplexing because the Chavista rethoric is full of Marxist references which view of the world is totally antagonic to any form of santeria . This is a surreal connection , it reflects a muddle mindness in Chavismo thats very near to lunacy . ( as you have so often pointed out in the past) . No wonder our german friend was so puzzled at what she found in Venezuela .

      • What I found missing in the article by Xóchil Schütz was mention of the demographics (target audience) of the Poetry Festival. While she gets right her numerous observations of her physical milieu, I wonder if her optics on the mishmash of alternative spirituality, are not a little exaggerated.

        Now, poets and poetry are important in a society. But I wouldn’t base my perceptions about the entire population of a country, through the filter of the touchy-feely set, during a Poetry Festival weekend in Caracas.

      • Yes, BT, this discussion, as well as the article in ProDaVinci, is another look at the equation. Glad you noted the hat tip by Kepler; I was looking for it, too.

    13. I still believe Briceño-Guerrero said it better, by pinpointing our inner conflicting world-views without mentioning race as an issue (which is in itself a questionable term in the Social Sciences). Or as Graciala Soriano has aptly said for decades, we are “sociedades discrónicas”.

      In any case, by touching the “africanness” of our national malaise, you delve in a long ideological tradition in Venezuela: Bolívar, Vallenilla, Arcaya, Gil Fortoul, Adriani, all of them mentioned the “negro problem” (as Adriani actually wrote). You prompt us to face the facts about that; all right, then, but you also have to face the fact that it is a racist allegation, because its implied solutions -getting rid of the problem by “mejorar la raza” or getting out of the problem leaving the country- are racist: a whole group of society would never be able to be civilised, no matter how they are exposed to it (through religion, law, prosperity, whatever). “They” are damaged goods, and their influence should be minimised. “They” -them “gentes de color”- can live happily under a dictatorship (or, sorry, under a caudillo, be it Boves or Gómez or whomever) while the rest of us live with a sort of knock-off democracy (even Arcaya was a bit more nuanced: the African-Venezuelans were ultra democratic, so much so that they were fanatically anarchic; and the natives were lazy, and the Spaniards were proud and rapacious).

      Conrad found that the heart of darkness was not in the colonized, but mostly in the colonists.

      • GTAveledo, You get my nomination for the best quote of this thread: “Conrad found that the heart of darkness was not in the colonized, but mostly in the colonists.” Bravo!

        • ElPido,

          Chinese and Malawi I have met don’t have any problem talking about the problems a stronger belief in “magic” has screwed up or produced more problems in their societies compared to others. They didn’t have the complexes. They deal with issues.

          Do you realise almost every ethnic group has been a colonist one time or the other?
          And more often than not that time was not very far away from the time they became colonized.

          If you fall into the trap of starting to count history from your convenient time, you will see yourself as a victim and you won’t be have a more open attitude than Henry Stanley.

          Ever read some anthropological work on the dynamics of Andean ethnicities when the Europeans arrived? Were they all living “in peace with the environment and with each other”? Bullocks.

          Ever read what we have been able to find out about the fights, the power struggles, the ethnic wars in sub-Saharan Africa at the moment the Portuguese arrived late XV and early XVI centuries?
          And it goes on and one in every continent. And even today, it goes on and it is not just “the fault of the X man (put in X there every colour you want).

          If you are Venezuelan, your ancestors are very likely, like mine, the colonizer and the colonized and that not only because we both would have European (yes, almost all Venezuelans, even very dark, have European ancestry), native American and African ancestors, but because every single group among them have been, not very far away, colonizer and colonized.

          This collective guilt or collective victimization in saecula saeculorum is just rubbish.

          When Nikolaus Federmann arrived to Coro and when he went on his destruction path on the search of El Dorado he encountered groups that had as much hatred and contempt for others around themselves as the ones the “Christians” had for them, only a different technological level (thus, also succumbed). The same happened in what is now Guinea-Bissau, in Congo, in China.

          • I’m always a bit suspicious of the human inclination towards ‘victimolatry’ , to the syrupy beatification of people who ve had to suffer from the ravages of poverty or other misfortunes or from human or karmic injustice. and have little respect for the idea that such suffering makes them (the victims) morally better than people who through sheer good luck or through good use of their talents or other factors have scaped those ravages , The notion that victims are always saintly and pure while those who scape victimhood are automatically villains and fiends seems to me a sentimental puerile superstition of the worst kind . a falsifiying oversimplification of reality ( of the cowboys and indians type) . and yet its tremendously popular , I suspect because it appeals to peoples moral snobbery ( beateria moral) by allowing them to feel that because they are on the side of the ‘innnocent suffering’ that makes them morally superior and because people are attracted to grand standing melodrama that such posturing implies .
            Blacks in America have been victims of history , that doesnt make them better because misfortune doesnt magically make people better or morally pure , rather the opposite, deep poverty and misfortune often brutalizes its victims making them worse. This is not to say that they lack the capacity to become better , to improve themselves , that there is not a big potential for the develoment of suppressed talents in many of them , that they dont deserve the help of society in finding and developing their full potential as human beings. Also it doesnt mean that there are not many among the victims of these misfortunes whose resilience allows them to scape unscathed from those experiences and rise on their own to their maximum human potential. .

            This is not racism , but one must recognize that for most historical victims their current status (however unjust the causes) is not the highest that human beings can attain.and that there are scarrs from these experiences that handicap many of its victims in a lasting way in ways which cannot be ignored.. .
            . .

            • I agree with the notion that “magical thinking” impairs development. But that has nothing to do with the practice of Santeria: if anything, it is a symptom of said thought (as well as Yoga and New Age mumbo-jumbo, and Feng Shui and all that). The same way people approach Roman Catholicism, with amulets and prayers to particular saints. The Conquistadors brought along Medieval mysticism to the Americas, and seeped their legends into their fantasies of El Dorado and other fantasies.

