Protagonistas de la Moneda: Dos Lucas

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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. 

2,000 Bolívar note: Arturo Uslar Pietri, Angel Falls

For the Bs.2,000 bill, our readers picked a Venezuelan renaissance man, and a magnificent celebration of our natural world.

Arturo Uslar Front

Arturo Uslar Pietri (1906-2001)

A lawyer, journalist, writer, politician, and badass intellectual, Arturo Uslar Pietri is one of those people who just did more with a single lifetime than seems quite fair. Here he is a twentysomething writer kicking back with André Bréton discussing surrealism in a Left Bank Parisian café, here he is writing the paradigmatic novel about Venezuela’s traumatic independence wars (while still in his 20s!), here he is as Education Minister at the age of 34, introducing the most progressive Education Law the republic had ever known.

Arturo Uslar Pietri was the first person to think to apply the term “realismo mágico” to Latin America’s rising modernist style of literature: a serious short story writer who doubled as a genius historian of ideas and of society, and a pivotal politician, to boot – but why stop there? He was a real-life advertising executive at about the same time Don Draper was getting into the business, one of our greatest newspaper editors, a TV producer…you name it, he did it.

In the first half of the 40s, he was the pivotal figure in a project that would have seemed utterly fanciful even a decade earlier: transforming the hyper-repressive Andean dictatorship of the Gómez era into a modern, progressive, liberal state bringing together artists, militarymen and the nascent proletariat into a national project able to conjugate democracy with progress. If Diógenes Escalantes hadn’t lost his marbles, it might all have paid off, instead Uslar Pietri got the further privilege of being exiled and persecuted by the incoming adeco administration

If he hadn’t kept writing one of our most incisive newspaper columns up until the age of 90 – ninety! – he’d still be a giant of 20th century culture. If he’d died 50 years earlier than he did and hadn’t spent half a century as one of most recognizable TV personalities, he’d still deserve a spot on our currency. If he’d never uttered the dramatically misunderstood phrase about “sowing the oil”, he’d deserve it twice as much.

Arturo Uslar Back

Salto Ángel, or Kerepakupai Vená

Scattered throughout the lush savannah of Southeastern Venezuela, spectacular table mountains called tepuys emerge like ghostly citadels shrouded in clouds and mystery.

Sacred to their custodians, the Pemón people of the Kamarata Valley, the most formidable of these monuments is Auyantepuy, or Devil’s Mountain, a vast and primordial rock formation dating back to 3.6 billion years before life even appeared on earth, so massive it creates its own weather patters. At dawn, the first rays of the sun heat up Auyan’s eastern wall and sucks up moisture from the lush forest below to form swirling turbulent clouds that quickly smother the mountain. Once condensed, water droplets eventually make their way through rivers and streams atop this impenetrable mammoth into one of the most breathtaking natural wonders we have the privilege of calling our own: Boasting a height just shy of 1km, Angel Falls plunges in a column of frothy spring water that eventually dissipates into feathery wisps of mist in the canyon below. During rainy season, water can burst through as many as 8 gorges atop the mountain’s summit, while dry season sometimes reduces the chute to a mere trickle.

This BBC Planet Earth clip might come close to illustrating the miracle that is Angel Falls:

The falls owe their western name to US pilot and explorer Jimmy Angel, who, along with his family, became stranded atop Auyantepuy in 1937 when his plane failed. He was forced to descend the Belgium-sized plateau on foot during an 11-day trek, and his aircraft remained at the crash site for three decades before it could be airlifted away.

Though the falls have captivated the imagination of Disney animators and filmmakers alike, to most of the world, and Venezuelans, they remain as exotic and remote as the uncharted jungle that surrounds them.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Has Uslar Petri never appeared on currency in the past? To me he seems an obvious choice, a President who has cultural as well as political resonance. It’s something of the same territory as Sarmiento, though more recent.

      • Why? Because he was a dictator? Well he supervised and ordered the construction of a large portion of the infrastructure that still stands in the country 50 years+ later. By the way, the majority of the modernisation of the UCV (which is featured on the back of the first bill in this contest) was done during Perez Jimenez tenure (people can argue that it began with Medina Angarita but it is all about execution). Whatever political tendency you are, if you don’t appreciate his legacy, you are blind. But it is not an uncommon thing, one finds that still today, his legacy and reasoning is not understood by the majority.

        • His works can be acknowledge but nevertheless, we don’t need more military dictators on our bills. You forget the Seguridad Nacional and all the crimes they committed during the dictatorship.

          Thanks, but no. Bolívar is more than enough as far as military dictator go.

        • I think you are basing your knowledge about Pérez Jiménez mostly on what some viejas de Cafetal and a lot of Chavista voters and Chávez based their admiration for that guy.

          We had something similar to FONDEN back then and he blew it away, stole it.
          That was at a time when it was much easier to manage the country, with just five million people, hardly any debts and most still arriving from the countryside.

          I would disagree with “not understood by the majority”.
          Actually, you are a part of Venezuela’s majority in this sense: you think the infrastructure work done during his tenure justifies it. Even taking away the dictatorship part: it doesn’t.

          • Every dictatorship is fun and peachy, as long as you don’t mind spending your life kissing butts on an hourly basis.

          • Oh please Kepler. The evidence points to the contrary. Facts and economic figures. The majority of those claims about corruption from MPJ have never been proved and political parties back then shut him down even when he wanted to run again many years later, why? You seem to be obsessed with Chavez/Chavistas. No one is talking about Chavez here, it doesn’t even come into play in this matter. And to be factually correct, I doubt viejas del
            Cafetal would be talking in favour of MPJ at all given that that neighbourhood (and others such as Prados Del Este for example) were built by people connected to AD. El Cafetal was known as el Adecal. This is unwritten history, btw.

