All of the Chávez Era's Insanity Condensed into One Panorama Article



Looking for just the right mix of herbs to magically cure your lovesickness? You’re out of luck: shortages have come to the world of Santería supplies.

Las yerbas y las esencias son lo más solicitado por los consumidores. Amargos para sacar lo malo, dulces para traer el bien, así rezan todos los dependientes de estas especies de boticas dedicadas a curar más el alma que el físico. Aunque hay quienes afirman que son mejor que los medicamentos y más baratos. “¿Cuánto cuesta una pastillita para la tensión?”, se pregunta Rafael Ramos, encargado del área de ramas de la perfumería El Cristo II.

Mujeres y hombres, jóvenes y adultos se ven por igual en estos locales. Aparentemente la escasez no solo afecta al área de los productos básicos de la alimentación, también ha llegado a estos rubros. “No doñita, no hay, venga la semana que viene, quizás el lunes la tenga”, le dice Rafael a una señora que pregunta por el cariaquito morado. La mujer le responde: “Vengo de muy lejos” y sale del local para continuar la travesía de la búsqueda. No es la primera vez que se escucha la frase: no hay, durante el recorrido.

El hombre alto, de chaqueta y un atípico bigote, tiene cinco años encargado del área de yerbas de este comercio. Reconoce que cuando ingresó a la perfumería no sabía nada de las ramas y sus propiedades. Hoy es un experto.

“Esto está dando más que la comida”, asegura mientras atiende a una jovencita, de unos 17 años —aproximadamente—, que de forma tímida le enseña al hombre una lista, que esconde entre sus manos. Apenas se aprecian tres nombres.

La muchacha no se atreve a decir en voz alta los ingredientes del rezo que está requiriendo. Sin embargo, la imprudencia del comerciante la delata. “¿Qué dice ahí? ¿Celos?” La joven dice que sí, con la cabeza gacha. La búsqueda fue infructuosa, no consiguió ninguna de las tres yerbas, pero su problema sentimental quedó al descubierto.

How great is that?

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  1. Wonderful article.

    When I was a child my parents told me about how pervasive superstition was when and where they grew up. My dad would tell me lots of all kinds of customs and beliefs from his little village in the Guacara region (mind: a historically well connected area next to the Valencia Lake, not the Llanos). He would laugh at those times. His stories were a reminder to me of where Gabriel García Márquez’ stories came from.

    Recently a friend told me those “urine readers” my dad talked about are back. He went to see one in the city of Guacara, not in some suburb…and a lot of people were queueing up to get their urine “interpreted”. He went for the thrill, he is a musiuo.
    People were coming not only from all around Carabobo but from the entire Bolivarian Republic. They would get a diagnosis and the brujo would stamp a receipt (no shit) with things the patients had to buy. That is now, in 2013.

    Another revealing detail in that article: “está dando más que la comida”.
    Recently, a relative of mine, a doctor, told me how much an engineer she knows is earning now by selling cakes – mind, not in a fancy shop but in his car. The guy is earning several times what she is earning.

  2. The Yankee imperialists who are sabotaging the provision of these magical herbs to the people should beware; if there are no pills to take for celos, Venezuelans may become jealous of the imperium itself. Then, watch out!

    • There is a bruja near Las Claritas that can, I am sure, address anything through the ritual sacrifice of three crows (burying them alive) and 4500 BFs. Good for the evil eye, hemorrhoids, financial issues, female fertility and presumably counter revolutionary fascists.

  3. At least a lot of that stuff is not imported….and even can be grown in a pot , like ‘cariaquito morado’, or ‘hierbamora’…

    When I first arrived to Venezuela, I lived in front of a store called “Perfumeria” in San Juan de los Morros.Of course I thought at first that they sold REAL perfumes until one day I entered, and thought how strange it was that all the perfumes had odd names like” Car Wash” and the “Powerful Hand”. Their smells were strangely all very similar( like diluted alcohol and food coloring).Some had very faint odors of something else ( ashes,or weeds ?) Some how I had the impression that it was not the product that mattered so much as it was the ritual behind it that made the greater impression on the searchers and the eerie airs of the people who sold them influenced as well.All this was all that different form the ‘airs’ that conspiracy theorists have when they think they have some kind of insider knowledge of other people’s motivations.

    This is a complicated matter:)

    • typo: meant to say that” it was not that different from’ the airs of conspiracy theorists, and would add that the air was one of arrogance combined with mystery.These feelings need little more than attitude to work on the appropriate people.

  4. Now we know we’re in the crapper.

    Venezuela is going to need a couple of ULCC ( Ultra Large Crude Carriers) worth of Cariaquito Morao, and now we learn there’s a shortage.

