Graciagiving, Fifteen Years On

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Growing up, Thanksgiving always had an exotic flavor to me — a gringo eccentricity talked about in that odd, nowhere-Spanish accent they used on a the dubbed enlatados on Venevisión.

The whole concept of Acción de Gracia was just foreign through and through: the notion of a family solemnly gathering and going around a dinner table earnestly listing off their reasons for being thankful was just so incongruous from the point of view of a typical, boisterous, everyone-speaking-at-the-same-time Venezuelan family.

Whatever we were, we weren’t that.

The odd phrase they used to describe it in on TV made it seem all the more exotic. There’s an ecclesiastical ring about Acción de Gracia as a phrase that’s missing from ‘Thanksgiving’. But it was confusing: at catholic school they taught us gracia was a gift freely bestowed by a benevolent God. Giving it is certainly not something people should be able to freelance.

I couldn’t piece it together. As a holiday, Graciagiving struck me as a theologically suspect, if not outright pagan.

These days, I think I had it all wrong: Acción de Gracia is the rare translation that’s somehow better than the original. It gets at the nub of it, at the the act of seeking grace by saying gracias.  Maybe the priests were wrong. Maybe grace is not gratuitous. Maybe it can be only be freely received when we make a purposeful act of giving it.

Which is why we’re taking today to say Thank You, as we launch a special commemoration of Caracas Chronicles’s Fifteenth Year Anniversary.

Ever since we launched, all the way back in 2002, Caracas Chronicles has been powered by an amazing constellation of readers, writers, commenters, illustrators, tweeters, co-conspirators and friends, and we couldn’t have done any of it without you.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be looking back on those fifteen years: Posts from a range of guest authors, tidbits from the archives —lovingly curated by our stellar Editorial Assistant, Mariví Coello, and our killer addition to the Editorial team, Victor Drax— commemorative graphics by our ridiculously talented designer, Mario Dávila; an amazing project by la gran Naky, and tons of fun goodies and surprises along the way.

We know it’s not a time to celebrate, but we think it is a time to think back, reflect, relive and —especially— to give thanks.

On behalf of Emiliana, Raúl, and myself,

¡Graacias!

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

24 COMMENTS

  1. Well, thanks to you, the whole team!
    Whether we agree or disagree with the articles, one thing is sure, and that is that CC offers a unique perspective on Venezuela.

    Thanks also go to the commentators, without which this would be a just another blog.

    So keep up the good work!

    And again, thanks!

  2. Muchas gracias a todos vosotros… y si no es mucho pedir, volver a leer el primer post o uno bastante más reciente pero de hace dos o tres años que incluía un buen número de enlaces de youtube a películas venezolanas de los años ochenta será todo un placer

  3. Día del Agradecimiento, would be my dynamic transition.

    (I just could not let go the Catholic reference)

    You correctly define what grace is. But there is this theological ‘physics’ that grace must be given away as it is received. If you horde it, it dies, but the more you give away the more God will provide.

    Your work matters. Your work is good. God grace you ????

  4. I always thought accion de gracia was a mistranslation as well.

    Thanksgiving is about Pilgrims and turkeys and a radical, paranoid religious sect finding a new home in the new world, and securing the assistance of local indigenous people to survive the early months, so it could get strong, turn around and then try to wipe them out. Grace in the Catholic context seems to be more about acknowledging that God made a tremendous sacrifice for humans even though they are inherently useless and messed up. Grace is sort of the hippy spiritual side of Catholicism: but for Grace we are dust at best and probably going to hell forever.

    In any event, I am sure someone here has the theology down.

    But thanks to Caracas Chronicles is not complicated at all, by comparison. You guys are doing a great job. I particularly like the diversity of views and areas of interest that you are bringing to these posts, and it bears repeating that this venue, that publishes news and diverse viewpoints about Venezuela, as well as just good personal stories, is extremely important given the censorship and repression going on right now. Moreover, while you may not always “get it right” (and nobody does), I think you are editorially responsible. You don’t just endorse any wild notion, and that is no small feat in a context where wild notions are abundant and the truth is hard to get at because of the regime’s repression.

