Thursday, October 21, 2010

Discovering Venezuela...

Welcome to Venezuela, intriguing country where socialism is still fighting consumerism...We are the three of us curious about the land of Chavez and his red revolution, curious to check how a country that was sold to the US capitalism could reverse its course to come to a fairer and better system. Our first steps into Venezuela were magic, rhythm in our ears, the singing Spanish language everywhere, exotic faces and colorful streets. No control, a simple stamp, Europeans are more than welcome. People had treated us nicely in Guyana...but here, we got amazed by the level of hospitality and generosity of the Venezuelans. We didn't wait five minutes before the first car stopped and took us to the next village. We asked the first bakery and one restaurant and we had enough food for the day...Everything came very easy as a good welcome from the Latinos.

We entered from Brazil into the Gran Sabana, a natural park protected by the government with special rights for the indigenous people living there. The landscapes are breathtaking, huge green plateaus surrounded by wet forests, high sacred mountains -The Tepuy, oldest in the world according to the locals-, hundreds of rivers flowing down the mountains ending in waterfalls like the famous “Salto Angel”, the highest waterfall in the world with more than 900 meters...we spend one fresh night there and we enjoy the invigorating black water to get a morning bath and we hit the road, running away from the “puri puri”, a type of small mosquito who can’t stop to bite your legs! Quickly, a pick up stops, we jump on the back get in a small touristic village where the indigenous people manage everything. They all love Chavez because he gave them certain rights and the exclusivity on the business opportunity in the park. They listen to our story and give us food and wish us good luck on our way without forgetting to preach a bit about Jesú everywhere we look like pilgrims and people are always looking for the words of gods in our acts. Hitchhiking in Venezuela is really easy, we get quickly to Ciudad bolivar, city of the “libertador” Simon Bolivar who freed Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama and Peru from the Spanish 200 years ago. He remains the most important person in the history of the country. He had a dream, a unified America where everyone would live in peace and harmony...Chavez got inspired by him and says he share the same dream.
A friendly family invite us to sleep in their hotel and celebrate the birthday of Raphael in a comfortable room. The day after, we are on our way down to the Caribbean coast, nothing easier in Venezuela, we jumped on pick ups, cars and finally a big truck stopped by the friendly policemen and Carlos, our drunken angel who accept to take us to Puerto la Cruz. While driving, he drunk an entire bottle of whisky and told us complicated and confused stories... A chaotic entry in a chaotic zone, the city is pretty ugly, polluted, dirty...a true mess, however we found good people, some Lebanese who invite us for some delicious vegetarian Falafel and a good friend who let us sleep in the commercial center he takes care of. In the morning we are already on our way out...we need nature and wonderful beaches...

Along the way, we have the opportunity to discover the perspicacity and the curious political consciousness of the Venezuelans. No way to have a clear idea about political situation in this country, too many fake stories, lies and propaganda. The big victory of Chavez according to us has been to allow the people to develop clear opinions and to get involved in politics. The 26 millions inhabitants of Venezuela do know about politics and have chosen their side, they are all convinced and strongly in favor of Chavez or fiercely against him. This might be the big loss of the revolutionary president, the country is divided, on one side the Chavistas, poorer, employees of the government, artists, communists or the simplest people, seduced by the active propaganda of the government and on the other side, the richer, business people, owners, the ones who protest against expropriation and don't want to give up a part of their privileges. Hard to say, on each side, there are justified arguments, some socialist reforms are really interesting and good for the people: free university, rights for the indigenous communities, basic minimum wage for all, education for all, common agricultural policies to produce cheap food for all. Chavez tries his best with his motto, “to live well is not to live better than the others”, a theory that his opponents critic saying that he is establishing a “low level equality” like in Cuba. There are nice reforms...contrasting unfortunately with the reality. On the side of the slogan “Patria socialista o muerte”, Mcdonalds, Coca Cola and other big corporations keep advertising, seducing everyday more consumers, inequality doesn’t stop, insecurity jumped to put Venezuela one of the most dangerous places in the world in terms of delinquency, 15 millions weapons in circulation for less than 30 millions people, an anti capitalist politic but a very rich high class, a strange control of the change rate by the government, the United states as the first economic partner...and oil, petrol, the number 1 resource in the country, contaminating the beach and the forest to make more and more money that doesn’t always end in the right pockets. Environmentally speaking, the situation is a disaster, burning trashes along the road, the cheapest oil in the world, you fill up the tank with one euro, trashes everywhere, in the beaches, in the forest...more disposable plastic products...the craziness of capitalism that cannot be stop by some socialist idealism.