    Oh well…………………

  5. Poor innocent gringo Justin Delacour. It just got a little harder to justify his oh-so-PC “sensitivities” regarding afro-caribbean influences in Vzla. I give him exhibit A:

    Este comercio mezcla las esencias, las yerbas y las soperas por igual. Tanto la brujería como la santería se dan la mano. Lo más vendido siguen siendo las esencias y —ahora— los combos para los bautizos en la religión de origen africana.

    and B:

    check the dark-coloured masks on the right-hand side of the photograph. If these don’t scream African-art influence, I don’t know what does.

    Otherwise, I chuckled at the comment by the propietario of El Brujo Divino, that what he sells is NOT santería, but brujería. Make no mistake. BIG difference.

  6. I guess the fact that there are shortages even of this type of products is a reflection of the Chavez era but this beliefs have always been there and we can’t blame chavismo for making people more superstitious.
    One could argue that:
    – In the face of constant danger and insecurity people might be turning more to the supernatural for help. What else can you do but pray to whatever you believe when you know you can be killed any time for any reason and no one is going to protect you, seems to be the mechanism here.
    – The government’s ideology, always blaming something external and exacerbating the cult to the dead leader, might be giving free rein to our tendency to always thing someone or something else controls our life (external control locus) and since the government is obviously not in control then saints and others must be right?
    But I don’t think one can say that this reflects Chavismo Era’s crazyness

    • Certainly I agree that all of those superticius elements have been present in venezuela before Chavez, I also agree that the obvious lack of state protection from crime, the feble economy and poor education have encouraged people to look for protection in the “paranormal” field

      I would also add that this is not only something limited to santeria, the evangelical churches (llama violeta sort of stuff) have also been exploding in popularity lately, a phenomenon far less considered in Caracas Chronicles than santeria, it seem that the good old reactionary catholic church is not good enough for people

      I would like to point out the contrast in some developed countries where it seem that the people have most of their basic needs covered and feel protected by the state tend to switch to atheism.

      • It is not so much about the State.
        It is about Enlightenment. There is superstition everywhere, but one thing we can be sure of: Venezuela is a feudal land where Enlightenment never ever ever came.
        Those who were supposed to represent the Enlightenment ideas were snobbish, usually reactionary blokes like Bolívar and the like of Penalver et alia.
        The ideas of the French Revolution and others were just a varnish, an excuse for their desire to take power.

        We never had a period were people got to know about a real debate, whether in the press or through newer media forms.

      • And it’s true the most eccentric evangelicals have proliferated. Usually the more emotional they are, the more likely it is that they consider themselves Chavistas: con Jesús, Bolívar y Chávez! (I quote).

        Baptist evangelicals tend to be better educated and rather pro-opposition.
        Pentecostals and other such groups who imagine they speak in tongues or get raptures tend to be Chavistas. Of course, there is a whole spectrum, but the clusters are clear.

        You can get very funny concoctions. On tweeter you can see some of these fundamentalists who on one side quote the Sermon of the Mount and then re-tweet some of Iris Varela’s wildest calls for la guillotine and the fire squad for us, Untermenschen. In that case, we can see some parallels between them and the extreme right in the USA (or extreme left, same thing).

        • Yeah, and in my oppinion the evangelical phenomenon have been far bigger than santeria, that’s why I think that CC overstates its influence, tough it is true that some people outside that religion itself sometimes ask for “services” from santeros and sorcerers I don’t think that those “exotic” religions are present in the psyque of the vast majority of the population, I think the majority is still “normal” in those elements given the fact the “normal” catholic churches are still full every sunday.

          Chavism itself sometimes grab some elements from those cults (more from christian crazyness than santeria) but is still independent, the vast majority of the population still regard santeria with some fear and abomination.

      • P.S. Moraima. I don’t mean to imply that brujería hasn’t always existed in Vzla. Just like crime statistics shot up, during the Chávez era and now, it would be logical to conclude, based on Chávez’s behavior and beliefs in santería/brujería, that these elements have increased multiple-fold. And judging from hearsay comments … santeros vestidos en blanco se ven por todos lados, cuando antes no se veían.

        • Must be the chavistosos since they are sooo pavosos they probably took all the supplies of cariaquito morado for themselves. But how come there is shortage of it? Those flowers were in every house in every home in Venezuela, everywhere… no comprende amigou

    • I agree. This is a symptom of people having no control over their destinies.

      I hate to sound all Max Weberish but what people need are (1) opportunities for productive, meaningful employment, and (2) institutions that are accountable.

        • Certainly the more full ,orderly , sheltered a persons life the less keen its need for supernatural protection except that if life is too boorish or comfortable and predictable then they sometimes go crazy seeking a higher ’emotionally enthrancing’ belief to bring excitment and meaning into their lives . People often confuse feelings of extravagant sentimentality and the enactment of cheap theatricals with the ‘spiritual life’ . so sad

          • Yep, sirupy music can sometimes serve too as a substitute for some of the gratifications of religion !! Wasnt it John Lennon who once famously said that they (the Beatles ) had become more popular than Christ.!!. Ours is an age where even the deepest values of religion are cheapened and transformed into kitzch spectacles !! into vulgar forms of candified entertainment !!


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