Revenge of the Chavolivar


Why is Simón Bolívar slowly morphing into Chávez? This is something related to, but different from, the way Chávez is described in Bolivarian terms in hegemonic media. I’m not talking about the way SiBCI turns Chávez into Simón Bolívar, but about the way Simón Bolívar is turning into Chávez.

It all started with that infamous 3D render of Simon Bolívar that looked so much different than the original pictures we are all used to. Before that, there was no debate on what picture was the most accurate, people just trusted the very old paintings. And specially that which Bolívar himself said looked so very much like him. You know, common sense.

Well, now’s the moment to hold on to your hats and adjust your reading glasses. The following is a painting inspired in the chavista Bolívar 3D render that was uncovered on an official event in Ciudad Bolívar, Estado Bolívar, of all places. 

No, your eyes aren’t fooling you. Bolívar Sabina has finally morphed into Bolívar Chávez. And yes, it is as spooky as hell can be.

In Venezuelans’ collective memory, Simon Bolivar is this badass dude who single-handedly liberated all of Latin America from the Spanish Empire and then became president of Venezuela once it was a republic. Every part of that sentence is wrong, of course, but it doesn’t matter —it’s our myth, and we’ll believe it if we want to.

We know his quotes, we know who his slave-nanny was, he’s on every coin, on every corner, his plaza is at the center of every city, town and village, his freaking horse is on the coat of arms, his professors are in the name of every school ever and so on. He received the best education his nearly limitless supply of money could buy, so he was the perfect soldier, and then the perfect ruler.

That’s the version Venezuelan kids draw at school and make plays about, with their sideburns drawn with black marker and their plastic swords. He wasn’t human, that guy was perfect. Perfect. Venezuelan history is a footnote to his biography. If we had a Mount Rushmore, it would have four identical faces on it.

And then we have Chávez, who was, meh… I mean, sure, he has a huge fan base, with the really hardcore fans even going as far as lighting candles and praying to him. Like Simón Bolívar, he’s everywhere too. But he didn’t win any wars, didn’t really fight in any battles (well, except for a single one that he lost), didn’t defeat any empires, and definitely didn’t unite anything, ever. Finding people who hate him is dead easy —you can always find someone sarcastically yelling “Viva Chávez!” as they wait in line for basic goods.

Despite SiBCI’s best efforts, Chávez is nowhere near the mythological level Simón Bolívar has. It’s just too recent, and there are way too many people dealing with the results of his recklessness. Still, the government insists on treating them as equal. Militantly! After all, they own the ‘Simón Bolívar brand’, they might as well put it to good use.

While I’m writing this, on twitter, the shamelessly public media promotedtrending topic of the day is #GeneraciónBolívarChávez, where you can find pictures of kids dressed as Chávez, making plays and drawing Chávez alongside Simón Bolívar. Maybe in their minds, the Mount Rushmore venezolano should have one face of El Libertador, two of Chávez, and one of Robert Serra, the joven mártir.

And in their collective memory, Chávez is already equal to Simón Bolívar. And maybe, for some really confused kid who wasn’t paying attention, they are the same person, because these days they kind of look the same. For a government that relies on printing money to honor its debts, that is thinking ahead. Big time.

At one point, the opposition tried to rescue the Simón Bolívar brand in the presidential elections of 2012, by naming the comando de campaña “Simón Bolívar”, but Capriles lost, and that was it for the comando. Now they barely use the Venezuelan flag. Anything patriotic, besides the flag and the National Anthem, is kidnapped by the government.

Ramos Arrechup’s offense on chavista patriotic symbols may have been just a move to mark his territory as new man of the house. Or perhaps it answered to a deeper, repressed feeling of frustration on the account of having chavismo’s distorted version of history rubbed in his face for so many years, and now being in a position to do something about it. Wouldn’t you?

But nothing that Henry does to erase the 3D chavista version of Simón Bolívar will stop the government from using it. If anything, it’s quite the opposite. Now the government has vowed to fill the streets of Caracas with posters of Simón Bolívar and Chávez as a response. As for the rest of the country, expect your corresponding actos de desagravio, like the one in Ciudad Bolívar where they presented the new Chavolivar como quien no quiere la cosa.

No doubt this is an important matter, as this historical revisionism targets children (apart from some really gullible adults). The thing is, despite their viral potential, cultural issues are not high in the urgent matters list. This would be when that ability of walking and chewing gum at the same time pays off.

Chavismo is racing to elevate Chávez into a similar everlasting myth as Bolívar is, it would only make sense that this desecration of Venezuelan contemporary history meets some sort of hardcore resistance.

Let’s hope that —this time around— we won’t turn the heartless autocrat into a hero children are taught to emulate.


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


  1. Despite the opinions on Bolívar, the “Chavolívar” is a blatant attempt to rewrite history in order to propel the Chávez myth. Ramos Allup took the right step on it’s total rejection:

    After all, “And who is Chávez?”.

    But I wouldn’t put too much stock on this little show, people will forget about it after the next “big” event. Or even after the next Assembly session. This is going to be a long year, 2014 long. So strap on your seatbelts.

  2. I wonder if we could actually demand the DNA from Bolivar to be published so that we could see. The one who did the test was a Spaniard, as far as I remember.

    That DNA does not belong to Chavismo. They probably had more than enough DNA to determine not only what his mitochondrial DNA was, not only his Y-DNA, but also some idea about the proportion of European versus sub-Saharan and native American genetic material there.
    The average Venezuelan is 61% European.

