According to historian Tomas Straka, universities once represented the triumph of Venezuelan modernity, and their current deplorable situation represents quite the opposite: the “demodernization” of the country. Venezuela, for him, hasn’t become postmodern country but, rather, an “ex-modern” one. We’ve departed from modernity, but not by overcoming it. Instead, we’ve stepped back from it.

Modernity implies political and social tolerance, industrialization, capitalism, urbanization, the rise of the middle class and of mass media, growing equality of opportunity, social mobility and mass education — all partly or completely in retreat in revolutionary Venezuela.

You can see this in our imagined personifications.

Think back to 1982. The satirical band Medio Evo released a now legendary song about the exploits of Laura Pérez, la sin par de Caurimare, a fictional character based on Venezuela Saudita’s consumerist middle and upper class youth (“los sifrinos”).

Laura was a naïve rich girl (“yo me rio de Janeiro con dinero en la cartera”) who lived in Caurimare, an affluent neighborhood in eastern Caracas, and who would travel around the world; party in Caracas’ best nightclubs, raise her pinky while drinking her soda and go to the beach to surf and sunbathe with her friends in a Camaro car (all this sung in sifrino accent is simply superb).

The song was a huge hit, and soon Venezuela’s youth looked to Laura as an example to follow. La sifrina de Caurimare became the corporate face of Tio Rico ice cream, inspired a sifrinas contest in Sabado Sensacional and even became the basis a sketch in the iconic El Show de Joselo – all of these using the sifrino mannerisms and heavy mandibuleo to attract Venezuela’s middle class.

In her own, hapless way, Laura was an icon of Venezuela’s modernization.

Amazingly, Laura Perez would become a political tool and an electoral icon, too. As a way to attract young voters in the 1983 presidential elections, COPEI developed a TV ad in which a sifrina, born during Caldera’s first presidential term, would explain to the viewers why she liked him, to finally ask in a rhetorical way for whom would she vote. “Muérete que por Caldera,” she answered herself.  Pure, totally Laura, sifrino slang.

Acción Democratica would also use Laura Perez as an electoral tool: that same year, “Muerete que SI” graffitis (making reference to Lusinchi’s electoral motto: LuSInchi) appeared in the walls of Caracas.

Even though both parties tried to appeal to the sifrino youth – and to the millions of lower class kids who aspired to sifrino lifestyles – the truth was that most young people were not interested in voting. As the indolent Venezuelan youth didn’t sing up in the Electoral Register, El Universal published an article titled “Muerete que chao, Registro Electoral” linking Laura Perez with the disinterested youth.

Then, after all the sifrino buzz, Black Friday came. Most of Laura Perez’s caste was slowly swept aside and the rest is history.

A look at Venezuela in 2016 shows a country completely transformed from the one in 1982. In a way, we live amid the ruins of that other country. Laura Perez nowadays doesn’t speak to Venezuela’s demolished middle class, much less to el pueblo.

Actually, Laura Perez’s can now only be linked to the upper stratum of society (el estrato AB, a miniscule 2.2% of Venezuela). Her cultural descendants are strewn from Miami and Madrid to Panama and Toronto, but not as happy-go-lucky credit card wielding tourists but as hard-up migrants making up a depauperized diaspora.

La Sifrina de Caurimare has not aged well. From today’s vantage point she incarnates a mistake, a huge folly, rather than a live identity.

So, who took her place?

Yubraska Chacón…La Yubraska, of course: a female social media character voiced by —at least— two anonymous men, who went viral after dozens of voice notes (supposedly Yubraska’s voice messages after her call wasn’t picked by the person she called) began to be shared through WhatsApp last year. Now she has hundreds of thousands of followers in Instagram and Twitter, and interviews with El Universal and Tal Cual.

The character of La Yubraska is presented as the personification of Venezuela’s hard up working class – el pueblo. She’s a joyful and plain spoken woman who lives in a slum and speaks with a much exaggerated barrio accent. Yubraska’s stories revolve around her opinions on current affairs and her problems as the average Venezuelan: from fights in las colas and not finding Christmas gifts for her children, to Leopoldo Lopez, Miss Universe, and the December elections. She works all sorts of informal jobs –selling cakes in the supermarket lines and arequipe in the electoral lines or hairdressing– and she, needless to say, she’s regularly accused of being a bachaquera.

Yubraska’s stories are populated by many other characters such as her four children (Yonder, Yuliarni, Karinyei, and a baby she stills breastfeeds), her husband who is a worker at Polar, Catiuska, Yusmary, la comadre, la gorda del Cyber, a guardia nacional she likes, Lilian Tintori, and many more. The voice acting clearly imply mockery but with an undertone of addressing the common Venezuelan’s problems (also inviting people to work hard).

She empathizes with the listener who is affected by the same problems as she is, and with the enormous majority of Venezuela through her jobs, her tragicomic family situations, the knowing nods to Venezuelan lowbrow culture (ex: most characters have Y-names) and her frustrations (like when Jacqueline Farias said she felt supermarkets lines were great fun).

Yubraska is also an electoral icon, even more than Laura Perez in La Cuarta, because most, if not all, of the voice notes have a political undertone. Yubraska talks about how much she hates the government for the food shortages and her daily problems (and she used to be a chavista) and how she would vote, and voted, against the government in the December elections (she said it was a voto castigo). And in between her harsh critiques against the government and her celebration of the opposition victory, Yubraska also speaks about how she will bake a cake for Leopoldo once he’s free and how she wants to style Lilian’s hair.

