Venezuela: Culture and History
Venezuela is located on the top of the South American continent. It is
located between Columbia, which lies to the north and northwest, Guyana,
which is located to the east, and Brazil, which lies to the south of the
country. The capital of the country is called Caracas, which is located in
the northern area of the country. The country is about 366,000 square miles
and has a population of less than twenty-four million people. These peoples
comprise about 67% Mestizo, 21% European descent, 10% African descent and 2%
indigenous. Spanish is the main language spoken in the country as well as
some thirty other languages spoken by the people there. Roman Catholicism is
the most dominant religion and is practiced by most of the people, except for
a people living in isolated regions, who still practice their tribal beliefs.
Recently, some people are moving away from the Catholic denomination and
moving towards the Protestant denomination. There is another denomination
located in the northwest region of the country, which combines African
voodoo, pre-Hispanic indigenous creeds and Christian religious practices,
known as the "Cult of Maria Lionza".
Venezuelan art and culture is very prominent especially in the area of
music, which is an eclectic blend of African, European and indigenous
rhythms. Theatre is growing in great popularity especially in the last twenty
years, as the youngsters are involved in playing all types of musical
instruments, and, there are several competitions, which are keenly contested.
Venezuelan dishes consist of pancakes, chicken, pancakes, beef, soups and
stews. There are local specialties, which include empanadas, which consist of
deep-fried cornmeal turnovers with fillings of ground meat, cheese, beans or
baby shark. The national dish is called pabellon criollo, which consists of
shredded beef, rice, black beans, cheese and fried plantain.
The country has natural beauty and there are contrasting differences
within the country. There are the snowcapped peaks of the Andes in the west,
while there are the steamy Amazonian jungles in the south.
Venezuela's indigenous peoples who consisted of mainly three ethno
linguistic groups, Arawaks, Caribs and Chibchas suffered the same holocaust
as their "brothers and sisters" in the other countries and islands
in the western hemisphere. When Columbus arrived in Venezuela, the name that
was subsequently given to it by Alonso de Ojeda, there were a half million
indigenous people. The country was given its name which when translated means
The European colonizers of this country were the Spanish, Germans and to a
much lesser extent, the British, in their search for El Dorado viciously
removed anyone in their way. Those who were not murdered were killed by
diseases such as smallpox and people who were raped, in large measure women,
died of syphilis.
When the Europeans did not find the pot of gold in El Dorado, they left
the country in what could not even be called 'benign neglect'. Simon Bolivar,
known locally as 'El Libertador' had already defeated Spain in Columbia and
given that country its independence, did a similar act in Venezuela. He won a
decisive victory over Spain at Campo Carabobo in 1821. British mercenaries
along with other groups of people assisted him. Bolivar and his lieutenant
Antonio Jose de Sucre went on to liberate Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia and had
anticipated seeing a united Gran Columbia, which would have consisted of
Venezuela, Columbia and Ecuador. This did not happen as Venezuela announced
its independence in 1830, under a new constitution.
Since having obtained its independence, the country has had a number of
dictators, political coups and suffered massive economic instability. Oil was
finally discovered in the Maracaibo basin in the 1910s. This brought great
wealth to the country, which did not trickle down to the man in the street.
Venezuela was at one time the greatest oil exporter in the world especially
during the 1920s. The country obtained its first democratic elections in
1947. There is nevertheless a threat of a military coup at anytime,
especially with recent revelations of what is going on there.
In 1994, the Venezuelans became tired of the harsh treatment of then
president Caldera and elected Hugo Chavez, a man who had served two years in
gaol for attempting to overthrow the government. Chavez was elected as
president with the largest vote margin in forty years. He served his first
term of office, which was a six-year stint and was easily reelected in 2000.
Nevertheless, earlier this year, in April he was overthrown and Carmona
assumed the office of president for 48 hours. President Hugo Chavez was
returned to office, but what was horrifying was the statement made by United
States National Security advisor who felt that he was extremely lucky to
return to office, and he continue to pursue his policies, another coup was
possible with different results."