Local girl does good


Garbiñe Muguruza is a young Spanish-Venezuelan tennis player that has been tagged as a future top prospect for a few years now. Born in Caracas to a Venezuelan mother and a Basque father, Garbiñe left Venezuela in 1999 when she was six years old (coincidentally, the first year of the Chávez era). In Spain she developed her game, and while she plays for father’s country, she sees herself as coming from both.

Today, Garbiñe beat the great Serena Williams at Roland Garros. It was probably the biggest ever win on a tennis court by a Venezuelan (or ex-pat Venezuelan) player. Williams is number one in the world, was the odds-on favorite, and the defending champion. Garbiñe just obliterated her. Here are the highlights:

Garbiñe talks like a Spaniard and she plays for Spain, but she has a Venezuelan look about her que no se la brinca un venao.

Part of me thinks that it’s great that she got out of the country, developed her game, and is now in the cusp of stardom. Had she stayed in Venezuela, she would probably be a beauty queen, perhaps dancing the conga in a football stadium. Or maybe she would be one of the brave students risking life and limb in the pursuit of a future.

Instead, she is fulfilling her dream, doing what she was put on Earth to do. Like so many others, she had to leave in order to do just that.

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  1. She has a beautiful game, powerful strokes and a decent serve, hoopefully she’ll make it . Anyhow, the only viable path for a talented tennis player from Venezuela to make it, i.e to have a career as a pro, is to train abroad.

    I used to play junior tennis when I lived in Venezuela (I can hit a tennis ball, but becoming a pro was out of the question) and many of my peers were successful in the junior international circuit. However, it was because their parents could afford it. Several outstanding players trained in my club, the name Juan Carlos Bianchi may ring a bell to some (he played Davis Cup for Venezuela) and on more than one occasion we carried out collects to allow for him and other kids to travel abroad to compete. And this is the 80’s I’m talking about, when our country still had in place some sort of Tennis Federation.

    I’m pretty sure that the only tennis player to ever receive actual long term financial support by the FVT was Nicolás Pereira. Maria Alejandra Vento moved to the US when she was 13 or 14.

    By the way, my friend Juan Carlos started a tennis academy in his native Maracay, one day –surprise– out of the blue the government expropriated the lands where the tennis courts were located. He packed his bags, his family and moved to Florida and started all over again.

    Of course this is an almost irrelevant issue in today’s Venezuela. It saddens me because for years we had junior players on the top of the international rankings…

    • Thanks for the story Caterina. We should hit the courts when you’re back in town.

      Sadly, the same holds true for much of Latin America’s talents. Gaby Sabatini, for example, trained in Miami. Here in Chile they have a decent program, but many top prospects simply have to go abroad. The case of Venezuela is more dramatic than most. BTW, didn’t Maria Alejandra Vento marry a chavista?

      Oh, and congratulations to me. Almost ten years blogging and this is my first tennis-related post ever! I don’t know how I’ve contained myself.

      • You’re welcome Juan. Great, I have a raquet over there.

        I could talk for hours about this stuff,but I’ll spare you all the boredom. But yes, in our region it is very difficult to make it. Argentina had a great group of players thanks to the Convertibilidad, which made it cheap to travel abroad to compete.

        It is never too late to start the Basel Chronicles…

      • I can tell you that Sabatini used to train in Brazil too. I remember spending vacations at the “Hotel do Frade” in a resort town called “Angra dos Reis” when I was a kid and seeing all the grass courts “reserved for Sabatini”…

  2. I’m gonna leave, i will live in Portland with my wife, we’re gonna have a food stand/truck and we’re gonna sell cachapas or empanadas we haven’t decided yet but we have the whole concept already, we’re both good cooks!

    • Sell both! And how about batidos?
      Best wishes on your move! It takes a lot of guts to move and start over again, far from your comfort zone. Then again, it takes a lot of guts just to survive in Venezuela, today.

        • I think it’s beautiful when human beings have the determination and courage to go to another country and start all over. My family left Europe when things were bad over there and I’m ready to pack my things and move back to Europe when things (socialists) get out of control where I live. This fight is not mine. I didn’t vote for any of those democratically elected socialists destroying my country. I think we should be concerned first about our parents, wives and children, not with our country. And if a people want to destroy themselves and ruin the place where they live due to stupidity or simply out of resentment against people with more money than them, they might as well do it without me and my family around.

          Metodex, good luck and i really wish the best for you! Let the ones who had elected these chavistas bastards fight for their country. That’s their fight.

          An immigrant’s life is not easy, but since you are going with your wife things will get much easier. GODSPEED!

          • I agree with Marc that our first responsibility is with our immediate families.Good luck.As long as you know there will be great sacrifices required and you are determined…you can make it, I am sure….Best of luck Metodex and remember that with time it will get easier..

    • I went to college in Portland. You will do well there! Be friendly and smile lots and people will come and love the food. Especially if you push the authentic factor and make it all-natural and “healthy,” haha… Good luck.

      • Good luck metodex. And I agree with Melanie in ref. to being friendly and smiling a lot. I have seen plenty of latinos start a service business and this is one thing most lack. Also, be expedient in serving your customers. I Venezuela people don’t seem to mind waiting in line, but in the US is a different story. Also, make sure that each dish you cook tates exactly the same day in and day out to ensure return customer. Good luck and congrats!

    • Just remember to label the cachapas and empanadas as “Gluten Free” and “All Natural” and you’ll be fine!

      • Anjá!! Forgot about that Gluten-free trend; it relates perfectly to the cachapas. Otherwise, all-natural is west coast ‘exigencia’.

        • I tell you, this whole Gluten Free thing is driving me batty.

          I’m not sure whether it’s that our wheat supply, and the GMO modifications it has suffered over time are creating more gluten intolerant folks, or whether it is also partly “fashionable” to go “Gluten Free”.