Many people in Venezuela even believe that Yubraska is some sort of unplanned and spontaneous political propaganda, inspiring many to vote for the the opposition this December, thus considering her a marketer of their victory.

Today’s Venezuela is the country of La Yubraska, or the still consumerist but poor, informal worker who lives in a barrio and is tied to the long lines at supermarket and who can’t afford almost anything. Laura Perez is now an archaic and anachronistic passe image who is only applied to a microscopic sector of Venezuelan society, while Yubraska takes her place as the new face of Venezuelan-ness.

The arc from Laura to Yubraska is the story of our demodernization.

Previous articleMacrinomics on the Caribbean?
Next articleThe Event
Born in 1997, Tony is the youngest member of the blog's team. He graduated from Instituto Cumbres in 2015 and is currently studying Journalism in la UCAB. Tony has a personal blog called Caraquistan and is currently leading the II Festival Intercolegial de Humanidades; an artistic exhibition event for teenage Venezuelans.

107 COMMENTS

  1. Tras recuperarme del shock de ese anuncio de helados (ni idea cómo se dice icecream en venezolano) puedo ya decir que el artículo me ha parecido demasiado largo pero es una curiosa muestra del costumbrismo de su país (entre paréntesis, este post debería estar en español, no tiene mucho sentido leer un contenido como este en inglés).

  2. Very interesting, Tony. Thanks for introducing me to Laura Perez. I have only lived in Venezuela 10 years, and obviously missed that. I remember when I finally asked someone, “What does ‘sifrina’ mean?”. Needless to say, that generated a very long explanation before I was able to finally get the sense of how the word was used.

    • Hint for the meaning of “Sifrina”: Think about Rachel McAdams character in Mean Girls, well our very own tropical version.

      • In my understanding of the concept, a “sifrina” is not mean person. Shallow and materialistic, yes; but not at all ill-intentioned.

        • Exactly as Regina George.

          Well, she is a little bit mean.

          But i don’t think she intend to be mean, she think she is just entitled.

      • I think sifrino goes beyond what Regina George is. It’s more like a mix between a subculture and a socioeconomical position. Sifrinos are some sort of well positioned young people who do are materialistic and with a certain subtle snobbery (but snobbery and shallowness are not synonymous of sifrinos) who like to follow cosmopolitan fads and fashion. Sifrinos have a “actitud aburguesada” towards life and some typical mannerisms, slang and way of talking.

  3. On the other hand, Laura Pérez actual slogan is “Pa’ eso tenemos petróleo” and everybody here knows it. Which is the attitude that got us on this mess.

    A common saying on the more bitter expats is “Venezuelans are lazy”. Well, as someone that lives here, I can tell you that Venezuelans have learned the value of hard work the hard way, just as the realities of the market were learned.

  4. Excellent article! Que bolas como hemos caido. El comunismo es un cancer: estoy seguro que en Cuba se puede escribir exactamente lo mismo de los años 40/50 versus los últimos 50 años.

  5. Such an interesting article! Being a gringo extranjero, I had never heard of either of these two cultural figures; the presentation brings them to life.

    Excellent.

  6. interesante analogía que tal vez es señal de aceptación por lo que hay hoy (0 alternativas, lo que hay es lo que hay – por eso Yubraska hits home so well) maybe even at the expense of the sifrino image which alienated many and kinda damaged our priorities (antes: gente pobre no es gente/ ahora: todos estamos en las mismas) – I also think that the Yubraska icon somehow also stands for hard-working people as you pointed out & it’s just funny (venezolanos jodedores al fin, a coping-mechanism of sorts perhaps?)…

  7. Excelente. Muy bueno que CC abra la ventana a jóvenes blogueros talentosos que pueden hacer un análisis en retrospectiva así.

  8. You totally nailed it Tony o como decimos los venezolanos “te la comiste” excellent well explain article and you can tell you did a research to do it cause you`re so young when this character Laura Perez “La Sifrina de Caurimare” appears on the venezuelan media and we i mean the 30`something were kids and unfortunely our generation doesnt care so much about politic or our parents, relatives, teachers, religions preachers and the media dont teach us to know how important politics is and we learning on the hard way exactly a year later where you was born the 98 a year we never forget (venezolanos) and we all know why? and this new young generations of venezuelan are compromise and eager to learn how politic & politicians can change a country, our thinking and our lives and in this social media age characters like la yubraska show us how we live these days of the Venezuela socialist!

  9. Excellent, Tony, and FT, cograts on your wonderful new-contributor format. Laura is the symbol of the tail end of the “Ta barato, Dame dos” 70’s oil boom, from which, in addition to international oil co. managerial training programs, Venezuela was finally developing a modern middle class. Yubraska, while unfortunately not entirely typical, with a husband, especially one working at Polar (temporarily, if NM & Co. have their way), represents not only the demodernization of Venezuela, but its pauperization, one with scant human resources with which to effect any meaningful change, especially in the short term. For example, Aristobulo recently mentioned on national TV the shining example of the Govt.’s new export push to solve forex deficiencies–a Venezuelan company that exports sand–to the Caribbean Islands! Venezuela, without sufficiently profitable oil exports, is fast taking its place among the poorest of LA nations, and could even become a Cuba 2 if the cards fall the wrong way.

    • Exactly! Society is poorer than ever and social mobility – which existed back then – is practically impossible nowadays (unless you are an enchufado, but that’s another story). Back then, Yubraska’s mother could aspire to live similar or just like Laura one day (isn’t that the story of most immigrants who came in the 50s?). Nowadays, Yubraska and Co. can’t rise out of their socioeconomic position.