              Alas, it is not due to a racial imput. There’s nothing inherently “African” regarding magical thinking. So the solution to it wouldn’t be a racial one.

            • I said several times I don’t see it as a racialist thing. There is a difference between culture and “race”. But it is a fact that different cultures have different ways and degrees to deal with myths. As I mentioned in my example of the US: they also have their special magic stuff: the fundamentalist interpretation of ancient texts against the most basic historical facts. That still influences a lot of US foreign policy.
              Russians have their forms of superstition for this or that area. Chinese even now have the whole fengshui thing and their obsession with magic numbers and stuff like that. That’s very present in their daily lives. And so do we have things like a stronger belief in the Evil Eye and stuff like that in the Caribbean.

              I quote Rory Carroll but I have heard similar stories:

              “Kibiri was expelled by Alcatraz, caught by police and jailed. Inside, somebody stabbed him 13 times. Again, he survived. “People think he’s made a pact with the devil, that he’s immortal,” says Jimin Perez, the former police officer who now runs the Alcatraz project. Belief in santería, a voodoo-tinged African-Caribbean import, is widespread, especially among gangsters who pray to santos malandros, holy thugs, for success and survival.”

              And this reminds me of stories I have repeatedly read in such places as this wonderful book
              http://www.amazon.de/Africa-Altered-Ordinary-Miracles-ebook/dp/B002AMVKOG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books-intl-de&ie=UTF8&qid=1379266222&sr=1-1&keywords=Africa
              and many others on Africa’s traditions on bullets that can’t kill you.

            • GT just to clarify things , Santeria is one form of magical thinking , one of its most virulent forms but not necessarily the only one , Magical thinking as you say also includes yoga , new age mumbo jumbo , feng shui , belief in soothsayers and other manifestations . Most of the latter forms of magical thinkind are a bit silly but basically harmless, just forms of cheap kitzshy entertainment for bored people who need a bit of excitment to spice up their empty lives . .There are others however which help foster forms of sectarian fanaticism that can do a lot of harm . Magical thinking although universal comes in many versions , there are African, Aborigine , western European , Oriental etc. Santeria is basically african in origin but it wouldn surprise me if there is also a aboriginal spin to it . Conquistadors werent all that mystical in spirit , thats a lot of crap , they followed the superstitions of the day and had their own fantasies but their basic instincts were predatory and thuggish in temper with a barnish of conventional catholic piety to make it look good. Their deeper allegiance was to the cult of the uber-proud manly strong warrior (‘soy arrecho y hago lo que me da la gana’) ethos . We saw much of that in Chavez speech and gesticulations which brought the house down in the stage of Venezuelan electoral politics .

        • I have to concede something: I am concerned with the way religious beliefs affect social and political behaviour. Regarding Santeria (and the myriad of ways it shows itself), what troubles me -and I have not received a good explanation on this mater either in literature or through believers- is that, unlike the Abrahamanic religions, which have an overarching good v. evil narrative, African polytheism -much like the Roman or Greek models- do not hold you to such overreaching good (ans its subsequent list of regulated actions) but rather link your life to that of a particular “saint” or “god” to whom you give instrumental offerings (you want revenge, love, fortune, whatever, you pray/pay dues to this deity and get your prize, regardless of your general behaviour).

          There’s also something to be said regarding religion v. populism, and I’ve tried to approach it in regard to the relations of the Catholic Church and the Chavista Government. But it is a multi-faceted issue.

          • But then you also need to acknowledge the accounts of polytheism that, at least in its Roman version, portray it as having a fundamentally rational understanding of ceremony and ritual as celebration of social values, i.e., the distinction between “religio” and “superstitio”.

            • Francisco: most archaic religions ( and their modern descendants) are more concerned with Piety than with Morality ,i.e What most matters is the devotees conduct towards their God (or Gods) rather than their conduct towards their fellow human beings ( as is the case in Morality ). We westeners tend to confuse morality with Piety because ancient jews had a thing about how God wanted ‘his people’ to treat their tribal fellows (not human beings in general) , thus the use of the words ‘projimo’ or ‘neighbor’ ( pick you language) in the ten commandments . Judeo Crhistianity later expanded this concern of God for the devotees treatment of their fellow correligionist to their treatment of all other human beings thus merging Piety with Morality . Your japanese wife belongs to a culture where social shame ( as defined by venerated social mores ) substitute for religious guilt in regulating social behaviour . Same thing as guided the Ancient Romans moral thinking whose Gods where anything but exemplars of moral behaviour.

      • I believe that Chávez is buried in Sabaneta, according to his personal wishes, and that the “tomb” in el cuartel de la montaña is nothing more than a well-designed delusion created by Maduro et al, for various purposes. That includes Maduro’s use of that “tomb” as a get-away excuse to engage in his peccadillos with his Colombian lover, when she periodically arrives to Caracas.

    14. “Una de las preguntas cruciales que América Latina tiene que responder es: ¿cuál es su esencia? ¿Cuáles son sus fuentes, sus raíces, sus anclas? En la medida en que sea capaz de mirarse a sí misma como lo que es, el producto de un fascinante proceso de construcciones sucesivas que se pueden medir en milenios, no en siglos ni en años, se comprenderá mejor.
      Es un momento fundamental para mirar atrás con el único objetivo de avanzar. No se puede avanzar con el lastre de presunciones fabricadas, sino por el contrario, con la ligereza de quien tiene una alforja rica, diversa y propia. Los latinoamericanos somos muchas cosas, indígenas, europeos, mestizos, todo junto y todo diverso. Cuna de imperios, heredera de imperios, forjadora de estados nación y de ideas republicanas. Los siglos nos dieron una amalgama que aún no hemos podido moldear del todo. No somos todo uno o todo otro, somos parte y parte, y quizás nos toque ahora más que nunca entenderlo. Si no lo entendemos, poco haremos para proyectar futuro.”