    So thanks. Your work is important.

    • I’m sorry but I could not resist replying while I wait for turkey.

      All the creation has an inherent dignity. And God saw that it was good – Genesis. Humans and even the devil have enough dignity that God maintains their existence. More over, so much value is found in humanity that ‘he sent his only son’ – Paul.

      No one knows how many will be saved or damned but on must strive ‘for the narrow gate’ – Gospel.

  5. I thank you for the opportunity you provide to learn about your country and its present predicament. It offers lessons for all of us, including the U.S. May your 15th anniversary be the occasion to give thanks for the return of freedom to Venezuela.

  6. I get confused… is the US ‘thanksgiving’ about giving thanks to God for favours recieved or is it about giving thanks to the indians for their generosity in sharing their food with the hungry pilgrims ….., the first might have a religious connotation and involve the theologically charged notion of grace …. , the second with the noble and much celebrated practice of thanking people (or God for that matter) for the kindness they show us in ones times of need……!!

    In any event we are thankful that this blog was born and continues to exist , and how it feeds the needs of our spirit for intelligent commentary on the tragedy now afflicting our beloved country.

    • I think if you are a Christian you are thanking God for the abundance of food and bringing you hosts of friendly pagans that helped you survive a horrible winter. And then you don’t analyze that too much.

      If you are secular, or in public school, you just thank the pagans directly, and your good luck generally.

      I’d be interested if anyone is familiar with the original source history though.

      • Originally, you depended on the weather for a good harvest, so you gave thanks to God.

        Now, it’s just about gathering around a table with your loved ones and being thankful. The ridiculously decadent meal is just a distraction.

        You’re not giving thanks to anyone. It’s just about FEELING thankful.

        I imagine that your Canadian Thanksgiving gives thanks for having a neighbor to the south who does all of the heavy lifting for you.

      • I guess the idea of being thankful to those besides yourself is a foreign concept to many. Regardless of religious beliefs, the concept should be immutable.

        I don’t recognize the Canadian traditions, so if that offends you some how, so be it.

        I certainly don’t expect Canadians to recognize holidays in other countries.

        But, live and let live. It is silly that we assume pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving tradition, when in fact the pilgrims did not have an abundance of processed sugar let alone evaporated milk. But it is still delicious all the same.

        Enjoy your disdain for others. I chose not to participate in your pity party.

  7. Not long ago most gringos were subsistence farmers, and farming depends on Mother Nature (God) to deliver a lot of the right stuff and at the right times.

    When you can put a wealth of good food on the table you are grateful to Him, and you try to make Him aware of that gratitude so He will bless you again next season.

  8. Thanksgiving is traditionally giving thanks to God. Thanks for good harvests, particularly, and that is a tradition which is probably carried forwards from at least a couple of thousand years ago, going back to the Pagans, Stonehenge, and probably even earlier.

    From this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving

    “In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition is traced to a sparsely documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts, and also to a well recorded 1619 event in Virginia. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. Pilgrims and Puritans who began emigrating from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England. The 1619 arrival of 38 English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration as dictated by the group’s charter from the London Company, which specifically required “that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned … in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” “

  9. Having Caracas Chronicles here is a mix of mostly Venezolanos but many not in Venezuela, and with a few Americans mixed in, to try to share perspectives – it’s one of the sources of information I read regularly, and has a flavor of on-the-street information not readily available elsewhere. That said … I am thankful I’m not stuck in Venezuela. All I can offer in the way of help is my [unique] perspective, my moral support, and talking to Americans (most of whom already know what’s going on and see it as a typically brutal socialist playground for dictatorship). And some subscription money from time to time to help keep the lights on.

    Francisco, you may get criticized for leaning left, or leaning right, or not leaning when you should or shouldn’t be leaning, but there is apparently, most seem to think, a long road ahead for Venezuela. So thank you and the CC team for publishing – and keep talking. If you go too far left, we’ll try to prop you up.

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