  10. ¿Laura Pérez o La Yubraska? He ahí la pregunta del artículo. Dos personajes de diferentes épocas. Es que Laura, en mi opinión, representa lo peor de la era pre-Chávez porque es fatua, superflua, te discrimina en base a tu posición social y se regocija en su ignorancia y estupidez. Mientras que La Yubraska representa el deseo de superación, la construcción de puentes de comunicación entre diversos sectores de la sociedad, hija de un sistema que la discrimina, pero que muestra resiliencia ante la adversidad, en pocas palabras auténtica y sincera.

    No olvidemos que la plataforma política de la coalición Chavista de 1998 prometió inclusión social, el que todos seríamos iguales ante la justicia, combatir la corrupción y la delincuencia y promover la movilidad social. Todo lo contrario a los hechos actuales: desabastecimiento, deterioro del sistema de salud, incremento en la delincuencia y bloqueos a la movilidad social.

    Si crees en la inclusión social y piensas que la culpa de esta crisis no es del electorado que votó en 1998 por la coalición Chavista, sino que por el contrario la culpa es de un gobierno cuya administración y corriente política ha sido dañina para Venezuela; entonces este artículo te llegará al corazón porque habla de esa nueva Venezuela en la que todos cabemos y todos somos útiles.

    • El problema radica en que votar por Chávez era claramente un paso atrás pues votar por un golpista significaba un golpe feo contra la democracia civil. Se quería cambio pero se buscó donde no era. Tus puntos de vista sobre Laura me parecen fascinantes (pero hay que tomar en consideración que la discriminación va de arriba para abajo y de abajo para arriba. Insultar a alguien con ser un burguesito catirito no es igual de malo que decirle mono?). En cuanto a Yubraska, tienes toda la razón. Ojala deje una marca en el subconsciente colectivo que ayude a cambiar la mentalidad de muchos. Muchas gracias Maruja, excelente comentario.

  11. In classic mythology I would pick Icarus as the icon for Venezuela.

    When I arrived to Venezuela in 1978 as a child and went to a school in Caurimare. My father was Peruvian my mother from Southern US, I was blown away by Caracas. It was as if it was ‘almost’ US. The malls sparkled, the restaurants were amazing, everyone had an LTD or a Caprice, the parties were so loud and lasted all night. I read the English newspaper, The Daily Journal.

    Caracas introduced to the consumerist culture and the social requirement of having the right brands in the right clothing. Good looks were key for social success.

    It was haughty and frivolous.

    Venezuela was important, ‘we have oil’ they would explain. “We mattered to the world”, “everyone needs our oil”.

    Venezuelans were better than the rest of Latin America, and particularly Colombians were looked down, they were the hired help or stereotype of the criminal.

    As I understood Venezuela one realizes the incredible modernization it underwent in a generation. My Venezuelan in-laws were born around 1940 and both were birthed at home! As they came of age they entered University and became successful MDs joining the world’s middle class and with a standard of living that exceeded that of the US for a time. This was a cultural revolution, where a new man was formed. The rural or sleepy Venezuelan became a cosmopolitan citizen of the world in one generation.

    But I think Venezuela society had epidemic of ‘afluenza’. Culturally it did not have the means to deal with the sudden influx of wealth, so they bred the sifrino, Laura being the icon for it.

    A few years ago in the US, my daughter dated the son of a wealthy family. On one of the regular visits of my in-laws, the boyfriend was ending his visit to go to his weekend job. My mother-in-law was amazed that he worked as a fry cook at Chick-Fil-A. In her mind there was no need for the kid to do such a menial job, yet I noted that his family was wealthy for generations.

    • “A few years ago in the US, my daughter dated the son of a wealthy family. On one of the regular visits of my in-laws, the boyfriend was ending his visit to go to his weekend job. My mother-in-law was amazed that he worked as a fry cook at Chick-Fil-A. In her mind there was no need for the kid to do such a menial job, yet I noted that his family was wealthy for generations.”

      This is a good aspect of American society that I’ve always felt fascinated about it too: kids from rich families doing the kind of work which would be seen as “humiliating”, “embarrassing” in South America. These families see any work as a desirable and dignifying, but we don’t see it quite like that around here. And that mentality reflects on how US rich families very rarely have maids at home, the kids learn to do housework since a very early age. And that’s extremely important because in order to conserve the family’s wealth, kids must conserve the values and principles that made all that wealth possible in the first place, and becoming a frying cook at Chick-Fil-A, mowing the house lawn, delivering newspaper in the neighbourhood is quintessential in the process.

      • In the construction business, it is traditional for managers to arrange summer jobs for their kids… as a laborer. The foreman is usually instructed to work them especially hard and to show no mercy. A couple of summers of that, and the kids learn to appreciate their opportunities for a good education.

    • Your description of Venezuela back then sounds almost like a fantasy for myself, being born in 1997. You’re right with that, Venezuela’s collapse was caused by its own idiosyncrasy but I don’t think the apparition of the sifrino must be seen as something bad. I mean, it appeared simply because the new middle class was brand new. Twenty years before, many of the parents of the first sifrinos were poor European immigrants or quaint semi-villagers in the old Caracas. Some years later, their kids were imitating everything they could from Miami but also becoming a robust professional class. Why do you think Laura is simply Perez and not Pietri-Dupuy-Boulton?