      From the second link, the first is far too long to quote but might be worth the read, towards delving more into the issues at hand…

    15. There is something I dont get , I know that magical thinking whether in the form of santeria or the cult of Maria Lionza or in palm reading etc is part of our cultural legacy . Santeria specifically is african in origin , but whatever its recent growth its still just one among many forms of magical thinking practiced in venezuela , I do find that Chavismo is full of magical thinking , the handling of appearances substituting for reality, Coronils idea of the Magical State and all of that but I dont remember in all the years of Chavez copious discourse any specific reference to Santeria ideas or rituals , whether he in private was a devotee of santeria together with many of his followers is another mattere altogether , but Chavismo has never publicly stood for santeria or advocated for its recognition as an specially important mainstream religion . Moreover I dont remember in Xochils account of her Venezuelan experiences having had any contact with santeria cultists . Evidently belief in magic rituals no matter how widespread is more extensive and deep among the least educated, most marginalized members of Venezuelans population than among the more fortunate well educated members of the population . Magical thinking goes with a primitive mind or one touched by primitive beliefs despite the purported level of the persons formal education. I happen to think that magical thinking is unfortunate , that intellectually grown up people should not resort to it that its no badge of intellectual merit to engage in magical cults . What I cant find is any overt sign that santeria, as a cuasi religion , is part of Chavismos formal ideological kit !! Its just one more ingredient in the soup of influences that any Venezuelan is likely to carry if he’s steeped in the lore and practice of magical thinking.

      • The use of the red shirts in great groups was a typical Maria Lionza act, and the Maria Lionza annual gathering at the mountain is swarmed with people who use Chávez clothes as their spiritual raiment. The new Venezuelan currency shows representatives of several Maria Lionza courts. A spiritual guide at the mountain once told me that Chávez was by far “the best-prepared (mejor preparado) president Venezuela has had,” in the sense of having gone through at least some degree of spiritual practice. There so much dog-whistling in the dude’s discourse you could sometimes not hear anything else.

        There are those who say that there was a spiritual reason to change the time zone, but that sounds like bullshit.

        • Frankly, the decision to change the time zone (thank God that didn’t go through) as a result of a spiritual decision is the most logical reason I’ve heard to date. And it would explain why Chávez was so unprepared, as was his brother, Adán, to explain the time zone in (gasp!) standard metrics.

        • What about Bolivar’s exhumation in the wee hours of the night? I mean, c’mon, what’s the explanation of it if not some witchcraft esoteric practice?

        • The Venezuelan time zone had to change to give chavismo the satisfaction to undo a decision of the ‘puntofijista’ regime. A bit of history:

          After the 1884 International Meridian Conference, Venezuela, which took participation in it, had to decide what time zone she would adopt. By that time the country had been using an astonishing time zone by our current standards: GMT-4:27:44. Unsurprisingly, at least to those familiar with history, it was decided to make a timid change to GMT-4:27:40 on January 1st, 1890. Since inexact minutes and seconds were growing less practical, another time zone change came into force on February 11, 1912 in order to round things up: GMT-4:30. The key fact on each one of those decisions was to keep the meridian that run through the middle of the Venezuelan territory as reference.

          Some time later, the Venezuelan government at last got rid of that conservative misconception and adopted GMT-4:00 as time zone on January 1st, 1965. The new reference was a meridian that provided the country with the most amount of daylight: the Punta Barima meridian (60° 00′ 00” W), which passes through the eastern section of the Orinoco Delta.

          I hope most of you have now realized that Venezuela went back in time, not only 30 minutes but an entire century, on December 9, 2007.

          • Thank you, Gabriel. I was not aware of the history. But, if the time zone selected in 1965, provided the greatest amount of daylight, wasn’t that, too, the chavista objective, if memory serves (cf one of Chávez’s veborrea on the subject, on Aló Presi).

            • Memory is not serving you, my friend. The chavista argument was to make sunrise earlier because waking up to go to school/work in the dark was ‘bad’. GMT-4 delays sunset; therefore, daylight lasts longer. Not everyone is awake at dawn but everybody is at sunset.

      • “Evidently belief in magic rituals no matter how widespread is more extensive and deep among the least educated, most marginalized members ”

        i wouldn’t agree with this necessary, there is a lot very educated people from Venezuela (from all walks of life and ideologies) and other countries in the region, that are very ritualistic in terms on, for example, in Venezuela, everybody is scared of ‘the pava” and there are things you could do to bring it in or bring it out, and everybody does take cares of keeping the pava away. In the arab word same though with the “evil eye”… In Asian countries, they are very superstitious with numbers and it goes for everybody including the very riches and educated. When I visited HK many years ago, our guide told us a story that the richest man in HK had to pay a lot of money for his address, only because it has the right set of numbers in it. In essence, if you are chinese, you don’t want to have anything to do with the number 4. even more have it as part of your address.

        http://www.chinatravel.com/facts/chinese-lucky-numbers.htm

        In respect of Chavismo, not part of the ideology but the people who carry it. Don’t need to put in on the Chavista bylaws I think, because it’s part of the culture. i do think though, that Chavistas are very superticious and more closer to santeria than other administrations.

        • you’re right. we all share a little of the chavismo mumbo-jumbo (alert: PC police!). For who didn’t grow up with threats of el coco gonna get us?

    16. You write of a state religion relating Because chavismo, deep-down, isn’t really a political movement. Its essence is mystical, afro-caribbean, rooted in a form of spirituality that nobody in Germany has any kind of reference point for. What Hugo Chávez brought to Venezuela isn’t a “dictatorship” in any sense that would make sense to Erich Honecker or even Nicolae Ceaușescu. What we have is the takeover of the state, and much of the public sphere, by a new kind of religious cult that borrows heavily from the language of the political left to create a new devotional system.

