In the land of silicone socialism


OreosI’m with my cousin Elena.

We’re in a Maracaibo supermarket. Half an hour earlier they had announced the arrival of cooking oil – two bottles per person – and the line at the cashiers had collapsed the place. The cooking oil was gone.

We’re stuck in the middle of a crowd, right in front of a shelf stocked top to bottom with Oreo cookies, next to the Coca Colas, which are also abundant.

“Things are crazy in this country,” she tells me, as if it wasn’t obvious already. “The other day I went to get a mammogram, and the lady doing my paperwork gave me an appointment for a mammogram with breast implants.”

“Hmm …” I say, “you need to specify whether or not you have implants when you go get a mammogram?” You learn something new every day, I thought.

“Oh yeah,” she says. “I had to ask her to change it. Funny thing … the lady didn’t even know the code on the computer for ‘mammogram without implants.’ She had to call her co-worker, ‘Yolimar,’ she yelled across the room, ‘do you knwo the code for mammogram without implants? This lady doesn’t have implants!'”

Suddenly, in the middle of the Oreos, the people waiting to buy their oil two apiece, and the story about the missing mammogram code, I realize how great it is to be home.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. I might have missed it, what is so great about it? It would only make me feel sad about the country and would want to go away again and again and again.

    • Plastic tetas are far from being “capitalism”. In fact, they’re not as popular in developed nations.

      Here, a self steem issue i think.

      • Of course is Popular. Maybe the breast operation is not the most famous, but chinese, Japanese and Americans really like plastic surgery.

        And also yes, i think they’re part of it, because is a way to use your money in something you want (and generates multiples jobs and in some cases, is a good source of foreign currency

        • you forgot S.Korea and Russia, and in both they have the freakiest surgeries.
          And I mean freaky,as in insane with loads of money to spend.

          • And western european women don’t need it.
            They’re so beautiful it’s just not fair to the rest of the world.

          • Nobody needs those things. A woman with small breasts looks much better than a woman with those things. Those who like those implants must be incredibly thick to get excited about those things, you might as well get excited about a silicone bag on its own;

          • They make good paperweights…
            At least, that’s what I saw on the desk of one surgical resident (c. 1980).

          • Well, is a decision of the woman, isn’t? Some use them after a breast cancer operation or because they want to boost their selfesteem (a decision over their bodies and how they want to look).

            And also, at the end, they can look pretty good if the skills of the surgeon are good

  2. “Suddenly, in the middle of the Oreos, the people waiting to buy their oil two apiece, and the story about the missing mammogram code, I realize how great it is to be home.”
    Well, that explains a lot.

  3. We now live in a country were the management of the economy has been so crazy that most women have been able to afford having an expensive ‘vanity’ surgery (such as a breast implant) but now must make a long search and then a long queue just to buy 2 bottles of cooking oil . We have gone from splurging in frivolous things to finding it hard to buy essential food staples .!! its ironic , its laughable and also very sad.!! two everyday stories that sum up Venezuela !!

    • Oh, oh, don’t get me started on the frivolity index. It was waaay too high, for too long. You could even argue that because of it (and I’m not referring just to vanity surgery, nor just among women) … por eso estamos como estamos …

    • Bill Bass, it is a bit irritating when people complain about the price of oil or coffee, while spending their money on plastic surgery…what sort of crisi is this?

      • Im not sure that at this time breast implants are so much in ladies mind , went to market today ( to several stores) and couldnt find flour , milk , sugar , cooking oil nor any cut of meat except of the very worst kind, did find vegetables but of very poor quality ( the kind which in the past wouldnt be sent to market but would be used to feed livestock) , extremely expensive cheese and more worrisome of three bakeries visited , two had been without bread for several days and one was so short of the sort of bread one normally buys that they sold out before we could buy any.!! Prices have skyrocketed so that some things you used to buy you no longer do . Also scarce are car batteries, tires, car parts and of course airplane tickets to any international destination .