  12. In the U.S. in 1982, a recording of a “song” was released called “Valley Girl” by Moon Unit Zappa (Yeah, I know… but, that was her name). It wasn’t all that good of song, and the main sound track was just talked. But, it showcased an speech affectation and vocabulary that was particular to the teenage girls of the Mall Culture of the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles, Ca.). As a result of the release of that song (regrettably), within weeks every teenage girl in the U.S. was speaking in the same style. Link to the recording follows:

    https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=valley+girl+song&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001

    And now that you have heard it, please try to forget it.

    • Good comparison w La Sifrina. Perhaps they comprise the founding members of Airhead International. I could understand Hugo’s rants, but understood only about every fifth word of Yubraska’s conversations. But that has also been my experience with trying to understand recordings of Maracuchos like Robert Serra- while I could more or less understand Maracuchos when I lived in Maracaibo.

    • Valley Girl is a fantastic song by Zappa! It’s also, I’d say, the closest thing to a gringo version of Laura la Sifrina. What got me in the article was the second Tio Rico video which, I guess, came after Viernes Negro. Paraphrasing: “ya no puedo viajar ni a California ni a Madrid, pero soy sifrina y tengo mi Bom Bom de Tio Rico”… That’s priceless, Venezuelans can become poor, but we’re still rich in our heads, and our entitlement… Chao contigo!

    • Haha Roy, I know that song! I read about valley girls after watching the film Clueless. I have the theory they actually influenced sifrinos (come on, sifrino accent is practically Venezuelan Valleyspeak. “o sea – i mean”, “like – tipo”, “duh – duh”, “gross – gross”.). If my theory is correct, sifrinos copied valley girls during their trips to the US or Mexican fresas copied valley girls through their closer relationship with California and then imported the fresa accent through Mexican TV (and through the Mexicans sifrinos would meet studying abroad) to Venezuela where it evolved into sifrino accent.

      • Hey Tony. I hadn’t considered that the two could be related. It is a very real possibility. Though, the Valleygirl-speak phenomenon was primarily among teenage girls (12-17), whereas my understanding is that the Sifrina-speak was among young women (18-25). I could be wrong on that. I wasn’t here then. In any case, I find the Sifrina-speak much less annoying than Valley-speak.

        My original point was only to note the similarities in the social phenomena and to point out how fast such a cultural meme can spread.

        In any case, keep up the good work.

        • Well, I mean sifrinas tend to be girls in High School and College. Nowadays you can still hear the accent – a lot. Just go to some Catholic all-girls school in Caracas (say Merici, Mater Salvatoris, Cristo Rey, los Campitos, el Andes…) and it’ll be a complete dialectal experience. Or just go to Soya in Altamira Village hahaha.

          I thought la sifrina’s accent of the 80s was exaggerated in the song until I saw this (min 2:09 to 2:48) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SCbDgB4Ifc

          Nowadays I think it’s more subtle than Laura’s with a certain aphonic and uninterested tone.

          Also, I would show some funny yet perfect articles by Toto Aguerrevere that named around 50 things modern sifrinos do but for some reason his blog is no longer in the internet. What a shame!!!

  13. Perfect Article!!
    You represent Hope for a country of desolation! If the young generations (before chavez) would care half of what your generation cares, the country would have gone in a totally different direction! The great news, is thanks to that awful direction we took as a nation, you generation became what you are now: Hope, Promises for the future o Venezuela!

    What a perfect way to explain how Venezuela, in only 30 years, change and transform. We cannot even find a middle point between this 2 realities. In the 80’s, venezuelans lived in a country that no longer exist, that we Can’t find anywhere around, that its just a memory, or even a dream, for us who grew in the “revolutionary era”

    Laura and Yubraska are a great way to understand, that EVERYTHING in our country, in every part of it, in every person, in every job, in every institution, in every part of our life’s as Venezuelan; CHANGED, and no one could escape from it, no one could fight it.
    Sad but true.
    We have a new country, that most of us don’t like, that we may not identify with it now, that makes us feel sad, frustrating and hopeless. But it’s still our country, and we cannot di attach from it. We can only work to make it better by acknowledging this new reality and it’s necessities.

    Great work Tony!
    Can’t wait to read you again!

  14. Hard times breed strong people.
    Strong people build good times.
    Good times breeds soft people.
    Soft people build hard times.

    We’re living the results of the folly of our own past decadence. Shall we be redeemed through this trial of fire?

  15. …thanks for introducing me to Yubrasca Chacon. I had no idea….

    This year marks my tenth anniversary after emigrating to Canada, and Although I keep current this went totally under my radar.

    I think you are right in drawing conclusions from the two different icons in your piece and I found the first two paragraphs to be very powerful indeed. good writing kudos to you and the team.Venezuela being Ex-modern, rather than post- modern, and how we live in the ruins of that previous country….

    Now, I also think you fail to include other elements that are also key in the transformation of the nation in you analysis.

    Venezuela went from being a net immigration to a exporter of people. I think its not only the remnants of the Case AB from Laura typology those who have move abroad in search of peace and opportunity.
    The great majority of the Venezuelan diaspora has been young educated demographics that benefited form the opportunities of the Modern Venezuela that could have been.

    Another key factor is that for the last 20 yrs. the country has been run down to pieces ex-profeso by a ruling regime, who benefits from the power that cheap bolivars and the potential that pauperization of the society provides when populist and clientelistic practices are the maxim.

    Making Venezuela ex modern, has been the underlying design executed in this regime, as it forces the bright and troublesome (critical stakeholders) out and ferments the non- modern, dependent masses.