      I reply that those of Apocalyptic Vision, perceive that Bible Prophecy of Daniel 2:25-45, foretells of the soon coming of a Ten Toed Kingdom of regional governance, consisting of toes, that is regions, consisting of a miry mixture of iron diktat and clay democracy, which is synonymous with the Beast Regime of diktat and totalitarian collectivism, seen in Revelation 13:1-4, will arise out of a global credit bust and financial system breakdown, having its origins in the sovereign insolvency and banking insolvency of the Mediterranean Sea PIGS. The Beast Regime, which is replacing the Creature from Jekyll Island, will be popular with many, even to the extent that they will actually worship this monster, as related in Revelation 13:3-4.

      A fierce individual committed to policies of regional diktat, and schemes of debt servitude, will come to rise to rule the Eurozone, as foretold in bible prophecy of Daniel 8:23-25. This leader is also presented in Revelation 13:5-10, as the New Pharaoh, who will be accompanied by the New Prophet, Revelation 13:11-17, who will call for emperor worship, and who will eventually, after many years, introduce the charagma money system, that is the 666 credit system, where all will be required to take the Mark, in order to buy or sell, Revelation 13:18.

      John the Revelator in Revelation 13:4, foretells that people will worship the Dragon, that is Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, and the Beast as people will be so amazed of the economic recovery that comes through regional governance and totalitarian collectivism, that the trust engendered in the Beast Regime’s diktat, will be defined as worship.

      Worship is one thing Satan has always wanted for himself, and he will receive it through the success of the Beast Regime, the Sovereign and the Segnior, as he imbues, and comes to occupy in all three. In Revelation 5, the Lamb is declared worthy to take the scroll and to “receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” But in Revelation 13, it is three Beasts, a Beast Regime, A Beast Ruler, and a Beast Prophet, who take the place of the Lamb and rule over mankind.

    17. “(…) belief in magic rituals no matter how widespread is more extensive and deep among the least educated, most marginalized members of Venezuelans population than among the more fortunate well educated members of the population”.

      Oh yeah, and monkeys fly out of my butt too.

      “Brujos, videntes, astrólogos, lectura del tabaco y de carcoles” are part of Venezuelan society, regardless of class and instruction level. That’s the African side of our mestizo culture. Perhaps you haven’t found it in your social circle, and it’s OK, but lightly generalizing your point of view is not right at all. If still in doubt, you may consult Evenia Rengifo, la bruja de La Lagunita.

      • Gabriel : Ocassional visits to a soothsayer is one thing, the practice of santeria rituals , animal sacrifices , wearing of all white clothing etc is quite another . I ve yet to see anyone in the circle of my better off,/ better educated friends confessing to a belief in santeria or wearing all white clothes , (as a rule they find santeria laughable) But on the streets Ive met and talked to people of more humble condition who had no qualms to showing of their santeria devotions. ( by the way, the most outspoken of which was a young blonde woman I met waiting in a queue ) . Not saying that there are no santeria folks among the better educated , largely perhaps because of the high social movility of venezuelan society (people scale up the level of their education but retain some of their former tastes and mental habits) . But as a general rule you’ll find there are more santeria followers among the marginals or marginal minded than among people whove had a more meticulous education/upbringing . thats all Im saying , nothing to get fired about !!. As I understand it from life long observation santeria and santeria like cults include not only african elements but also native aborigine elements , spruced up to make them more ‘showy’ , Its true Venezuelans as a people are often bessoted with melodramatic play acting and histrionic posturings both in religion and in politics .. ,

        • I really think you need to spend some quality time reviewing your Briceño Guerrero.

          One key feature of the Savage Discourse, as an oppositional discourse created in opposition to dominant European Discourses, is that it’s always on the Down Low. People don’t go around professing their belief in it. People aren’t necessarily even aware that the forms of belief it implies operate within them. But they do…they do…

          • At University, while I was in a postgraduate course, one of my colleague was a Santero and another was an Astrologist (there was, also, a Jesuit priest among us). They were quite open about their respective creeds, but in general this did not interfere with their comments in class discussions (one is a Constitutional Lawyer and the other an Organisations expert). It befuddled me a lot, but when one has to ponder about our inherited Christian and Enlightened beliefs beyond their face-value “self-evidence”, everything seems silly.

          • Francisco will do as you suggest and refresh my youthful study of El Laberinto de los Tres Minotauros. Fully agree that there are ideas (taken or assimilated from the enviroment of our upbringing ) which whilst operating at a subliminal level silently influence the way we act and consciously think about things . Magical thinking is definitely part of our mental make up and that often includes snippets of many primitive or archaic beliefs held by our ancestors. The savage discourse can take many forms. It can of course express a resentment by historys losers against the values and ideals of the conquering winners , but also it can serve as a kind of mental emotional entertainment for those lacking the means to access the offerings of the European Discourse . Fact is that many of us probably follow both discourses at the same time without noticing the incongruity (we all know of the human capacity for ‘cognitive dissonance’) .Before Santeria became fashionable , there were many vernacular cults that expressed the Savage Discourse and even some elements from the Savage Discourse which had penetrated the version of the European Discourse followed in our society .

            • Bill Blass,

              The first world is often quite biased , egocentric , and narrow minded in their views on their own beliefs vs the beliefs in the second and third worlds.

              All cultures have magical beliefs, it is a part of human development.The main difference seems to be that some people consider their own magical beliefs as a normal part of faith.

              I myself do not believe in God, and sometimes find it a function of magical thinking to do so, then I remember that I am as much a prisoner of my own beliefs as the next woman is.

              The Buddhist point of view has offered some people an alternative to all theocentric (God-centered) religions because it is consistent with the findings of modern science and it offers a logical yet insightful teaching, one based upon experience and wisdom. They reject the theocentric religions because they are based on blind faith, superstitions, anthropomorphism, myths, and a rigid, dogmatic, and intolerant attitude towards the ideas of others.

              But when we are honest,and look deeply inside ourselves we find we are more like our fellow humans than we think.