          • They are in short supply but they can still be found , dont know for how long , Cans of motor oil are almost impossible to find and if found are imported from Peru and cost 7 fold what they used to . Its also become common for gas stations to run out of fuel every other day so on those days you have to search for one still open and make a long queue to get the tank filled up. From one day to the next common items dissapear from stock and there is no certainty on when they will appear again and for how long.

            You dont appreciate the predictability of being able to find and buy ordinary things until it dissapears . Average life is becoming fraught with all kinds of routine hazzles that make you are constantly in a ‘hunter gatherer’ alert mode looking for things that suddenly go missing , for example if you go near a market you are vigilant of what people are carrying in their bags to check whether they carry some hard to find items, If you seen someone arround you carrying one of those items you inmmediately ask the person where it found them .

  4. To be fair, plastic surgery to improve the chances to get a husband* is STILL a better investment than saving on Bolívares.

    *Actual effectiveness aside.

  5. Unfortunately, backward priorities are not unique to Venezuela, and you can find them in many countries throughout the world. In the case of Venezuela, backward priorities along with economic policies based on the televised temper tantrums of Chavez led to the current situation. Many Venezuelans wonder why people in first world countries say nothing about the current madness. Sadly, a lot of people in places like Canada or the United States probably think, “Venezuela is a third world country. Things like that are probably normal there”. They don’t give any thought to the fact that this is the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, and that many people actually enjoyed a relatively high standard of living for many years until recently.

    • Yes, your entirely correct Eddie,
      Most “english speaking’ countries see Venezeula as a 3rd wold country with oil.
      But what is currently happening in your country IS bizarre…. citizens are initially protesting about CRIME, and the government is oppsing them….?????

  6. My last trip to Venezuela was in 2006 and one of the most frequent questions I got asked was when –not If– I was going to get breast implants.

  7. Por eso estamos como estamos… a good friend of mine always complains about the economy and the situation of the country, like any other Venezuelan, well last week she told me that she had a tummy tuck and I just couldn’t resist and said “Entonces la situatión no está tan mala!” to which she responded “well, we had been saving little by little”. Ohhhh how I love my Venezuela…

  8. I am sure one day a new revolutionary palate will emerge…hmmm.. There are no carrots and no milk today but what can I do with Oreos, buffalo meat and Chipotle flavored mayonnaise?…

  9. I suspect the implants are the result of a long-standing secret government strategy. Not being fully versed on the situation but having vaguely heard something about it and always looking to jab El Imperio in the eye and in the interests of anti-imperialism and the creation of a multi-polar world, Chavez secretly embarked upon a plan to combat Silicon Valley through the creation of Silicone Mountains.

    • I also find it highly interesting that there have been numerous posts on this blog (albeit indirectly at times) involving breast implants and the in general scathing attitude towards them.

      Why? Because it is a woman’s body and therefore her choice, regardless of the reasoning behind it.
      If a woman chooses to have an abortion, regardless of the reason, it is still her body. Does her ownership of her body or right to make that choice change when it is breast implants? Likewise, is it our place to pillory her for that decision? There is a reason behind each surgical decision, and to the person having the surgery, it is just as important to them spending that 30,000 bolivars, or $5,000 on implants, or whatever other aesthetic “improvements” as you or I spending the equivalent money on something else.

      I’m not saying I’m for either one, but I won’t mock someone for doing either. They had a reason for doing what they did and they had the right to do so.

      • There is a difference between being recognized the right to do something and having people approve of what you do in exercise of that right , married people are free to commit adultery but that doesnt mean that most people approve of adultery , If you own your body and choose to mutilate it for religious or fanciful reasons that doesnt necessarily deserve peoples admiration . We must learn to distinguish between whats legally admissible or permissible and the moral judgement of what people do even if its legally admissible . They are two different standards of judgement . Even now if someone chooses to take its own life , every effort will be made to prevent that persons suicide even if they are assummed to ‘owe their body’and thus to be free to extinguish its functions through the exercise of their own free will. What about that german fellow who voluntarily allowed a sexually perverted cannibal to kill him and eat his flesh . He owed his body and presumably could do with it what he wanted and yet there is something which has us drawback from someone who allows his body to be cannibalized by a sexually perturbed person. I find the ‘own your body’ argument somehow wanting even without necessarily disputing societys reasons for legalizing abortion !!.

