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Venezuela: 200 Years of Independence

During the week of July 5, 2011, Venezuela marked the celebration of its 200th year of independence from Spain and the profound reflection that has taken place in the majority of the countries in Latin America. The country's history, told from the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors has been restated, 200 years after the idea for a nation came from the French revolution and the independence of the United States in North America.

Significant participation in the celebrations was seen online, with people sharing their congratulations, and posting joyous comments and videos of the dances, parades and concerts. Nevertheless, the division in Venezuelan political opinion did not stop for the party, and many bloggers took the occasion of the bicentennial to share their reflections on their country's history and identity.

Many are happy to mark the 200 years of national history amidst a process of change and rethinking supported by initiatives from Hugo Chávez's government. Nonetheless, at the same time, others lament the historic antecedents, still hazy and barely explored, present in social and political life within circumstances that remain difficult for the entire country.

A bit more context is possible in an article on the history of Venezuela on Wikipedia.

March for the bicentennial in Caracas. July 3, 2011. Image from Camilo Delgado Castilla, under Demotix copyright.

March for the bicentennial in Caracas. July 3, 2011. Image from Camilo Delgado Castilla, under Demotix copyright.

In his post “El Bicentenario impropio” (The Improper Bicentennial) [es], Le Corvo Mecanique reflects on and highlights the historic significance of July 5. He notes that on this day, a declaration of independence was created, “a will of separation” that must be analyzed in a profound manner, far from irrational, nationalist orders:

La independencia de Venezuela, el comienzo del nacimiento de este país, fue un parto apresurado. Si se quiere, fue el primer gran movimiento esnobista de las élites de esta región. Ser una colonia era algo ya, en los 1800, demodé para las finas pretensiones y gustos románticos de las clases educadas (…) Pero así sucedieron las cosas, Venezuela se cortó el cordón umbilical. Nació a pesar de una gestación impropia, nació de las palabras, de los impulsos franceses, de las constituciones estadounidenses, de la ambición de un hijo de españoles, de la indiferencia indígena (…)La historia se encargaría de hacérnoslo cobrar…

Venezuela's independence, the start of this country's birth, was a rushed labor. If you will, it was the first grand snobbish movement of the elite in the region. To be a colony was something that was already, in the 1800s, out of fashion for the fine desires and romantic likings of the educated classes (…) But that is how things started to happen, Venezuela cut the umbilical cord. It was born despite an improper gestation, it was born from words, French impulses, constitutions of the United States, the ambition of a Spanish child, the indigenous indifference (…) History would make sure that we cover it…

The text continues:

¿Qué es ser venezolano? He allí la pregunta más grande, la más difícil, la más importante ante este bicentenario. (…) Todavía somos un amasijo en plena formación, falta mucho para responder. Somos una suerte de Roma caída, que busca nuevos senderos y organizaciones culturales. Sin embargo, la claridad es menester cuando se describe lo que no somos. No podemos hallar identidad nacional en lo sincrético; no podemos enorgullecernos de ser una mezcla de razas y credos, por ejemplo. Tampoco podemos hallar identidad en lo que no hemos elegido, pues ni las “mujeres bellas”, ni los parajes hermosos, ni nuestros recursos naturales son un constructo de un esfuerzo nacional.

What does it mean to be Venezuelan? There lies the bigger question, the most difficult, the most important before this bicentennial. (…) We are still a jumble in full form, we are missing a lot to be able to respond. We are the fate of fallen Rome, that searches for new paths and cultural organizations. Nevertheless, clarity is necessary when describing that which we are not. We cannot find a national identity in the syncretic; we cannot pride ourselves on being a mixture of races and creeds, for example. Nor can we find identity in that which we have not chosen, neither the “beautiful women,” nor the beautiful haylofts, nor our natural resources are a construct of a national effort.

JDR, in his blog, El Discurso del Oeste [es], points out the disasters from the war of independence, its causes, and the aspects that very few discuss:

Así, poco después del 5 de julio de 1811 asistimos al conocido holocausto en el cual dos porciones del mismo pueblo se despedazaron mutuamente defendiendo u hostilizando en contra de ideas, propuestas o nociones de las cuales no sabía un carajo: ni los “realistas” pobres habían visto nunca a ningún maldito rey y por lo tanto no tenían que profesarle ningún afecto, ni los “patriotas” pobres sabían qué cosa era eso de “patria”, “nación” ni “república”, como no fuera algo que le interesaba mucho al patrón y por lo tanto había que defenderlo o salir a buscarlo.

Pero los próceres de la independencia nunca serán llamados realistas; sólo los pobres insurrectos, los pobres manipulados, los pobres en rebelión, hemos merecido desde siempre las peores acusaciones e insultos. Historia patria no es historia del pueblo: esta es oscura y narrada en voz baja; la otra es celebrada y glorificada con pompa y escándalo.

And so, not long after July 5, 1811, we attend the known holocaust in which two portions of the same people tore themselves to shreds mutually defending and harassing each other against ideas, proposals or notions about which they did not know the slightest: the poor “realists” had never seen a damn king and therefore did not have to show him the least bit sympathy, not even the poor “patriots” knew what this “patriotism,” “nation” or “republic” was, as it had not been something that interested the patron and therefore had to defend or go in search of it.

But the  national heroes of the independence will never be called realists; only the poor rebels, the poor manipulated people, the poor in rebellion, we have always deserved the worst accusations and insults. Patriotic history is not the history of the village: this one is dark and narrated quietly; the other is celebrated and glorified with pomp and circumstance.