    I am very sad that this destruction has been so effective and am afraid that the hard working values of Yubrasca are all but wishful thinking on the mind of the marketeers behind that initiative.

    Venezuela has been degraded to la ley de la selva, and under communist leadership, everyone has been made to decide whether they flee, they stay and be oppressed or stay and become oppressors.
    Clear cut, superb leadership IMO.

    Constant reminders such as the recent run on the central banks president and his club on underage nick tuck recipients comes to mind as a stack reminder.

    If we only had the values of Yubrasca there is hope ahead.

    • Your comment is simply great. I mean, you’re so right. We eliminated paludismo back then and now we have zika and chikungunya everywhere. I’m just praying that you’re not right with those predictions that chavismo’s damage is unrepairable.

      • Well Tony I did not use the word Irreversible! You must have rad it between the lines.
        Venezuela can be turned around with massive hard work in the RIGHT direction.

        …Something that is not going to be easy to do when 1/3 of the population still reveres the chavez myth and is being prepared for more resentfulness and frustration as the Chavismo experiment collapses and they continue in denial and blame other mode.

        THe key to understand IMO the planned systematic destruction of anything good in venezuela has been the “divide y venceras” maxim applied by foreign masters to a treacherous chavez apparatchik. Cubans (and other chulos) were successful grabbing the strings of power from Chavez et alias and rule behind the scenes.

        In their play they provided mediocre puppets with the once in a life time opportunity to have power and enrich themselves while they were raiding Venezuelan treasury big time, The fortunes of merentes, nobregas, diosdados and others are nothing compared to the plunder that the real masters have achieved.

        at the end of the day, the orgy will end, and the hangovers will ensue. Venezuelans will have to clean up the mess and face a reality of devastation. The blame game has started.

  16. As a woman that was a young middle class university student when Laura Perez became a hit, I have to disagree with the following:

    “The song was a huge hit, and soon Venezuela’s youth looked to Laura as an example to follow. La sifrina de Caurimare became the corporate face of Tio Rico ice cream, inspired a sifrinas contest in Sabado Sensacional and even became the basis a sketch in the iconic El Show de Joselo – all of these using the sifrino mannerisms and heavy mandibuleo to attract Venezuela’s middle class,”

    Laura Perez was all the things we DIDN’t want to be, it was a “raya”. Her character mocked the venezuelan nouveau rich in such a way that to be called “sifrina” was embarrassing, to say the least. The song became a hit because it was a mockery, not because it was an example to follow. Perhaps that explains why the political use of her image was a failure? I don’t know.

    Regarding her aging, I believe she aged just as she was supposed to be. She became Maria Alejandra Lopez, somebody we know quite well in this blog.

    As a side note, a much better mock of nouveau riches, would be Aquiles Nazoa’s “Las Muñoz Marin salen de compras”.

    • But wasn’t she seen as some sort of aspirational dream? Like of being middle class and traveling and having money? And also wasn’t she a good image to represent an important part of society back then? the ta’ barato dame dos people?

      • Not at all, quite the opposite. Being called “sifrina” and “ta’baratera” was an sarcastic mock for most of us, middle class university students.

      • To explain it in today’s terms: the kid that said “me iria demasiado” got very famous, but nobody wants to be like him. Right?

        • Yes, nobody wants to be like him yet many people say the same stuff that he said and even worse things (“todos en el barrio son unos resentidos” “a mi me da pena decir que soy venezolano”) – people who criticized him. So, yes people criticized him yet he represents a part of our fragmented society.

    • Carolina,

      Just because an image is being satirized and mocked, doesn’t mean that the people doing the mocking don’t identify (at least in part) with that image. Consider “Material Girl” by Madonna. Another example is “Barbie Girl” by Aqua. They were both extreme caricatures, but they still struck a chord in the culture.

  17. Bueno tony la verdad me parecio bueno el articulo de como se demoderniza una sociedad y un triste ejemplo, pero no entiendo para que lo hiciste en ingles si muchos de los terminos ni siquiera tienen traduccion, entonces para un verdadero “english speaker” le costara entender el articulo.

  18. Como uno de los co-autores de la canción ” LaURA PEREZ LA SIN PAR DE CAURIMARE ! Los felicito por esta crónica… att. Chile Veloz.

  19. Interesting article, but I beg to differ… IMHO the Sifrina vs. Yubraska comparison is not about demodernization per se, but about different sides of our fragmented experience with modernity and its aftermath.

    With the benefit of hindsight, we can (at best) see La Sifrina as an example of partial, already unequal, Caracas-centric, upper middle class experience with modernity (hence the joke about Caurimare). Even back then, ‘las sifrinas’ were only a really tiny portion of Venezuela’s youth, though with a highly influential presence in the media and certainly connected to the ‘modern’ society we aspired to be. They represented a class whose experience with Venezuela represented the most shining side of our experience and fascination with modernity, but who were, indeed… privileged. By then, las sifrinas represented “political and social tolerance, industrialization, capitalism, urbanization, the rise of the middle class and of mass media, growing equality of opportunity, social mobility and mass education”, as much as they represented social inequality, clientelism, urban divide, socio-economic segregation, the lack of of social mobility through professional/legitimate means, and other problems that only became more apparent in the 1980s onwards.