  3. This is right out of Animal Farm. Orwell patterned his book after witnessing the ‘cult of Lenin.’ Ramos Arrechup got it right. Throw it all out! Furthermore, the Catholic church, with an Argentinian as Pope, should be much more aggressive in calling-out this weird mixture of paganism with Christianity. They should be ashamed.

  4. The Regime is just doing what many regimes have done since the beginning of time: Exploiting the massive ignorance of their uneducated, gullible “pueblos”. It’s all based on a profound lack of education. But of course, who will admit that our “bravo pueblo” ain’t that wise, or smart, at all? No one dares.

  5. I arrived in Venezuela in the late 70s to fifth grade from Peru and even for a kid my age the whole Bolivar cult was weird. I remember having to put a picture and some quote of Bolivar in my ‘cuaderno empastado’.

    What really blew me away was Venezuelan History of ‘tercer ano’. The first quarter we studied the colony and then we plunged for the rest of the year on Venezuela’s independence war and essentially Bolivar antics. Nothing wrong in principle but for all the history I studied between ‘segundo a~no’ and ‘cuarto a~no’ it seemed a tedious emphasis on Venezuelan history and Bolivar’s biography at the expense of universal history.

    Many years later, here in the US I made the above comments to the mother of a friend of mine, OK, a sweet do~nita del Cafetal and she rebuked me for not understanding the importance of Bolivar!

    Of course I understand the attempt to build a national identify around Bolivar, but it is taken way too far and ultimately it is wrong headed.

      • I remember that! what a waste of time!, Bolívar this, Bolívar that: Bolívar and tourism, Bolívar and the ecology, all kinds of bullshit related to some “Bolivarian School of Thought” or “Bolivarian Philosophy”. Right know I supposed that they would tell you that Bolivar invented the iPhone, is one of the guys behind the helmets in Daft Punk, and knows all FIFA 2016 tricks for XBOX.

      • Coming from Peru , it doenst surprise me that you were shocked by the hagiography surrounding the Bolivar of Venezuelan historical narrative because of its great contrast with Peruvian historical narrative which is almost as peyorative in its treatment of Bolivar as it is worshipful in its treatment of San Martin !!

        Years ago some Peruvian relatives of my wife sent my children a Peruvian history book for their enlightnment´´ , I was shocked by what I read , the whole emphasis was in ballooning the dark side of Bolivar at the expense of belittling his achievements ,

        As an adult Ive had a chance of reading more balanced biographies of Bolivar and now have a view of the man that while admiring is also very mindful of the shadows cast by certain aspects of his personal behavior and the ambivalent nature of his legacy.

        The attempt to link his figure with that of Chavez is grotesque and repulsive whatever political dividends it yields to the regime !!

        • Hello Bill,

          This is true, Bolivar was not appreciated in Peru, he was too progressive for the stodgy society of Lima and thus belittled. But you would not known this if you read the Venezuelan account 🙂

          But the currency name, the Plazas Bolivar, the calendar with Natalicio del Libertador, Muerte del Libertador, el Pico Bolivar, Ciudad Bolivar… In Peru we were all about the Incas, ‘Chileans were mean’ and perhaps Teofilo Cubillas and the golden era of Peruvian Futbol (it was the 70s).

    • After reading all the apologies and calls for moderation about the portrait removal affair by the likes of Chuo Torrealba, Henri Falcon, even people like Marta Colomina and Barrera Tyszka, I must admit “I don’t get it”, but I trust they do, so I will accept their position that the action was politically heavy handed and insensitive.

      On the other hand, the skies did not part and hellfire rained on anyone. More importantly the grieved populace did not rampage through the streets in contrast to what happens when a Koran is alleged to be burnt in other parts of the world. So I wish to think that it was not such a big deal after all.

  6. Guys, go read “La Herencia de la Tribu” de Ana Teresa Torres, there lies a whole investigation of the Chávez-Bolívar-God trinity that Chávez – successfully – promoted.

  7. Chavez, as a figure who really “cared” about and “helped” the poor, is the only/last thing that the Govt./”Revolution” has to show as “accomplishments” after 17 years in power, in the midst of an impoverishing economic meltdown affecting Venezuela’s 90+% poor. The eventual/hoped for final rejection of the Chavez myth will be when his “Para Siempre” poster moved from the AN to Caracas’ Plaza Bolivar is defaced by disillusioned supporters….

  8. Bolivar was our own private south american Napoleon. A larger than life figure. It makes sense that he is not liked in most of SA, just as Napoleon is not liked in most of Europe.

    Of course, please understand, the similitude ends at the larger than life conqueror aspect. Una cosa es Francia y otra cosa es Venezuela.

  9. “And yes, it is as spooky as hell can be.”

    I would substitute “spooky” with “creepy”. Look at that picture too long and you feel somehow unclean.

  10. The opposition should put up giant posters of Leopoldo Lopez in the National Assembly to give Chavismo a taste of their own medicine. I’m kidding, of course, just the mention in passing should be enough to freak them out.

  11. somewhat OT: Venezuela verges on meltdown as opposition takes control of parliament. LISTEN:

    Moderator: Ana Maria Tremonti (CBC)

    Virginia López – Caracas
    Juan Nagel – Santiago, Chile
    Mark Weisbrot – Washington, D.C.

    Bravo to Virginia for her on-the-street overview and Juan for his detailed delivery with a focus on economics. I’m amazed that Weisbrot who has a lazy delivery based on vague notions, continues to have traction in the English-speaking media.

    • “I’m amazed that Weisbrot who has a lazy delivery based on vague notions, continues to have traction in the English-speaking media.”

      I hope that’s because there are few enough even in the English speaking media who have anything good to say about the government side?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here