Protagonistas de la Moneda: One Thousand Bolos


We all know higher denomination bills are desperately needed in Venezuela, but who to put on them? Some weeks ago we asked for your help in choosing the worthiest Venezuelans and monuments, manmade or natural, to grace our currency. We tallied up the votes, and are presenting results in a three-part series. 

1,000 Bolívar note: Simón Díaz, Guri Dam

For the Bs.1,000 bill, our readers picked two icons of the kind of Venezuelanity that’s been almost completely forgotten about: our national bard, and our greatest engineering feat.
Tio Simon Front (1)

Simón Díaz (1928-2014)

He’s our Johnny Cash, plain and simple. Better known to a generation of after-school-special watchers as Tío Simón, this singer, musician, composer, poet, and comedian personified the earnest, rough-hewn but also sentimental Venezuelan llanero, who catapulted Venezuelan folklore into the realm of fine art.

A country boy through and through, Díaz began his career as a musician at the age of 15, stepping in for a sick band member at a local bar. He ended up improvising a scatted version of a classic bolero to rousing applause. Armed with a 6th-grade education and dreams of supporting his seven siblings and widowed mother, Díaz moved to Caracas at 21, where he worked as a bank teller by day while honing his innate musical talent through formal musical conservatory training.

Díaz went on to release dozens of hit records and host national radio and TV shows, becoming Venezuela’s wise uncle while popularizing and preserving the llanero cultural heritage along the way. His artistic prowess gained him international acclaim, and in doing so, opened the door for the academic recognition of Venezuelan rhythms and instruments, such as the emblematic cuatroHis blend of folksy humor, original compositions, and reverence for the tradition of tonadas inspired generations.

Simón Diaz was a man of many talents. Many will know he was an anti-slingshot activist (it was a simpler time), but how many realize he sang tangos and was a movie star, too? Verídico!

Here he is starring in a neorealist 70s film:


And for the back:

Tio Simon Back

Guri Dam 

An awesome feat of Venezuelan engineering, Guri dam has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons recently. But it’s time to reivindicate Guri: an emblem of a time when we took on big projects and got them right, damn it.

Back when it was fresh built, it was the largest dam in the world. All these years later it’s still the fourth largest. And unlike many other candidates on this list – which were the almighty’s handiwork – this one we actually built!

Sure, it took a World Bank loan to get things rolling, but it was a Venezuelan State Owned Firm (Edelca) that coordinated the work of the international consortium that actually built Guri. Shocking, isn’t it, to realize there was a time when Venezuelan state-owned firms built things – big things! – rather than just destroying them? 

This video gives you a sense of what it took to build this monster thing:

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  1. How long until every newspaper in the country starts running stories about the new “leaked” design of the 1000 Bs. bill?

    • Not to pick nits, but the word “tilde” in English means this mark (“~”) above the letter, like the mark that changes an “n” to a “ñ”. In English, what you call a “tilde” we call an “accent” or “accent mark”.

      Yo se… fastidioso. Pero esta así.

  2. We’ll live to see the day when Guri’s official name reverts to Raul Leoni, a son of Bolivar State and whose under presidency the project got going.

    • There was nothing particularly ground breaking in the engineering of either of those projects. The only thing noteworthy was their scale for a country like Venezuela. Both projects were representative of ambitious forward thinking.

      From an engineering perspective, I like the dam and the industrial and productive capacity it represents. However, on an aesthetic level, the bridge wins.

      • There used to be a model of the bridge, as conceptualized, with twice the lanes and a railway built under the roadway part. A hotel sat astride in the middle.

      • El Puente sobre el Lago fue un diseño original del ingeniero italiano Riccardo Morandi y posteriormente modificado por el Consorcio Puente Maracaibo “CPM”. La construcción fue ejecutada por las empresas Grün & Bilfinger, Julius Berger Bauboag AG, Philipp Holzmann AG, Precomprimido CA (empresa venezolana con la participacíón mayor), Wayss & Freytag y K Ingeniería.

  3. Amazing el diseño. Estoy como las viejas del Cafetal, “increíble lo que estos muchachos hacen con las computadoras…”

  4. Mi ignorancia es notoria, pero de donde viene el nombre Guri? Parece ser una palabra de origen indigena, pero cual es la etimologia?
    PS: mi teclado no tiene tilde ( que es el signo ortografico para acentuar o tambien el ondulado que se usa en la “ñ”, RAE)

    • esta es una versión De hecho, Guri, es el nombre de un pueblo desaparecido por la construcción y ampliación de esta gran obra. El origen de la palabra viene por el nombre de la mujer del Cacique Guaro, quien una vez salvó a la hermana del misionero Francisco de Armas de morir ahogada en el Río Caroní. Este religioso, en agradecimiento, colocó dicho nombre a toda la tribu.
      En otra segun y que era elnombre de una mujer Pemón, voy a usar el comodín llamar a un antropologo

  5. The Guri dam is the “awesome feat” of Venezuelan engineering?!?!? Did you mean to say “an awesome feat of Gringo engineering carried out in Venezuela”?

  6. See how you guys impacted the news? Congrats on the new followers. Did you guys ever figured this contest was gonna be all around the internet as the proposed new bills?

    Vieron como trastornaron esta noticia? Felicidades por los millones de visitas que tendran (seria cehvere saber cuantos lectores circularon por aca)… pero en todo caso Uds sabian del impacto que podia generar este concurso que organizaron?


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