    Yubraska, on the other hand, also represents our fragmented story with modernity. Yubraska is not educated or represents the image of a country that only existed for a few. Instead, she represents the failures of the system, a government and its failed promises to bring modernity to everyone. Maruja’s comment nailed it: Yubraska might not be highly educated, might not work in a factory and does not live in Caurimare, but she is politically and socially tolerant (more than many), is not ignorant or illiterate, and is a city dweller. Her experience is actually more relatable to the broader population than La Sifrina’s… with the exception of a select few, we are all tied to the bachaqueo phenomenon.

    If we don’t understand this is the case after 17 years and counting of Chavismo, we are toast. We never were Perry Mason’s country… by the 1980s, we were Dr Chimbin’s Venezuela at best. Neither fully modern or pre-modern, but ‘somewhere in between’. And we are still in that limbo.

    • Yes, you’re right – Venezuela wasn’t fully modern back then, Yet, it was trying to. We can’t deny there was a reversion of many things: the eradication of paludismo to the rise of zika and chikungunya or the creation of the MACSI and the national award to Farruco, to name a few examples. More importantly, social mobility was possible. Yes, we were two Venezuelas as Lech Walesa said. But we were at least developing. Now, one is poorer than ever and the other one is destroyed. I Guess chavismo just opened the wound even more.

      “Hay una Venezuela que se identifica, solaza y exhibe en los vestíbulos del Teresa Carreño y trabaja con aire acondicionado. Hay otra Venezuela: trabaja con las manos y se reconoce, disfruta e integra como grupo social en las celebraciones de fin de semana en las casas de su propio barrio. La Venezuela urbana cosmopolita, la Venezuela urbana marginal, la Venezuela rural. Los motines del 27 de febrero (1989) fue la expresión más concreta de ese desencuentro entre las dos Venezuelas.” – Carmelo Vilda, Proceso de la cultura en Venezuela. 1999.

  20. What Yubraska represents in full is the transformation ushered in by Chávez.

    Chávez is to Venezuela what hip hop is to the US: a legitimization of the marginilized, even a demarginalization, as both black youth in US and the barrio-dwellers in Venezuela are now the cultural centers of their respective societies.

    It’s not about whether it’s a good or a bad thing, Chávez made sure, among other things, that this trend become inevitable. Witness Freddy Guevara, an upper-middle class right wing leader, who I heard myself back in the RCTV days speak like a proper sifrino (no exagerado así, pero sifrino-leaning por lo menos) use a term like “me salvó la patria.” It’s about how we digest this shift as a people.

    I am against the kind of political correctness my uncle Quico stands for mainly because it is unnecessary. Underlying tensions make their own courses, and no equal opportunity was needed for this explosion. What was needed was respect, recognition, and tools. Where they the wrong tools? I think so. So what tools can WE provide?t do women want? What are they outraged by?

    THAT is the question that can bring true pride to us as a collective people. Not equality for women, but what do women want? What are they outraged by? Not defending women’s rights, but treating them with respect, recognition and tools. Nothing too explicit, the underlying tensions will find their course.

    I have to say it, and Yubraska is a good example of this, I think in the final analysis Chávez is a hero. He opened a gate to the future. I personally think it was worth bankrupting the country for that gate. Now we have to live up to the situation. A horrible economic crisis is a perfect oportunity to make new institutions and tools, set new goals and objectives, this time as an integrated whole of different potentials rather than the “yugo” of hard classism.

    • “…but what do women want?”

      Nacho, when you figure that one out, please let all the rest of the men on the planet know. For that matter, tell the women too. I am pretty sure most of them aren’t really sure either.

    • Chavez was no cultural hero. He did not legitimize barrio culture the way he should have. He simply did everything he could, especially by influencing his supporter’s beliefs, to end the culture created during the Venezuela of Laura Perez instead of promoting the coexistence of both parts of society. It would be like saying, “Hey, black culture is marginalized in the US. Let me destroy and marginalize white culture”. Barrio culture should not be legitimized by being put on TV, radio, fashion and every part of the superstructure of society as a way of ending “bourgeois culture” – like Chavez did – but by giving poor people the means to get out of poverty and have health, education and acquisitive power. Chavez not only eliminated social mobility for the people in the barrios – he promoted open struggle between the urbanización and the barrio. Hip-hop was tied to ethnicity; barrio culture was tied precisely to socioeconomic marginalization. You can ‘t legitimize socioeconomic marginalization instead you must fight it. But Chavez decided to “legitimize it” by making people think they should be ok with living there, by creating things like el metrocable instead of making enormous public housing. Now, poverty is celebrated instead of fought and society is more divided than ever.

  21. This essay is very well written and very articulated, but I have to disagree with the assumptions of the argument:

    Believing that Laura Perez was somehow an aspirational character for the mainstream in Venezuela, and worse, believing that Yubraska didn’t existed then, and is somehow a new construct of the chavista era (de-modernized degraded version of the latter), is IMHO, totally wrong.

    Laura Perez must be disappearing, but Yubraska exists today and existed then. Ignoring that fact is in the very epicenter of what happened to us as society.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the reading very much.

    Kudos.

  22. the destruction of a country without any war or natural catastrophe,

    and the destruction was sped up when the oil revenues were almost infinite

    maybe there are few cases like that in history (pol pot in cambodia but at least this retarded didn´t handle oil money ),

    unbelievable!