          I mean, I’ve seen Gluten Free coffee (coño!) and even GF cooking oil!

          Not far behind I’m sure, we’ll find GF shoe polish and GF bath soap.

  3. Just make sure the cachapas and empanadas are in fact “Gluten Free” and “All Natural” and you’ll be fine!

    • empanadas will not be gluten free, unless there is a wheat flour that is. but even so, not all items have to be gluten-free.

      Metodex: be sure to offer 2 types of batidos: one using water; the other water + yogurt. Smoothies are big stuff on the west coast.

      • I love Portland, not ashamed to admit. Everybody has a gigantic tatoo but aside from that it is a city that really works.

      • Al contrario, Syd, Empanadas as well as arepas, are naturally Gluten Free since they are made with Harina Pan.

        Pastelitos are probably what you were thinking of when you mentioned wheat flour

        Cachapas also, as long as you do not add wheat flour (like some do) to help bind the masa a bit. Using a bit of Harina Pan will solve that.

        Listo Metodex!

        Your food truck will cost you $60-$70 K new, half that for used.

        Also, be sure to watch the movie Chef that just came out in the US. Imperdible.

        • you’re right, mi querido turco. I grew up with a Peruvian in the household, who would make empanadas — pero de harina de trigo. So it’s the first thing I think of. There are also visual reminders now in supermarkets in northern latitudes. Sold are empanadas with the “braided” edge — don’t know which Latam country they represent — definitely out of wheat flour. My thinking was to provide Metodex and his wife options for the Portland crowd. Not everyone is into corn!
          Chef: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2883512/

  4. I don’t see that she HAD to leave the country to do something for herself. Her parents happened to leave when she was six, that’s it. Her connection to Venezuela is tenuous at best. It’s very different when your formative years are in Venezuela and leaving to succeed or survive is your choice. A painful one to be sure. Was she better off in Spain for her particular trade, sure. Did being Venezuelan contribute in anyway to succeeding at it she is probably not.

  5. She has both Venezuelan and Spanish family roots but she has lived almost all of her life in Spain and from hearing her one can tell she is basically spanish no mater how much she likes the Venezuelan side of her identitiy . Reminds me a bit of Jose de San Martin born in Argentina of Spanish father and Argentine Mother , who moved as a child to live in Spain where for half of his adult life he pursued a career as a Spanish army officer until he felt the call to come to Argentine and join the independent army . Definitely not her case .!!

    • I would say it’s up to her to define how she sees her. I think most people these days don’t see their links to one country or the other in such a binary or even two-dimensional way. Increasingly, thanks God, there are again more people who actually feel more linked to humankind than anything else.

      Things also change according to how much the country one has seen as home screws it up or not…

      • Bill Bass,

        It is what we love that makes us a part of something.That’s hard to know with her…we only know that she lives in Spain.

        Loving Humanity is another issue quite a part from the particular more intimate identifications we all feel.

        My closest childhood friend with whom I grew up like family was half French…after living all of her childhood in the US, she got into her head that the reason she was so different was because maybe she was more French….so she moved to Paris.After a few years or so there, she realized that she had been highly mistaken.She absolutely hated France, and moved back never to return again.

        Our genes do no make us a part of a country, only our conscious identifications do( or our passports).

        There are times when I feel very Curacaolenia because I really love the island.

        The nature of identity is an intimate one more than anything else.

        • after living all of her childhood in the US, she got into her head that the reason she was so different was because maybe she was more French….so she moved to Paris..After a few years or so there, she realized that she had been highly mistaken.

          My brother in law immigrated from Germany as a child. When he was stationed in Germany with the Army, he met and married his first wife, a German. During the two decades they were married, she was continually criticizing the US. The US was not up to German standards. After they divorced, she moved back to Germany, and within two years had moved back to the US. Grass..greener…

        • Since very young I have lived in different places where I always felt very much at home and yet my sense of identity was always that I was a Venezuelan and couldnt be anything else. however much I came to love those places where I lived , not because things were better in Venezuela but because trying to become something else would be inauthentic ,an imposture . Maybe something to do with my dads deeply felt patriotism who being given at different times an opportunity to settle comfortably abroad always pined to go back home .

          Its chick in todays multinational world to feel special because your ethnicity or origins contrasts with that of those arround you , so you develop a faux fascination with that which makes you stand out as different. its really a form of conceit . Then when push comes to shove you realize what country offers the kind of life one prefers , usually the one where one was brought up in .

          As to humanity there is a celebrated phrase pronounced by Hegel when someone made a reference to humanity , quite sure Kepler knows it !! I feel exactly the same way. !!

  6. Correction on San Martins lineage , the official biography is that his mother was spanish born although raised in Argentine , there are some however who speculate that she was really of native argentinian blood .

    In any event he left Argentine when he was 4 years old and returned when he was 34 , a liutenant coronel in the Spanish army.

  7. Sorry, but as nice of a success story as this is, it has nothing to do with Venezuela. She can have no real recollection of Venezuela other than visits (perhaps). Her characterizations of her feelings about being Venezuelan are in deference to her mother and her agent, who doesn’t want her to alienate anyone.

    Yeah, I know I am a cynic…

    • The Venezuelan option (*) adds a dynamic element to the representation (= contract negotiation) process.

      (*) Hola, me llamo Garbiñe y nací en Vzla. Quieren que les represente? Cómo es eso? Que el tenis es un deporte oligarca? Acaso Uds creen que las hermanas Williams nacieron ricas? Entonces? En los próximos días les llamará mi agente… Afectuosamente, Garbiñe.

  8. to be honest i dont see the point on playing tennis in venezuela or in muguruzas case to represent the country. Actually tennis culture in venezuela is almost NONE


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