A clear lack of coherence in a very difficult context, no environmental consciousness, the people throw away their trashes without knowing if it is harming or not...A land with incredible resources, heavenly beaches, adorable and gentle people...but a history of corruption, deceptions... Nowadays, it is a divided society, chaotic, taken in between contradictory ideologies with the citizens who spend more time praising or criticizing their president instead of thinking what they could do. Caracas, the capital, is a good representation of this society. A huge city surrounded by the Andean mountains, contaminated, unruled, chaotic with beautiful (or ugly depending on the point of view) rich residences with electrified protection... and “barrios”, sort of slums that lie right at the feet of the richest as leeches, a place full of inequalities where the richest enclose themselves everyday a bit more, by fear and egoism deepening even more the gap with their brothers and sisters who suffers outside of their windows.

Despite of all these difficulties the Venezuelans have to deal with, each person we meet is friendly and open to our story, generous, they never hesitate to give us a hand, offer us a place to stay, a bit of food or a ride to the next village. We discovered the wonder of the Caribbean sea in Sabana, a small village on the coast, there we met Braulio, a pure citizen of the world who call himself Pacha and says his birthplace is the Pacha Mama, he offered us a shelter for some days and shared his visions and knowledge with us...he is a painter, an outsider who draws colorful messages of consciousness on the walls of the places he visits. From there, we head to Caracas discovering the craziness of that city.
Thanks to Eberhard and Ruby who took care of us like mom and dad for a week, we could rest and update our website, spend some nice chilling time and get all our energy to continue our journey. Around Caracas, we visit the “Colonia Tovar”, a colony of Germans who came here in the 19th century, called by the Venezuelans to diversify the agriculture...Today, there are only the descendants who barely speak German, architecture remained intact though, and at 200 meters of altitude it feels like if we were in Switzerland... We made also a small stop in the Nuevo Circo, a bull place that had been abandoned when the government abolished the games and then occupied by some alternative artists. Today, painters, musicians and a circus manage the place with the support of the government.

We continue our journey along the coast to get to Puerto Maya, a small village where we meet thanks to the destiny some fishermen who accept to take us to Choroni with a small motor boat. We can then have a great look at the Andean mountains that came from the southern places of Americas to come to die here, in the blue water of the Caribbean sea. After an hour, we arrive in this charming fisherman village with its bright colors, a festive atmosphere and a wonderful beach lined by a forest of coconuts trees...One of the greatest beach we have been on the journey. Then we hit the road to go to Chichiriviche, another nice place where we met a lot of craftmen from all America, Peruvians, Argentinians, citizen of the world who walked around their continent selling their labors. José is great with us, preparing us oats juice in the morning, he is walking around spreading positive messages to the world. Unfortunately, like in many places in Venezuela, the beaches are really polluted and assaulted by the “minitekas”, big sound system on the back of the cars who spread their insane music along the beach ways...We are happy to leave the drunken people and we follow the coast to get to Coro, probably one of the most beautiful place in the country, a colonial town that was at this time over flooded. Like in many places in the world, this year was the most humid, it had never rain that much before. The Venezuelan architecture was not thought for deluges....there are rivers coming down the streets. A quick look at the desert of Coro, there all type of climate in Venezuela, desert, high snowy mountains, wonderful beaches, a great diversity of landscapes. Then we join Maracaibo, another monster of concrete where we meet again with high level of pollution, streets full of garbage...a city so welcoming that we just stop to recycle some food, enjoy the cinema in a huge shopping where we can witness the craziness of consumerism one more time and sleep in a hospital...We tried to got invited but people are to afraid to invite strangers in their homes. That’s always a pity, we have some much will to share our stories and spend some time with the locals. We need to open our doors, we shouldn’t live with fear but with pride and love for the world. The next day, we hitchhike across the Guajira, the land of the indigenous people to reach the border of Colombia. We jump on the back of a truck with a dozens of people on it. they all drink whiskey except from the children. They have their own rules and manage their problems without the police. They are involved in traffic between Colombia and Venezuela, traffic of oil or any other products that is cheaper there or here. We discover that there is a huge black market because the prices are really different from one side to another of the border.

We are a bit nostalgic while leaving this country...the Venezuelans had been so nice with us, generous, open minded, always ready to discuss about politics or any other topic, great people living in one of the most interesting country of the whole continent, a chaotic one but where we could notice clearly that Chavez and many other people are at least trying to find an alternative to capitalism...trying to find a way to create a better society...Unfortunately, like everywhere, we are forced to notice the lack of trust in the human being and this belief that one cannot do anything in this world. Acknowledging this, we are even more motivated to keep on our journey, showing that one human being can be the change he want to see in the world, we have the power to make our own evolution, it all depends on us, on our way of consuming and our perception of this world...we are all connected, linked to each other, every little move has consequences...

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