    18. OK, I myself will put another aspect.

      The United States of America is not deprived from some sort of Magic Realism. It’s just a different one: one coming from religious fundamentalism of the Judo-Christian kind.
      George W. Bush.
      For instance: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8056207.stm
      “Former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been accused of using quotes from the Bible in his briefings to George W Bush during the Iraq War.”

      I have dealt a lot with US evangelicals…but it’s not only evangelicals, but also conservative Catholics there. When I was a child I got from some friends in Venezuela all these “Christian” cartoons. They were printed in the US and I saw them many times later on. There was one about the end of times, some sort of futuristic stuff and what would happen then. It so happened that they portrayed the 12 countries of the European Union back then (there were only 12) as a sign of the 12 stars on the head of a woman from Revelations…the Prostitute.
      They also portrayed United Nations as the Universal government of Revelations. There was a lot of anti-European and anti everything else stuff that got linked to symbols of the book of Revelations.
      And stuff like that is believed, to a larger or lesser extent by dozens of millions of US Americans…and a few more believe in stuff like some manifest destiny of the USA.

      And that influence their politics and their view of the Middle East.

      So: here we see another form of superstition influence the political world, but one derived from another culture, that of the original, fringe fundamentalist British (and German and Dutch) settlers/colonizers of North America and the First and Second Great Awakenings (XVIII and XIX centuries)

      When a European or an Asian or a Latin American arrives in the US, he can also observe that and be as puzzled as Frau Schütz here…but they will recognise more clearly the magical character because they have already heard of this before

        • What is the formal difference between Abraham religions and magic?
          Monotheism derived from Polyteism. Elohim was originally the plural of el, God.
          You can get a glimpse of the evolution through a couple of sources like
          Israel Finkelstein’s Bible Unearthed and MacCulloch’s A History of Christianity.

        • quite true !! religion is basically about the relationship between men ( or some chosen men ) and a supernatural person or group of persons , while magic is about men who have the capacity to unnaturally bend reality to their will by manipulating symbols and engaging in certain rituals . the two intersect where religion gives rise to miracle makers.

          • It’s a bit like the “definition” of a language (as opposed to a dialect):
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_language_is_a_dialect_with_an_army_and_navy

            It’s interesting to read Julius Caesar and his use of “religio” when talking about the druids. It gets translated as “superstition” or “religion” according to our view.
            But then: Romans were “reading” ducks ‘ entrails and all. But they were speaking in Latin and not in some Barbarian tongue. 🙂

            • they also killed Jesus and lay the blame on the Jews. Meaning, I wouldn’t trust anything said by Julius Caesar.

              ok, nuff silliness. Got to get back to bizniz.

    19. “Neues Deutschland” which was the official newspaper of communist German “Democratic” Republic that survived our 2nd try to unification after 1871 becoming the most important socialist newspaper in a country with strong socialist traditions seems to have changed its editorial line towards Venezuela.
      Before they gave room to a group of journalist, who by marriage with chavista consuls or as employees of Prensa Latina were obviously biased. Now they start to express doubt about the official line given by Chavismo at least between lines (http://www.neues-deutschland.de/artikel/832647.zwischen-sabotage-und-missmanagement.html?sstr=Venezuela).
      The long lasting euforia about the re-invention of socialism at the shores of the Caribbean Sea with elections and awesome growth rates seems to be history in those circles. Maybe they simply find less to be worth of defense and praise. Or they have a good sense to leave the boat, before things start to get apparently nastier even from the perspective of remote countries.

      • Wagenknecht was still praising Chavismo in late 2012. Now she might have the excuse that Maduro didn’t follow the real wishes of the Comandante.
        She hasn’t answered to my open letter about her statements on literacy in Venezuela versus Germany and she never will. Chávez was their son of a bitch. Maduro’s just the son of a son of a bitch.

        • Wagenknecht isn’t “Die Linke”. She was the typical attention grabbing young politician, carismatic for certain people. Radical elements Cuba Sí and Wagenknecht are more controversial inside the party than many people think.
          If the change of line of reporting inside Neues Deutschland is permanent, this signals frustration with Chavernment. Though they are not nearly as affected as you or most visitors of this blog, they share the same feeling: Frustration. A tad late. Eleven years after Francisco Toro started this blog.

    20. “La multitud está emocionada. Estoy segura que en cualquier momento en Venezuela Chávez será declarado santo y se convertirá en religión.”

      This points to the distinction chavismo has with respect to the Orwellism of the earlier post.

    21. While it’s very dramatic to portray chavismo as a religion, and as noted here there are *undoubtedly* emotional similarities between the irrational fervor of a religious believer or a chavista, as well as imaginably similarities in the social structure of a church and that of chavista socio-political construct, there is a more general point which should not be missed: the foundations of chavismo – one frightening aspect which is very similar to nazism, stalinism, and the like, and that any german *should* therefore understand – are nationalism and exceptionalism (the last of which has been emphasized ad nauseam in this site). This last property is alluded to very clearly in the picture above: “Hugo Chavez: el mas nuestro de los nuestros.” Exceptionalism is the corrosive principle that explains much of the nonsense that chavistas continue to believe.

      • True dat. Xóchil and many Germans should be aware of concepts that have a vague similarity to that of the Master race, or the Aryan Man, all elements designed to polarize, to divide, to set apart using artificial constructs.

    22. “That not-okayness isn’t political in nature. Because chavismo, deep-down, isn’t really a political movement. Its essence is mystical, afro-caribbean, rooted in a form of spirituality that nobody in Germany has any kind of reference point for.”

      But the fact is that Germans themselves have plenty of reference points in their own contemporary history to understand how the whole mystical-halo-of-the-absolute-leader can be exploited by totalitarian regimes.