  23. Hmmm….I will be the skunk at the garden party here. I think this piece is entertaining, but flawed. Let’s just say that we did not go from modernization to demodernization, but from one one bad stereotype to another. If Sifrinismo was the hallmark of modernization in Venezuela, then I am ready to give up my citizenship. Getting back to the point, the contrast here is flawed. I think the counterpart of Yubraska here should not be the sifrina, but that lady who appeared on TV during the times of Luis Herrera Campins campaign (sorry, forgot her name cause I was already gone from Venezuela at the time) claiming that in Venezuela there was too much “pobrecia.” Or maybe I have been gone too long, and Yubraska is what passes for sifrinism these days. But I don’t think so. I think a sifrino, perhaps, can be caricaturized as someone from El Cafetal speaking of “Marico, El Regimennnnnnnnnnn!”. By the way, the use of marico in every day Venezuela speech just gets my goat, big time. That is truly demodernization. 😉

  24. Para los faranduleros …

    In case anyone is interested in watching the real Medio Evo band live (rimes with a not so nice venezuelan expresion..) you can see them in this (rare) live You Tube video, most probably uploaded from a videorecording of them in TV:

    https://youtu.be/AtXUwwWMEIY

    in a Studio recording:

    https://youtu.be/DnZ7DKUZo64

    (With due credit to Josermont)

    I recognize the following: The lead female vocalist in blue dress is Pimpi Santiesteban, one of the other girls is Anita Valencia,The tall man with moustache who makes a duo with her at the end is Chile Veloz, the gentleman in white suit with a beard is Carlos Morean, the other gentleman with the moustache must be Alavaro Serrano. Here is a resume of the band history:

    http://www.arteenlared.com/venezuela/musica/la-gran-leyenda-del-medio-evo-celebra-su-30-aniversario-en-corp.html

  25. This was an interesting throwback, but the argument’s a bit naive. Laura’s image of sifrinismo always coexisted with the dialectical opposite of the barrio dweller, the “niche”, the “balurdo”; it was never an ideal to celebrate or live up to. What is funny about the song is the mocking tone of the choral voice, who doesn’t identify with Laura (es muy desagradable, calarse tus maneras). In a society as hopelessly segregated as Venezuela’s, this kind of identity roleplay is very common. Many well-heeled teenagers in Caracas affect a working class accent. It’s considered funny and self-aware.

    Yubraska Chacón is also not the first barrio dweller to penetrate public discourse, though it may be the most imaginative. I think she’s just a consequence of social media. The best characters RCTV and Venevisión had to offer for decades were comparatively mediocre — Por estas calles comes to mind, as well as the rather offensive (and hilarious) Perolito y Escarlata on Radiorochela.

    • Yes, but back then nobody wanted to feel represented by Perolito y Escarlata. That’s the difference; I mean – even sifrinos feel represented by Yubraska because her frustrations affect everyone in Venezuela!! Everybody wants to play chess with Jacqueline Faria’s face. About previous barrio dwellers on the media, you forgot Malula (yo nací en el cerro, me crié en el cerro, vivo en el cerro… ay, como me gustaría mudarme al Caraj… al Caracas Country Club!). Nowadays I don’t think we have any media modern day Laura Perez. Perhaps Lilian Tintori in the “ninitas” video or Maria Alejandra López (which is more some sort of old Laura:http://www.elchiguirebipolar.net/07-04-2011/entrevista-maria-alejandra-lopez-opina-sobre-las-elecciones-2012/ ). Remember, nowadays sifrinos like to be low profile – very few sifrinas have their Instagrams on public mode…

    • Also, your comment about class identity roleplay is so real! I mean, it’s not difficult to find a kid raised in El Country who goes to Miami every year trying to speak like if he was from Petare. I find it ridiculous. Don’t you think the fascination with reggaeton or perhaps the “ninos bien” who dressed in black when Cancerbero died is an expression of that identity roleplay? Sánchez Rugeles talks about it in “Blue Label/Etiqueta Azul” after it is mentioned that a character is the most sifrina girl in Caracas (not at all in my opinion) but she likes to speak with street slang and a bunch of hardcore sexual language.

  26. The sifrino accent survives…quite often I`ve heard Venezuelans speaking Spanish abroad (I left in 2000) and I can spot them easily because of their accent (even we we grow up with the myth that Venezuelans have no accent, or, if anything, have a “neutral accent”, and because they speak like Laura Pèrez…as though they had their lower jaws out of joint…o sea….demasiado

    • Hahah, Venezuelans having no accent is BS. Yes sifrino accent still exists, the slang changed yet the mandibuleo remains – now the tone seems to be more aphonic and uninterested that in the 80s. Some sifrino slang: “o sea pues” “tipo (like)” “sa(b)es” “tagear” ‘likear”. I think speaking about sifrinos nowaday is like some sort of controversial taboo. I even got insulted on Twitter only because of my school..
      .
      To prove that sifrino accents still exists, just go to any of the few remaining Catholic all-girls school in Caracas, el VAAC or Altamira Viilage and it’ll be a complete dialectal experience.

  27. Tony, my most sincere compliments for all your commentary on the comments on your post–you are wise and insightful well beyond your years.

  28. Both the sifrino accent and the low barrio accents are social affectations, not ordinary spontaneous speech, there is a standard venezuelan speech which is easily recognizable when you hear it spoken on the street abroad or by a presenter or actor/ actress apppearing on a non venezuelan spanish media and for most spanish speakers abroad its not unpleasant. Had people in NY and in Spain comment to myself and members of my family how they love hearing the accent of the telenovelas , to them its kind of soft and musical and a bit upbeat . In spain it gets confused with the accent of people from the Canary islands sometimes. I once read that hispanic tv would target to hire venezuelan presenters because they spoke in what was the most neutral of all latin american accents .