      • Pitiyanqui,

        It is true that it is a woman’s decision, but it is also true that others have a right to be horrified.Rights of opinion belong to all of us.

        I worry about women’s health and self esteem .I also worry about the kinds of values that make a woman spend money on vanity rather than stability.

        I can also say this: It is hard to feel sympathy for people who do not do their best with the money they have.It is hard to worry about their chicken supplies, or their lack of water or oil or toilet paper when they themselves spend their money on trivialities.

        We all have to pay a price, and that payment has to be wisely chosen because we will receive the predictable results.

        • Pitiyanqui, I would also add that though it is a woman’s decision to an extent, it does not help when men are so trivial and materialistic that they prefer women to do this surgery as well.I mean men are not innocent here.Many women do this because their husbands want them to, and in a country where there is little justice for women, a man’s opinion carries a lot of weight.So in a sense we cannot say that it is purely a woman’s decision here where there is no equality.I do believe that it is up to women to change this.If women were to raise their son’s to respect women by being good role models , it would help.If women were to rebel against these values it would help.

          • Well, there’s the very cynical point of view that says that prostitution, in the explicit sense and in the sense with plausible deniability, surged as a source of employment on this piece of shit economy.

            And again, nobody wants to hold Bolívares if they can avoid it.

  10. I ve lived in other lands and nowhere have i seen ladies ( and a lot of men) pay so much attention to the adornment and improvement of their appearance and bodily presentation . Its a real fetish with us , look at the popularity not only of cosmetic surgery but also of cosmetic treatments and beauty products and fancy clothes and footware even in people who arent particularly prosperous and even where there are more sensible ways of spending their money .!! Also observe the national obssesion with personal cleaninness (even if people of very modest condition) and the cult of Beauty Pageants .!! ive had friends from other lands observe the way that venezuelan ladies always seek to enhance their feminity as much as they can , not only through the things they wear but in the way they walk , talk and deport themselves .

    Of course it reflects a form of vanity which goes beyond the cult or personal appearance but also in the way people are so besotted with apperances and signs of status that they will forego all prudence and restraint and frivolously and inmoderately spend their money in things that enhace their sense of personal importance . People of few resources will go to inordinate lenghts to buy pricey items that they dont really need but which owenrship flatters their social ego.

    Know of a person who having gotten a bit of extra money which allowed him to buy his own home ( rather than live in a rented placed far from the city) preferred to use it to buy the most expensive showy vehicle that could be found .

    In general Venezuelans arent particularly frugal or sensiblee in the way they use their money , not only now but going way back in history. Am reminded of the comments of Holstein , the Biographer of Bolivar on the character of the ‘Caraquins’ at the time he lived among us in the early XIX century . !!

  11. My cousin in Maracaibo tells me anything and everything is scarce. He went for triple-A batteries the other day: no triple-A batteries. Also says there’s just collective frustration and anger on the streets due to all the long queues and missing products.

    Going to Sambil has become depressing, Zara and Bershka are closed and completely barren, with the logos on the facade still there as a reminder that in Venezuela we’re always worse than we were yesterday and better than we’ll be tomorrow.

    Trying to cope with that and the insecurity factor makes isn’t easy, since I’ll be going back to Maracaibo come September after spending two years in Boston.

    Hopefully reuniting with loved ones and still being able to have good yoyos and tumbarranchos make up for the imminent threat of robbery and kidnapping. I’m surprised to find that’s still everyone’s type of mindset every time I go visit. I will miss my seamless walks to the grocery store for a carton of milk.

    One particular place to call home, Venezuela has become.

  12. I’m curious to know where those Cocas and Oreos have been made. I can tell you that Brazilian capitalist vultures are loving the inclusion of Venezuela in Mercosur, specially after all the local Venezuelan companies have been destroyed by Chavismo and they can enter the Venezuelan market without any competition.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here