      • http://thepiratebay.sx/torrent/4450119/Moloch_-_1999_-_Alexander_Sokurov

        The way I see it, European lineages must have had the Venezuelan savagery long ago, but it evolved with continuous advanced warfare into something cooler, more moral and less instinctive. Africans that were enslaved for us hadn’t been warring sophisticatedly on open plains and such for thousands of years, they hadn’t had time yet to metaphysicize their superstition.

        That German “I already own it all” in Hitler had a similar refreshed savagery from losing their nobility in WWI and all their forms of power with it, though not their savage need of it.

        It’s a little disgusting that so many people here think it’s an obvious step from a recognition of afro-caribbean mystic savagery to social cleansing. It makes it so that the naturally emergent question, “how do we meet this mystic savagery,” is spat on with much more racist spite (or afro-caribbean savagery!!) than is probably realized.

        Todos somos negros por dentro, and we all ultimately come from Africa.

        My feeling has been, for a long time, that the afro-caribbean savage cannot be beaten. The Spanish tried and it can’t be done. “Bochinche, bochinche,” and all that… No, my feeling is that we can only win if we ditch Catholicism and other tyrannical mindsets, and try to blend our more advanced selves with the savagery, see what we can do with it for ourselves. After all, don’t we all get a tingle of pride every time a European doesn’t get us?

      • Yes, good observation. I have seen a couple of good documentaries about it in the history channel I believe. Those guys also believe in their own s**t big time.

    23. I am way late, late to this party…alas! Bur Santeria my ass. When Chavez restructured the state and destroyed any form of independence among the political powers of the State, that had nothing to do with Santeria. Chavez’s Maquievelian, kryptonitic genius was to realize the crass opportunism of most Venezuelans, and to exploit it to its logical conclusion. When the shit, eventually, hits the fan you will see all this personality cult tossed over the side, and Venezuelans on the prowl for the next grab.

      • You still don’t get it, do you? The Devil is in the details, i.e. you don’t go overtly saying you’re using these or those magical elements to support a political cause.

        When asked about the deliberate changes in the Venezuelan national symbols, historian Elías Pino Iturrieta gave a brilliant answer that unravel elements not yet recognized by many of us.

        Capitals are mine.
        “Esto no es una invención del presidente Chávez. Cuando los adecos dan el golpe contra Medina en 1945 hablan de la segunda independencia. Mariano Picón Salas llega a comparar el Plan de Barranquilla con la Declaratoria de Independencia de 1811. Pérez Jiménez hizo procesiones con Simón Bolívar y con la Virgen de Coromoto. De manera que no es ninguna novedad la manipulación de la historia y de los héroes, sobre todo los de la independencia, pues viene de muy antiguo; desde la época de Guzmán en 1870 los convertimos en santones que nos impiden ver la realidad, son un telón que no nos dejan ver la realidad. Lo que pasa es que esto se extralimitó, por el hecho de que el culto HABITUAL de los venezolanos era el culto de la república LETRADA. Era el culto de los discursos de los políticos, era el culto de la Academia de la Historia, de la gente que sabía leer y escribir. El presidente Chávez de manera muy astuta justó DOS CULTOS que existían: el culto popular que ponía a Simón Bolívar en los ALTARES de María Lionza, y el culto letrado que hacía la Sociedad Bolivariana y la Academia. Lo metió todo en un mismo saco y creó un Bolívar distinto, porque el Bolívar de antes, el de los discursos de los adecos y copeyanos y de la Sociedad Bolivariana, era un Bolívar que nos podía cobijar a todos, que nos aglutinaba. Este no, este es un Bolívar que divide, que nos parte en los habitantes de la parte buena del país y los habitantes de la parte mala: los Bolivarianos y los anti-Bolivarianos.”

    24. It is time to stop pretending that noticing differences between cultures somehow makes one a racist.

      I very much like this post and agree with it.

      Racism: The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

      Anthropology : the study of humankind, past and present,that draws and builds upon knowledge from social and biological sciences, as well as the humanities and the natural sciences.

      Let us not confuse apples with oranges.In order to understand this situation, it is highly relative to point out where the misunderstandings between cultures might lie.

    25. As a hard fact reference, here a study from 2008 on genetics in Latin America:

      http://bdtd.bce.unb.br/tedesimplificado/tde_busca/arquivo.php?codArquivo=3873

      This is an approximation. Much better analysis are available now (for example, the Genographic Project that National Geographic is carrying out)
      http://bdtd.bce.unb.br/tedesimplificado/tde_busca/arquivo.php?codArquivo=3873
      See pages 33 and 34.

      The AVERAGE Venezuelan is, genetically speaking, 16.3% sub-Saharan African (this is rather recent origin), 23% native American and 60.6% European. He is more “European” than the average Colombian or Chilean.

      Still, the discourse is something else, so that a Venezuelan transforms himself depending on what role he wants to take at a given time. Chavismo has exploited this thanks, to a great extent, to the fact most Venezuelans know nothing about history.

      This is the country where Róger Cordero Lara, former military involved in the Cantaura Massacre, is a comrade of the guerrilleros he was trying to exterminate. And they have the chutzpah of accusing the current opposition of the crimes they themselves committed.

      • Kepler: According to an Ivic study quoted by Axel Capriles in pages 112 /113 of his 2011 book “Las Fantasias de Juan Bimba”:..” Los aportes genicos en la muestra observada fueron 58% de origen Espanol, 28.5% de origen amerindio y 12.6% de origen africano” …”a partir de poliformismos moleculares o de ADN …el aporte europeo por via femenina en Venezuela es de los mas altos reportados para America Latina , similar al de paises ..como Uruguay (48% European) . En Colombia y Brasil alrededor del 60% de los linajes femeninos son amerindios….En diversas poblaciones Venezolanas….la contribucion masculina es….fundamentalmente blanca en 87,6%, negra en 19.9% e indigena en 1.5%..” : This appears to match the figures mentioned in your post and reveal the surprising fact that genetically speaking we are more european than we think . The study goes on to state : ” Los resultados obtenidos en Venezuela permiten plantear que el mestizaje en Venezuela han ocurrido principalmente en una direccion , a travez de la union de hombres europeos con mujeres amerindias.” . these statistics tell a story about our origins which cultural repercusions that need to be analyzed . One possibility that what converted us into mestizos was the spaniards pairing with native and negro women , thus stablishing a relaitonship between the sexes different from other countries , were the white master in typical machista style bedded women he considered of unequeal station, his servants or slaves and the women happily consented to this because of the higher rank she and her children would have from mixing their blood with that of a higher status spaniard who did not view his union with the amerindian or black women he paired with as permanent or as blessed by institutions or religion. thus givng rise to a custom of abandoned children and rotating bed partners what we see today in marignal Venezuelan society. .

