“No mourning, No Celebration”

Funeral of Hugo Chavez

photo by Oscar Bambo Castillo

The following is a dispatch from Venezuela by Dutty Artz crew member Mariana aka Mpeach. She is in Caracas this month, and gave us a first hand account of Chavez’ passing, as well as her feelings on the future of her beloved homeland.

“No mourning, No Celebration”
(Frase taken from el Libertario)

I am an artist, musician and designer based out of Brooklyn and I am currently in Caracas, Venezuela for a month-long visit. I moved to NY after graduating from college, but travel back and forth as much as I can. This is because my artistic work, musical work, and family (who for the most part still lives in Venezuela) are deeply rooted in my country and culture. On Tuesday afternoon I was taking a nap in my home in Caracas, because I had woken up really early for a radio interview, and had gone to bed really late because I had a triple birthday party the night before. Daniela, a friend, opened the door yelling “Chavez died, wake up!”

As a born and raised Venezuelan, for me this is a really complex situation. I am not a Chavez supporter. I see a lot of contradictions and surreal characteristics of Chavez’s speech and administration. But, many times I don’t agree with the “opposition” either. I’ve seen a lot of the same opportunistic, power driven egos on both sides of the political game in Venezuela and very little “true-left” politics happening.

I come from a crazy racial – social – economic mix. My mom’s side is a traditional Venezuelan family (Spanish-Sephardic Italian-German–Native Venezuelan from several regions) with a lot of of history and admiration in this city and filled with many characters: the swimmers and the musicians, the communist, now ex-comunists , the rich right-winged country club golfers, the hippie, the other family, the folklorists, the Chavistas, the Oppossition, the grandfather, the money makers, the many cousins, the renown relatives… On my Dad’s side an also very mixed Colombian family (Canaries, Native Guajira, African, Italian, Sephardic, Hollander) that immigrated in the 50’s to do business in the then growing Venezuelan economy. Through my family I’ve been able to see almost ever shade of the socio-economic and political situation of Venezuela throughout my life and in the past 14 years of the Chavez Era. Let’s say I get a first hand taste of both sides of the coin.

For me, the real problem in Venezuela is our own mentality and the fact that we usually blame someone or something else for our problems. We do this instead of acknowledging our own part in the country’s problems, and we’re not honest with ourselves about our role in them. We are highly corrupt in our everyday endeavors and don’t tend to take things seriously. That doesn’t mean we don’t have an amazingly warm, rich, fun, and beautiful culture, but I know we have a lot of hard work to do to make a better society, and it’s become more urgent day by day.

Chavez left a sense of empowerment to the poor and a fortified national identity, as well as an almost religious cult to his personality. He also left a dramatically divided country with a recent devaluation of 46,5%, a really spooky economic crisis, and international debt along with devastating violence and murder rates that put us in the top charts of the world’s deadliest places. It’s time for new beginnings, I am just afraid we are not ready to let go of the pain, the hate, the division, the selfishness and the opportunism that has characterized Venezuela during and before Chavez’s administration. There is so much to do and to work on and I can only dream of a united country where everyone is working together to achieve a better place for all, where political colors are not what matters but our goal of a better Venezuela. Where there is honesty and respect for everyone regardless of their political position, race or social status. If only we could take the positive in the Chavez era and keep moving forward, transforming what didn’t work, mending the gap and hatred between sides without a sick obsession for power, we would probably be a different country. One can only hope.

Today, the state has declared 7 days of national mourning, every news network is talking about Chavez, but with all due respect to his family and followers I would like to start talking about Venezuela and Venezuelans.

More info about Chavez death, including his recent health history, and photos of his funeral by Oscar Bambo Castillo can be seen here.