In blogs Venezuela en el Ojo del Huracán [es] and Se Habla Venezolano [es] the uncertainty following President Hugo Chávez's diagnosis with cancer, after the weeks of silence and the panorama between the bicentennial celebration of Independence and the problems that the country faces, is widely discussed. Both bloggers argue Venezuela's ideological dependency on Cuba and the celebration of an independence that turns out doubtful:

Para nosotros los ciudadanos venezolanos no hubo ni el más mínimo gesto de respeto por parte ni del Presidente, ni de las autoridades a quienes les compete informar al pueblo venezolano, cual era el estado de salud que lo mantenía silencioso y gobernando desde Cuba, situación que se mantiene después de casi tres semanas fuera del país.

For us Venezuelan citizens, there was not even the smallest gesture of respect, not on part of the President nor the authorities responsible for informing the Venezuelan public, regarding the state of health that kept him silent and governing from Cuba, a situation that he maintains after almost three weeks outside the country.

¿Qué independencia de qué están celebrando los Chavistas? ¿La subordinación a Cuba? ¿El desembarco de funcionarios militares cubanos por Puerto Cabello antes de ayer? . ¿La violación de las instituciones Venezolanas con la contratación de cubanos para los puestos claves?

What independence are the Chavistas celebrating? Subordination to Cuba? The landing of Cuban troops at Puerto Cabello before yesterday? Violation of the Venezuelan institutions with Cubans hired to take on key posts?

On his part, Gabriel García, in his blog Si no Estoy ahí es que no Fui [es] mentions, with some humor, that which he felt was important during the celebration, that which did not kick some caustic ideas to the side:

Todo esto pasó en el Paseo Los Próceres (el Sam Bodromo venezolano) parecía carnaval con carrosas,corografias,papelillo y vendedores de cotufas por todos lados (pero quede mal! no dio tiempo para la samba y las garotas D:).Describieron todo lo que tenían los jugueticos (nada mas le falto decir que tipo de gasolina utilizan los tanques u.u), les soy sicero!? creo que estaban haciendo una exhibición para vender esos juegues (…)

All of this that happened in the Paseo Los Próceres (the Venezuelan Sam Bodromo) looked like a carnival with carriages, choreography, flyers, cigarette paper and popcorn stands on all sides (but it was bad! it did not leave time for the samba and young girls D:).  They described everything the small toys had (they only needed to say what type of gas the tanks used u.u), am I being sincere?! I think they were making an exhibition to sell those toys (…)

In response to many of the criticisms, Carlos Sánchez [es] highlighted the points that made this July 5 a significant celebration and a reason for Venezuelans to unite:

Aunque algunos venezolanos se sintieron excluidos de las celebraciones del Bicentenario de Venezuela hay que evaluar el porque quizás los prejuicios hicieron que ellos mismos se auto- excluyeran de las actividades.

El gobierno venezolano desarrolló desde el 2010 distintas actividades que con estrategias comunicacionales crearon expectativas en la población venezolana que celebraron hoy el dia de la Indenpendencia de Venezuela.

Leyendo en las redes sociales, algunos solo criticaron las actividades realizadas para el Bicentenario porque quizás se sentían excluidos o simplemente por ser “opositores” al gobierno actual y quizás sintieron que tenían que contrariar las celebraciones, pero esto a quien beneficia?

Sin duda alguna que a nadie beneficia, porque quizás se crean mayores resentimientos en los venezolanos; serian estrategias comunicacionales mal enfocadas que solo presentaban las celebraciones a un sector de la población que apoya al gobierno?

Although some Venezuelans felt excluded from the Venezuelan Bicentennial celebrations, they have to evaluate the reason that perhaps the prejudice made them self-exclude themselves from the activities.

Starting in 2010, the Venezuelan government developed distinct activities that, with communication strategies, created the expectation within the Venezuelan population that they celebrate the Venezuelan Independence today.

Reading on social networks, some only criticize the activities that took place for the bicentennial because maybe they felt excluded or simply for being in “opposition” to the current government and perhaps they felt that they had to go against the celebrations, but who does that benefit?

Without a single doubt it benefits no one, because perhaps they create strong feelings of resentment in Venezuelans; why would they be poorly focused communication strategies if they only presented the celebrations to a sector of the population that supports the government?

Along general lines, the bicentennial moment is understood as one of balances, of seeing accounts to know what has happened since 1811 and understanding that which has passed after the birth of the republic.

Finally, one aspect of the discussion calls attention to itself: according to the tweets, the shared videos across the Internet and the general comments, participation of younger Venezuelans was the element that most moved and reconciled diverse opinions. In the frame of contradictions and confusion of identity, if one thing attained clarity, it was the force and significance of these groups and other expressions in Venezuela's social and cultural life.

A good portion of the celebration concert can be seen at this link.

4 comments

  • Yo no sé porque algunas persona no pueden vivir tranquilo con una Venezuela que está gobernada por un gobernador completamenete auténtico y no un vendedor de la nación que hasta hoy ha representado con todo el respeto que todos los ciudadanos han merecido. Termino así, antes de hablar es mejor pensar que se va ha expresar.

  • Jenna Major

    The spirit of Independence Day is not only about the nation officially becoming a country. It’s about celebrating the values that
    the country was founded upon. San Antonio Bankruptcy Attorney Reviews

  • Karen Patrick

    We should have all the fun we want this Independence Day, and show patriotism by celebrating bankruptcy estate

  • […] ma i festeggiamenti sono stati anche segnati da riflessioni a volte amare. Almeno a giudicare dai commenti dei blogger all’evento. Sul "El Bicentenario improprio" si legge: "L’indipendenza del Venezuela, che ha […]

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