Venezuela, 39 Years Later

Getting Cultured (sic)

Centro Cultural Lea Bermudez

I decided I was going to go out on the town. Got myself another cab because I had not seen the Centro Cultural built in the the buildings of the old Marketplace of Maracaibo. Here comes another negotiation over the price of the cab ride. He said 8,500 for an hour. I said “No way, José” (his name could quite possibly have been José, now that I think of it). I'm offering 6,000 bolivars an hour and if you're not interested, I'll just move over to the next cab. “O.K., O.K., O.K.”, says he. I probably could have got him to come down some more, I don't know. Lea Bermudez, Centro Cultural.

Ye Olde Museum Gifte Shoppe

When I got there, (some people will recognize this trait in me), I went straight for the olde gifte shoppe. Hmmm, not very olde. Would be nice to find a Venezuelan gravure. They had one for 28,000 Bs. How much is that? $60. It doesn't look worth it to me. I'm not interested in modern art anyway, so.

Clay Sculpture

There is a lot of stuff made out of “barro”, which is clay. Thank goodness for dictionaries. They have works that take up acres of space/footage. All of a sudden I saw this very interesting sculpture of about 50 arms outstretched sticking up out of the floor. “Bosque: clamor de la tierra.” It represents the poor of this world trying to eke out a living. It's really quite poignant. I asked the museum guard if they had postcards of this work. He said no they didn't. “Oh dear, oh dear”, I said.“"Well, would you mind if I took a picture?” with my trusty little throwaway camera? He said, “Oh no, go right ahead.” He didn't have to tell me twice. At least I'll remember this. I really need to learn how to take good photos. Around the corner, I found another amazing sculpture. It had sort of emptied out bodies folded over coathangers. It had feet in shoes at the bottom; A selection of heads and bodies that looked like you could just put on and go out with. It is called: “Disfraz cotidiano”, your daily disguise by Naty Valle, 1998. These two are Venezuelan artists. Other people might have found other things interesting: this is what I found interesting and very expressive. It's something that I could understand. Not very beautiful but certainly very meaningful. I visited that pretty fast because I had this $1,000 taxi cab waiting for me.

Back to the Church of La Chinita

After another argument with the chofer, (you have to remember what you agreed on when you started off or you won't get it) I told him I wanted to go see the Basílica of Chiquinquirá that was closed the last time I went. When we got there the whole plaza was torn up (unlike on Saturday), so I said I'd really like for him to drop me off up on the side of the church. He said “I can't go there: the cars can't get by there.” “Oh yes they can, I went Saturday and there's no problem whatsoever.” I said. “Ah bon (mumble, grumble”" so he did drop me off at the top. I went in and someone was saying the rosary over the loudspeaker and they had two facing doors on the side of the basilica open so that makes a draft in the church. I've never seen anything like it. What a good idea! They have stained glass windows with palm trees on them. I would have gladly taken a picture but I said, ”you are not going to do that. You are already dressed in that lime colored pair of slacks and stick out like a sore thumb, and that blond hair and you're overly sunburned today”.

Candles in Cages

I spotted some candles when I got out, there was a grotto of sorts for La Chinita, the Patron Virgen. The candles were in a cage that was locked tighter than a vault. There are no candles available to me in this country. Take me back around to the Centro Cultural so I can take a picture from far enough away with a lot of old cars going by. I'm trying to be discreet about this so I don't just have monuments but also people. I don't think I'm bold enough about this. But I don't want to create a riot. I want to enjoy this country and not get people mad at me. So I'm not going against the grain.

Arguing with the Cab Driver Again

I wanted to go back to Creole camp so I could find my Dad's old office. The cab driver disagrees with me,“Oh no, this is another building.” “Don't sit there and tell me what this is: I think I know what it is.” “Don't give me any trouble. Just go back around the corner, let me get out and take a picture and rebaptize the Creole Office.” It looks just like what I thought it should look like. That's good enough for me. Why should the chofer care anyway? Don't worry, be happy and let me cook up all these memories, O.K.? Then he wanted to show me the Coromoto Hospital, the most expensive hospital in Venezuela according to him.

The Redskin

That night, I had a date to go to the Club Náutico with Elizabeth Mendiri. Wasn't that nice for her to take me there? Because she knew I had all these souvenirs and recuerdos and eveything. I went down to meet her at her office. By that time I was as red as a tomato from my pool session under the tropical sun, so I wore black to tone it down. Rudolph the red-faced reindeer. I had to take something home with me, I guess it'll be a sunburn. I just hope it won't peel.