            Soooo, viejas del Cafetal and MPJ? Don’t think so.

            And I beg to disagree, his legacy does justify whatever dictatorship.

            A must watch for anyone feeling weaknessand getting cozy with AD/Copei lies repeated to trash MPJ’s legacy:

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Bu7OC1wLeSs

            It is simply embarrassing that every 23 de Enero opposition politicians still go out of their way to celebrate the fall of MPJ. Even with the benefit of hindsight… What a bunch of morons.

        • Crazy! The LAST thing Venezuela needs to promote is caudillismo. The image of another “strong man” dictator is exactly the opposite of what Venezuela should hold up as a positive example.

        • Yeah, what’s a few human rights violations, summary executions and forced exiles when you have an autopista to boast of?

  2. Little fact check: Belgium is 30.528Km2. Auyantepui is 700Km2.

    I just had the splinter because I was in the Salto Angel in november and although one can trully not describe with words (or even by pictures) what stands in front of ones eyes, the figure felt exaggerated.

    Fun fact: many people know the Santo Angel by its suposed pemón name “Churún Merú”, but the thruth is, Churún Merú is another fall not too far away from the Salto Angel. The Salto Angel itself is called Kerepakupai Merú or Kerepakupai Vená as the article states (merú and vená meaning both “fall” or “jump” in pemón). Kerepakupai stands for “the highest”.

    If you are a Venezuelan living abroad (i.e.: earning hard currency), by all means, go to Canaima! If not, it’s still worth all of your effort! They were actually amazed a Venezuela-residenced Venezuelan went to visit them.

  3. This dude (Uslar) supported Gomez and Perez Jiménez. Also, justified the need of an elite to guide the people. An intelectual with dangerous beliefs and understimation of democracy. You want an intelectual, get Andrés Bello or Rómulo Gallegos there.

  4. Uslar was a personal friend of one of Gomez sons which allowed him into the inner circle of Gomez closests. he can be seen in many Gomez family photographs. His father was a govt official during Gomez times , He was a very cultured and talented young man and became one of Lopez Contreras favourites who appreciated the value of young intelligent people . Lopez Contreras and Medina attempted to move Venezuela towards a more democratic regime but old Gomez allies were still influential in the army and they had to move carefully . Though not as fully democratic as now has become fashionable they were very liberal in their outlook acting in ways that made them as respectful of human rights as was the case in the time of the democracies….., if not more!! He was a political figure in the political party which Lopez and Medina created to support their regime. After Medinas fall he was exiled from the country being allowed to return after the fall of Gallegos but without playing any political role whatsoever….during the MPJ years . He and other intellectuals founded a very succesful Advertisement agency , one of his partners in the Agency was noted writer Alejo Carpentier ( an exile from Batistas Cuba) …..

    It was Alejo Carpentier during a yatch outing cruising the coast of Venezuela who standing in the prow and writing a live description of a coming storm found himself marveled at how magical it all looked and at that moment came up with the notion of the ‘real maravilloso’ which other writers later adopted , the idea is that reality in Latin America is so wonderful that it has the appearance of something magical …..(heard him personally describe the moment years ago in a talk he gave while being Cuban ambassador to Venezuela)

    Uslar , a man of extraordinary intellectual and literary gifts contributed many ideas and visions to Venezuelans picture of themselves……..Difficult to object to his face appearing on the Bs 2000 note.

  5. The paradox is that Arturo Uslar Pietri coined the phrase “Sembrar el Petroleo” which has been ignored for the last fifty years and is today the country’s greatest necessity. Sad how great men’s words are ignored by the fools.

    • When Uslar coined the phrase what he meant was that he was convinced that oil produced a very transitory wealth , one which would dissapear in his lifetime so we needed to sow it to replace it with a more permanent form of wealth , he never saw oil as a permanent feature of Venezuela economy , he didnt understand oil , what it meant as an international business , he was raised and educated at time when agriculture represented true wealth , notwithstanding his original take on oil as something that needed to be used to create other sources of wealth was spot on , not because we would run out of oil so quickly but because ultimately it is the wealth which is born of our effort that which makes us into productive and balanced beings ……… Oil wealth is for many years our mainstay but we have to use it as a lever to create other forms of wealth which depends on our resources as a people and not as part of a political rental apparatus. !! We shouldnt waste the natural gift of our oil resources but instead employ its income to expand into other economic activities, but achieving this has been very difficult for us , perhaps we are not natural capitalists , hard working , ambitious , disciplined , phocused on long term goals , capable of organizing ourselves collectively to pursue big scale projects…..or rather some of us are but most of us lack these attributes….

  6. You may use my visage on the new bill, it will only cost the government one bolivre for all the bills they make. I will never spend it. Remember one Bs is worth nothing.
    I am over 70 and mirthing (greatly). My but is available for the reverse side of the note – no charge if toilet paper is available.
    Why doesn’t the opp., offer Maduro et all a free pardon, within 30 days, for all crimes or face the consequences if he (they) fail to opportune themselves. This would be in the best interest for all the country.
    I REALLY REALLY LOVE VENEZUELA (my wife made me say that – she lives in Valencia) but I agree, even being Irish (don’t call me gringo). I have lived in this beautiful country for three years enjoying the Andes (Merida) were out of my dreams. Morocay is pretty good too.
    To quote the the bard “Venezuela thou art more lovely than a summers day”. (did I hear a sonnet)?

    Love to all. Gerry.

  7. This racist on our highest denomination note?!! Are you on drugs?! Every aborigin, black or mestizo Venezuelan should feel offended.

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