    My own favourite Venezuelan accent however is one which has for the most part disspeared which was the slow sweet sing song accent of old caraquenos , The kind spoken by Profesor Carreno in his TV programs , the kind spoken by one of my grand mothers and some of my mothers aunts and by my first boss. Not sure all people in this blog have ever heard it …..

    • Sorry the reference is not to profeso Carreno but to profesor Calcano , who gave wonderful lectures on the marvels of traditional Venezuelan music !!
      .

      • Right, the accent is not unpleasant in itself, but it is recognizable and distinguishable, therefore it is not neutral, it can be identified as being from Venezuela, and yes, it sounds a bit like the Isleño accent. On the other hand, the accent spoken by actors in telenovelas is more of a Caracas thing, as a child I lived in Caracas and Margarita, and for my Canadian parents it was very hard to understand margariteños while caraqueños was very easy as log as they would speak slowly, actually, both of my parents improved their Spanish in Caracas and until today they speak Spanish using words like “chevere”

    • “My own favourite Venezuelan accent however is one which has for the most part disspeared which was the slow sweet sing song accent of old caraquenos ,…”

      Ditto. It’s that accent (and accompanying thoughtful values, otherwise noted in the “Manual de Urbanidades…”) that surrounded my early life, and was heard more widely in frequent visits to ancestral family homes in La Pastora and Altagracia.

  29. Yubraska is the epitome of how venezuelan values changed over these two decades.

    I grew up in a poor part of Caracas in the early 90s and being a sifrino (with class, money and relative power) was all me and my neighbors wanted. Now I see kids, who are not necessarily poor or from the ghetto, acting like malandros or adopting malandro slang. For some people it may be funny to see a carajito from el San Ignacio saying stuff like lacra o beta, but I think it shows how values have changed and now being malandro is way cooler than just a sifrino, all sponsored by the chavismo.

  30. Now, beyond accents and and jaws out of joint (which is a valid and humorous comment) I suspect that sifrinos and the tirrúos have coexisted in Venezuela since times immemorial. and both phenomena have evolved according to the political, social and economical context. Los mantuanos and los pata-en-el-suelo are part of Venezuelan history, but from the 70´s on they evolved and became sifrinos and malandros or tierrúos, now they are called tukis and something else. After growing up in Venezuela in a house where both parents were foreigners I came to the conclusion that every Venezuelan has a Yubraska Chacon and a Laura Perez inside or a Luis Alberto and a Wilkerson inside, and they each of those internal personas are brought forth depending on the circumstances. I have seen Venezuelans at the airport in NYC, Miami and Toronto showing off what they bought at the mall…shoes, perfumes, tables, swaggering around with huge bags from Neimann Marcus or Macys, speaking aloud with their jaws out of joint, and I have seen tierrúos in Caracas walking along Avenida Urdaneta with those huge, bulky basketball boots and winter coats with the Chicago Bulls logo even if it´s 30 C . The political context is irrelevant, in my days sifrinos were adecos or copeyanos, and the tierrúos from both parties as well…in 2016 we have sifrinos chavistas and oppositores and tierrúos opositores and chavistas. I left Venezuela almost 30 years ago and I don´t go back so often, however, every time I go back I see the country has changed, places I knew lo longer exist, people I knew left the country years ago, yet something remains the same, the need to show off, to brag about anything, that has not changed

    • Classic overcompensation? To one degree or another, all of Latin America has an inferiority complex from having lived in the political, cultural and economic shadow of the U.S. for such a long time. At various times, LA cultures have responded in various ways to this, sometimes by rebelling, and sometimes by imitating.

      • Possibly, Latin America has always lived in a love/hate relationship with the US, which is quite understandable, one one hand they hate to be the backyard of the US, a lot of animosity was built during the last century when the US supported (both secretly and overtly) military dictatorial regimes, “intervened” in several countries and sold guns that somehow fueled internal political conflicts (not forgetting they were simple reflections of the Cold War); on the other people from Latin America love all the material aspects of the American way of life, living in Miami is the wet dream of many, not only in Venezuela but also in other LatAm countries. Chavistas badmouth El Imperio, yet many in the chavista elite travel to the US, shop, spend greenbacks at American stores, go to Broadway shows, Madonna concerts, DisneyWorld and take selfies in front of the White House or at Times Square

  31. Thanks for writing this article. I was born in Caracas in 1987 and moved to the U.S. in 1995 and I appreciated reading such a salient summary of what it means to be Venezuelan* (through extreme stereotypes, sure, but that’s what makes it so salient). I’d never seen this type of content and analysis anywhere, much less in English. So thanks for that too.

    *Though you argue Laura is passé, a thing of the past, the truth is there is no Yubraska without Laura. The two are inextricable from each other and from our collective psyche, I think. But what do I know, I’ve only visited Venezuela twice since 1995!

    I’m excited to read what you write next.

  32. […] Ni Laura ni Yubraska tienen exactamente un rostro, a pesar de que el himno funk de la Simpar de Caurimare se convirtió en el “Light my Fire” del grupo Medio Evo: los helados Tío Rico, entonces del Grupo Cisneros, compraron los derechos para ponerle a la voz de la sifrina de la cantante Pimpi Santistevan el poco intervenido cuerpo en bikini de Kristina Wetter y llevársela para Paparo con Roberto en el Camaro. Pero ambas tienen cosas que decir acerca de las aspiraciones contrastantes de los venezolanos en dos encrucijadas fatídicas de la historia contemporánea, un arco narrativo de la “desmodernización” de Venezuela como afirma Caracas Chronicles. […]

Leave a Reply