The Real Cadenas

The only Rafael Cadenas text most people have read is an execrable little screed misattributed to him. The real Cadenas is just so much better.

For a couple of years now, a piece attributed to Rafael Cadenas has been making the rounds on the web. It has been shared thousands of thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s even dripped onto the worst gutters of cyberspace: those massive Whatsapp chains on your mom’s smartphone.

The article has won the guaro author high praise from hardcore opposition web keyboard warriors. And now that Cadenas has been awarded the Federico García Lorca prize in poetry, it has resurfaced.

Many people who have celebrated the award have only read that piece: a lament about how the best of Venezuela is spread all over the world and how what’s left is an unrecognizable piece of burnt land. They have been applauding his clarity of mind —for such an old fellow— regarding the state of current affairs in the country. The debacle, you know.

They are right to praise the poet’s clarity of mind, because the 85 year old, in fact, has very clear thoughts on what’s been going on in the country. Proof of this was his response to César Miguel Rondón, when the journalist prompted him to answer ‘what could poetry do to help the country in this dark hour?’ ‘Very little,’ he answered.

The piece’s many fans are, however, missing one small detail. Cadenas very clearly didn’t write it.

Its title – “Venezuela, Venezuela me hace falta” – is the only part of it that Cadenas actually wrote. The original author, Golcar Rojas, used it as an epigraph at the top of his piece, and then it started jumping from one crappy website to the other, until, predictably the magic words “Rafael Cadenas” migrated triumphantly to the byline.

Some poor soul even wrote a paper analyzing the meaning of the poet’s words, and it was published in a UCV site.

Not a big deal, really. It’s not uncommon for writings to be attributed to the wrong author. Just like in that story attributed (by the way) to García Márquez, where an old lady has a premonition that something horrible is going to happen to the town, and word spreads that someone thinks something horrible is going to happen to the town, and folks start saying that someone said something horrible was going to happen, and everybody assumes something horrible is going to happen, and they end up burning down the whole damn town before something horrible happens, but too late, in fact something horrible happened to the town. It’s wildfire. A viral reaction. The contagion of stupidity.

But how could a person have known that a piece attributed to Rafael Cadenas wasn’t really by him?

Well, by reading Cadenas in the first place. Yeah, by inoculating yourself against the nonsense.

Because if any of these people had read Cadenas before, they would know how simple his words are how clean his style. Hard. Minimalistic in essence, not at all pompous, and never in search of an easy tear.

Yes, his work has always had a confrontational approach towards power. But if you read him, you would know. Just know in your heart (dammit!), that the man who has admitted to not having words to spare in his final days, could never had written this kind of dreck:

This is not a country anymore, just a parody of a banana republic. This puddle of lead and blood, this mourning in gerund, this cry that doesn’t cease, this is not the country of which the Gloria al Bravo Pueblo sings about. This, this plot of docile lines of hunger is not the land that gave birth to the independence heroes. This is nothing more that the bolivarian republic of venezuela. Like that, with lowercase letters. Diminished and impoverished. In the shadows, vyle and sad, the way it was bequeathed to us by a megalomaniac who thought of himself as an intergalactic and immortal leader. A resented being which they are now trying to turn into a deity.

Such words you might find in the comment section, below. Not in Cadenas’s verse.

Here at Caracas Chronicles we want to give you the gift of Cadenas, the vaccine against stupidity:


I who have never had a trade

who have felt weak facing every competitor

who lost the best titles for life

who barely arrive somewhere and already want to leave

         (believing that moving is a solution)

who have been denied in anticipation and ridiculed by

         the most able

who lean against the walls so I won’t completely collapse

who am a target of laughter even for myself

who thought my father was eternal

who have been humiliated by professors of literature

who one day asked how I could help and the answer was a

         loud laugh

who will never be able to start a home, nor be brilliant, nor

         triumph in life

who have been abandoned by many people because I barely


who am ashamed of acts I haven’t committed

who have needed little incentive to start running down

         the street

who have lost a center I never had

who have become the laughing stock of so many people for

         living in limbo

who never found anyone who would put up with me

who was omitted in favor of people more miserable than me

who will spend my whole life like this and who next year

         will be mocked many more times for my ridiculous


who am tired of receiving advice from others more lethargic

         than me (“You’re so slow, get with it, wake up”)

who will never be able to travel to India

who have received favors without giving anything in return

who traverse the city from one end to another like a feather

who let myself be pulled along by others

who have no personality and don’t want to have one

who muffle my rebellion all day

who haven’t joined the guerrillas

who haven’t done anything for my people

who don’t belong to the FALN and all these things and others

         whose enumeration would be interminable make me


who cannot escape my prison

who have been dismissed everywhere for being useless

who actually haven’t been able to get married or go to Paris

         or have a serene day

who refuse to acknowledge facts

who always drool on my story

who am an imbecile and more than an imbecile from birth

who lost the thread of the discourse being executed within me

         and I haven’t been able to find it

who don’t cry when I feel the desire to do so

who arrive late to everything

who have been ruined by so many marches and


who desire perfect immobility and impeccable speed

who am not what I am nor what I am not

who despite everything maintain a satanic pride even if

         at certain hours I’ve been humble to the point of

         bringing myself to the level of stones

who have lived in the same circle for fifteen years

who thought I was predestined for something beyond

         the everyday and have achieved nothing

who will never wear a tie

who can’t find my body

who have perceived my falsehood in lightning flashes and

         haven’t been able to topple myself, sweep away

         everything and create my indolence, my flotation,

         my wandering a new freshness, and obstinately

         commit suicide within arm’s reach

I will get up off the ground even more ridiculous to keep

         mocking others and myself until the day of final


[Translation by Guillermo Parra]