        • Well: the same asymmetric coupling took place in all of Spanish America: European man had several women. Also there were many more black males arriving in Venezuela than females, so a lot of males looked for native American females. Male Indians had a hard time.
          That’s why about 92% of male haplogroups are European and less than 2% Amerindian, whereas the maternal haplogroup is mainly Amerindian (with European and African being about 25% and 25%, according to some other IVIC studies).

          Look at it this way: Condoleza Rice, who looks very African American, apparently has about 40% European genes.

          • Indian communities and their way of life were wiped out in Venezuela , Coastal Colombia , Certain Central American countires and the caribbean but kept a presence in Guatemala , Peru , Ecuador Bolicia and to a large extent in Mexico. There was never enough of an established indian presence in the southern cone to make a difference , this mean that the deepest most penetrating mestisaje process involving the Conquistadors disordered pairing with indian and black women took place in Venezuela and other caribbean countries creating a system in which stable well structured patriarchal families were the exception and a free for all , more disfunctional familly organization the norm with cultural consequences which have grown more influential with time . The andean population in Colombia and Venezuela was more european , with more stable and established patriarchal families as can be seen from the dearth of ameridian and black genetic markers in these populations . the mestisaje process was not the same everywhere in Latin America . Please note that the negro genetic component is not as important in Venezuela as it is in Brazil or other places in the caribbean . We must look at the cultural implications of the story these figures tell us . and how they link to some traits in Venezuelan culture. for example look at high crime statistics and how they match those countries where the mestisaje process was most brutal . . The female halogroup in Venezuela according to Axel Capriles quoted studies gives very similar percentages for amerindian and european influences and a much smaller one fro those of african origin.

        • I must admit that the 2011 census, which asked for people to self identify their ethnic/racial background, is not consistent with what Billl Bass and Kepler cite in their posts. The census noted that 49,9% of Criollos self-identify as “Morenos”, 42,2% white, and 3,5% black or afrodescendiente, and the rest were natives or other. Would anyone like to weigh-in on this discrepancy?

          • ermmmm…people’s self-identification often doesn’t map onto their genetic markers!

            The REALLY telling bit, though, is that over 97% of 3rd genration (or more) Venezuelans have genetic markers for all three races. Very, very few of self-identified white people are descended only from whites…(the exception are children of post-war European immigrants.)

            • The self percieved racial identification figures appear to have changed with time , in the sixties, if my recollection is correct, 55% of Venezuelans declared themselves mestizos , 33% white and about 10% black, so in our racial self perception we have grown more white , less mestizo and ;less black .
              By the way seem to remember that a genetic study of jewish israelites and palestinian arabs showed that they were genetically very closely related despite the outer differences !!.

            • “a genetic study of jewish israelites and palestinian arabs showed that they were genetically very closely related despite the outer differences ”

              both groups are semites. Which makes it ironic when jews pull the anti-Semitic card, during heated discussions over land rights, etc. in the Palestinian issue.

          • ElPipo,

            As Francisco said: self-identification is another thing.

            There are basically two types of texts:
            1)
            haplogroup tests show where your father’s father’s father’s (or as they said in Monty Pyton, your father’s father’s father’s father’s) side came from and where your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s came from. The first pattern comes from your Y chromosome (if you are a man, women don’t have that) and the maternal haplogroup is found by analysing our mitochondria, which we get from our mothers alone.
            2) autosomal tests show the general composition of the markers you get in the genetic mix produced once father and mother shagged. One cannot be sure what came from whom, one could only get an educated guess by also testing both parents.

            Studies in Venezuela are at initial stages. There have been several genetic projects but – I got this from someone working at IVIC – the Venezuelan government is now not so interested in this kind.
            Initial tests for autosomal in Caracas showed this: in a public hospital, the average had 21% African, 42% European and 36% Amerindian mix (all that together!)
            People at a private clinic had 6%, 78% and 16% respectively.
            The same test (with the same people) showed males had a paternal great*grandparent (imagine colonial times, but in reality the origin goes further back – only that we know Venezuela’s big mix started just 5 centuries ago) that was European in 92% of the times at the clinic and 84% at the public hospital, it was African in 8% and 9% of the times and Amerindian 0% of the time and %6 of the time respectively. In Caracas – and Central Venezuela, basically- this shows native American men were really replaced.

            See here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18027815

            Of course, this confirms what we know: rich people tend to look lighter. Still, you see the mix in both places.

            These charts show quite nicely a much more extensive work for Puerto Rico, they show the autosomal distribution for each individual put together, so you see the whole scope:
            http://dienekes.blogspot.be/2013/06/native-american-origins-from-whole.html

            Few Puerto Ricans would think they have much native American blood, they are more aware of their European and African influence but here it shows. That came from the females.

            Notice also that only 1/3 of Africans arriving in Venezuela were females. That means: Africans had to look for partners among – usually but not exclusively- native Americans. And we know a lot of Spaniards had children with the female slaves.

            http://dienekes.blogspot.be/2013/06/native-american-origins-from-whole.html

    26. To one gringo who’s been intermittently following the unfolding tragicomedy which is today’s Venezuela, this sounds spot on. It’s sad but not really surprising that FT believes – apparently with very good reason – that he’s violating a very important taboo when he insists that it “isn’t possible to sidestep these forms of religious expression/belief in a serious discussion of the collective psyche.”

