A local about Venezuela
Photo by Rodrigo Accurciois
VENEZUELA: LAND OF GRACE
A first-hand message from our contact in Venezuela about the situation in Venezuela.
Cultural information about Venezuela from a local
Odds are you’ve heard a lot about Venezuela from your local news. And I’m willing to bet most of it was pretty bad, yet completely true.
However, for a small moment—even if it’s just as you read this article—I ask you to forget everything negative you’ve heard about Venezuela.
Let’s move beyond crisis, oil, politics and migration, to see Venezuela as a land of colors and contrasts. A country of beauty, power, and warmth.
Come with me, and witness the hidden splendor of the place Christopher Columbus called “Land of Grace”. If we’re lucky, wanderlust will flow through your veins, and you’ll long to witness these wonders with your own eyes.
5- A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING.
Photo by Marianne Díazis
Venezuela has a privileged geographical position at the north of South America. This means we have a bit of everything within our lands.
Our north is Caribbean and has the crystal clear beaches to prove it. Our south? Amazonian rainforest, straight out of your wildest dreams. Our southwest has beautiful mountains—sometimes snowy—but our northwest has stunning dunes that glow under the scorching sun. Our east features our Atlantic Ocean exit, with deltas and beautiful fauna.
Each region is different in climate, geography, customs and traditions—to the point where you might feel you travel to a different country from area to area.
For example, you can visit Colonia Tovar—a charming German town high in the mountains—during the day, and be on a sunny beach merely an hour after.
4- DELICIOUS CUISINE.
Photo by Alphais
The staple food in a Venezuelan’s table is the quintessential arepa—a flat, round patty made with ground maize or corn flour. Popular for its simplicity and versatility.
It changes name according to the filling it gets, and that can be anything—cheese, beans, avocado, beef, fish, seafood, and even a combination of those. The sky is the limit.
December, however, sees a shift in cuisine preferences—Christmas time is hallaca time.
A corn dough preparation, hallacas are filled with stew—beef, chicken, pork, or all three—and decorated with olives, raisins, onions, among others. The dough is folded and wrapped inside plantain leaves, then boiled.
It’s custom for families to gather and prepare hallacas during the holidays. The matriarch is in charge, and others take part as assistants around the same table—each family has a recipe and a technique, and during better times, it was a tradition to exchange hallacas with neighbors and friends.
This is but a mere glimpse—pabellón criollo, cachapas, asado negro, amongst others, are the traditional dishes you’d regret not trying before.
3- MYTHS, LEGENDS, AND SUPERSTITIONS.
Photo by iVenezuela.travel
Each country has its own set of weird beliefs, and Venezuela is not the exception.
For example, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Venezuelan woman willing to lay her purse on the floor—it is said to be financial ruin. Likewise, walking over spilt salt is assured bad luck, as is to speak ill about anything without touching wood immediately afterwards.
In Venezuela, if your ear itches, it’s because someone is speaking your name, and if you forget what you were about to say, it’s because you were about to tell a lie.
All sorts of ghosts and apparitions haunt Venezuelan grounds as well. For example, El Silbónis said to be the spectral ghost of a long man carrying the bones of his father inside a sack. Myths affirm he announces his presence by whistling a distinctive tune—if it sounds near it’s because he is far away, but if it sounds far away, it’s because he’s right by your side.
But not all myths are malevolent, either. According to legend, each October 4 during his feast day, Saint Francis of Assisi will create a strong thunderstorm within Venezuela, as he is cleaning his tunic in the skies. It’s called the Cordonazo de San Francisco, and to be honest, I’ve never witnessed a sunny October 4 to this day.
2- FESTIVITIES AND CUSTOMS.
Photo by Edgar Barany
Venezuela is a predominantly Catholic country, and most traditions are associated with religion, even if the celebrations extend way beyond it.
Take, for example, the Dancing Devils tradition. Each Corpus Christi, red devils dance and appear in a procession, representing the fight between God and the Devil—ending, inevitably, with the devils’ defeat. This colorful celebration comes from a long-standing myth and tradition, recognized as UNESCO Cultural Heritage.
But traditions don’t have to be epic and lengthy to be worth discussing—good things come in small packages, too.
It is custom to ask for “la bendición”—the blessing—upon greeting older family members. Fathers, mothers, grandparents, and so on, must reply with “Dios me lo bendiga y proteja”, meaning may God bless and protect you. This tradition carries on well into adulthood, and it’s a sign of love and respect.
Greeting your friends is a different thing—the custom is for women to give a cheek kiss to men and other women. Meanwhile, men greet each other with a handshake and a hug, as physical contact is the norm within the country.
1- MULTICULTURAL PEOPLE.
Photo by Riccardo Vásquezis
I’m sure you’ve heard tales about insecurity within Venezuela. And they are true, but Venezuelans are much more than their statistics.
Venezuelans can be described in a plethora of ways—loud, intense, overly friendly, touchy, jokesters—but a simple word can encompass it all: warm.
While most may not really understand you if you speak anything other than Spanish, if you manage to establish communication you can expect a welcoming, kind attitude towards you.
This esteems from Venezuela’s long history as a mixed land—every Venezuelan has a bit of everything in their blood. Venezuela lived an economic boom during the 20th-century, making it a hotspot for migration from countries affected by adverse circumstances, turning it into a multicultural land full of possibilities.
Venezuelans, therefore, welcome with open arms foreigners from all over the world—most of them would be pretty excited to show you around, assist you with what you need, and even invite you home as if you were a long-time friend.
Because for a Venezuelan, you are friends—“panas”—from the moment you meet.
Written by Elbana from Venezuela