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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