    27. Quico, You may be interested in looking up the reactions to the findings by the scientist seeking Cromagnon genes in modern day people. At first they accused him of the worst because the people with the gene would then be treated as inferior. Then, when he found that everyone had more than 1% cromagnon genes, except those that never left Africa, they accused him of the worst for “insulting” them for having cromagnon genes. Go figure.

    28. Regarding the German poet’s write up, would like to mention that it is quite interesting that her impression of Chavismo vastly changed after spending time in Venezuela.This just shows us the poor level of journalism in Germany and possibly in general in the International press.

      One wonders also just why the level of journalism is so poor? This merits discussion in my opinion.

      • After researching on the internet, she did have some doubts and found negative info on Chavismo, but nothing prepared her for the reality!

      • I believe we’ve discussed the journalism issue, before. As early as 2000, I believe, there was one foreign journalist — a German guy — who broke away from the government-controlled press tour he was obliged to be on, in Venezuela, to walk behind the painted façade of the school he was shown. What he found was that the changes to the school were no more than a cosmetic paint job of the front, nothing else. This guy was the first foreign journalist who saw through the façade of chavismo, and not just at said school. His write up appeared in a German newspaper magazine (not der Spiegel). And he pre-dated the write-ups of the WSJ’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady, another early “visionary” by a good 2 years or so, let alone any other north American journalist.

      • Firepigette definitely has an obsession with Germany.
        It doesn’t have to do with German journalism. Apparently, you didn’t even bother to read the article. She didn’t have a good impression of Chavismo, she just didn’t know it was so freaking personality cult and she didn’t know the degree of decay. Why should she?
        What do you know about Kazakhstan or Turkey, for that matter? (please, don’t surf the Net now to show me how much you “know”)
        The 30-minute news on ZDF probably contain more substance and accurate information about the outside world than a week of your favorite news TV channel.

        • Kepler, I am not comparing Germany with any other place….She is German and was surprised by what she saw…learn to read English as I mentioned that she googled the internet but it wasn’t enough.

          This issue has not been resolved and it is an important one that will not be well understood by dismissing it.

          The world in general including Germany does not have a good picture about what is really going on in Venezuela and we need to learn more about this.

    29. To make Chavez object of worship started long ago, and it has pretty good reasons. Among others: if you have the subject surronded by a religious and mythical aura, the faith is stronger that one for a common political character, he cannot be criticized and even can ‘protect’ his heirs.

      • Maru , Of ourse its politically useful for Chavismos leaders to foster a highly histrionic pathetically theatrical cult of a bloated sacralized Chavez figure , but its also enthralling for ordinary chavistas to wallow in their syrupy histerical quasi mystical teary cult of Chavez , same as it is enthralling for members of certain islamic sect to conmemorate their founders tragic death by engaging in collective frenzied festivals of loud weeping and self scouring ,and for the fans of a sports team to form part of a screaming emotionally intoxicated throng during their teams matches. In other words these cults are not just the result of sheer political calculation they also reflect the need for ordinary people , leading mediochre ,boring , painfully unheroic banal lives to have a taste of spuriously mistified emotionally charged experiences, its also makes them glory in their collective tears and histerical passions . Its primitive and pathetic but very human, Historically brutalized or savaged masses are more susceptible to engage in these collective theatrical passions but more civilized people can also become its victims, remember the frenzied response to Lady Di ‘s death in Brittain , the grand spectacle which was made of her funerals !! The love of pathos, for engaging in grandly staged mass histerical experiences is a primitive but deeply rooted human trait.The Chavista cult of its defunct leader is just another demonstration of the force of this trait in ordinary humans.

    30. Another take on why this kitschy pseudo-religion takes hold of the general population: facilismo, falta de buena lectura, una pobreza en el desarrollo de un criterio …

      “Un país sin palabras” por Sebastián de la Nuez: http://talcualdigital.com/Nota/visor.aspx?id=91995&tipo=AVA

      Un pueblo que no sabe hablar de manera correcta es engañado con facilidad. Quien haya dicho ante un público dúctil algo como “compañeros, lamentablemente, por ahora los objetivos que nos planteamos no fueron logrados…”, en realidad quizás oculte una verdad rotunda: “Secuaces y engañados, me acobardé”

    31. The Populist madness of Chavismo has many equivalents throughout the world, even in Europe. Perhaps in Europe they have faded from memory of those still alive and do not seem as bonkers when you read about them in books. Think about this: when in 50 years people read about Chavez, more than likely most books won’t remark on the madness of it all, but the economics and political conflict. The colorful asides that highlight the madness get lost.

      Like many of you have noted, the comment about santeria and the Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices is an opinion of the author, an opinion, about Chavismo. Having lived in Venezuela for the first half of the Chavez regime, and having done research (empirical, data driven) about how people regarded Chavismo and why they supported it, I cannot agree with the opinion of the author. That said, anyone who witnessed the last ten years has to admit that the santeria babalaos and other assortment of spiritual charlatans (including Evangelicals) had a field day in Revolutionary Venezuela. They boom was fueled by the peculiar appropriation of all sorts of mystical language. Chavez used to go campaign by claiming he was Messiah,the reincarnation of Bolivar, an envoy of Maria Lionza, and who knows what else. The first five years of the presidency he was openly at war with organized religion, following the Cuban model, but eventually he gave up and began to appropriate the Catholic church’s imagery and language as well.

      Finally, let’s not let the gringos commentators colonize our thoughts. Anytime something that has a mildly negative connotation and is associated with African culture, like santeria being the product of Afro-Caribbean cultures, American liberals cry racism. They assume their world view and model IS THE ONLY WORLD VIEW AND MODEL THAT IS TRUE. Let them continue with their delusion.

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