Saturday, January 31, 2009

na'guara! chivacoa es demasiado chevere!


where to begin...

well, as i said before, i left caracas last week and now i´m living in a town called chivacoa with an adorable and welcoming host family that consists of three brothers, their mamacita doña nelly and a really comfortable happy home.

this is most of the crew including extended family and friends on my first night. they threw a little party and we had cuba libres and i got to know everyone. it was a really great welcome and i feel super lucky to be here

the only downside to living here is that it´s a two-hour commute from barquisimeto, which is where i´m doing all my research and where most of the kids i meet and am working with are living. i´m actually travelling between two different states, so i think that´s pretty cool.

this is the view from the back of a ranchera, which is a kind of ancient station wagon taxi that i take to get back and forth.
i take 2 taxis and a bus to get to UPEL in the morning, which is the university i´ve been hanging out at, and then i head back to my little town around 5 or so.

i´ve met a ton of different people, mostly students and their families, and every single one of them has a different opinion and unique perspective on the revolution. it gets confusing sometimes, some days i don´t know what to think at all and it gets really overwhelming, but i just can´t help but notice a lot of really positive things that this proceso has created for the people in the two towns i´m living in right now.

this is a park that the revolution helped build in chivacoa. someone who hates the government was taking me around, and even he mentioned that before chavez came into power the mayor of chivacoa would have never thought to do such a nice thing for the community.

this is my super cool host cousin, wilneys, playing in the park. note the red yellow and blue playground equipment. pretty much anything that chavez´s gov´t has ever done is wrapped in those three colors. it´s everywhere.

i´ve heard a lot of serious criticisms here too. for instance, since the mayor that chavez backed took over this town, their direct bus route into the city has been cancelled, and the crime rate has risen so much that all of the cantinas have closed so people don´t go out at night. but, that mayor´s term just ended and now they have someone new, so we´ll have to wait and see what happens with this guy.

this is un partido de futbol at dusk in chivacoa, and it was really beautiful to watch. unfortunately this picture´s too small to be able to tell

meanwhile, in barquisimeto i´ve been spending a lot of time at the Universidad Pedagogica Estado de Lara, which is the university everyone goes to if they want to be a teacher, and i´ve met a whole lot of interesting characters

this is just a few of us hangin out at our friend paul´s apartment, watching friends and eating chinese food...

evergreen set up an intercambio here where we´re all living with kids studying to be english teachers. it´s a great chance for both hosts and guests to get a lot of language practice, and it works out perfectly for my group´s focus, which revolves around the evolution in education, student movements, and arte.

this is a really intense student mural at UPEL

this graffiti isn´t venezuelan, and i didn´t take this picture, i got it from the leftist mural blog in my blog list, but i thought it was really relevant to the public art/graffiti that´s everywhere here in VZ, and was a part of the inspiration for my project
it says, roughly, "if the press is corrupt, let the walls talk"

i met an amazing girl named nanu who is an artist and a student, and she has told me about some of the great things that chavez has done to support the arts in his country.

he has created free universities where you can major in artes plasticos, which i think translates into something like fine arts in the states. he took a beautiful military cartel building and fixed it up and turned it into the art center for UCLA, which is another free university here. there are also free art workshops being offered year round at an art high school, with tons of different options that are open to absolutely everyone. it even includes courses in indigenous crafts
that´s not all! but i´ll get into the rest later, maybe

anyway, she invited me to stay with her on last night so we could take it easy in barquisimeto and go out to the bars and a party.

we went to the UCLA art building and just happened upon a huge event where people from all over venezuela performed dances native to their state and it was beautiful

this dance was a really weird mixture of halloween, may day, llanero music, and weaving. they dance in circles weaving in and out until the entire pole is wrapped up in a pattern, and then they dance in reverse until all the ribbons are free. the guy in the center is dressed up as a pinata

the last two pictures are from a dance where someone ends up dying in a fight in the beginning, and it shows a woman mourning him and then slowly beginning to dance again, and in the end the body is carried away on the shoulders of all of the men

the performances really inspired us and i was ready to go out and do some dancing myself, so we headed out to a fiesta with an enormous bottle of rum and had a great time out in some beautiful little mountainside patio-posada/home, or, i don´t really know what it was, pero fue muy calidad!

the next morning i was up early to go to a socialist workshop out in a town in the middle of nowhere called coco e´ mono with nanu and her papa, but i´ll save that for another post because i have to get up early tomorrow. i think it was the most important experience i´ve had here yet.
tomorrow is wilney´s birthday, so there will be a fiesta, and i´m going to mt. sorte con unos amigos and my host brother, jean carlos. mt. sorte is a mountain where the locals practice brujeria, which is kind of like voodoo, and i´m really excited. kind of scared too, because apparently if you´re not baptized and you go there, a demon will enter your body
so, i´ll have to just wait and see what happens with that...

MEANWHILE, back in olympia, yet another pair of cop cars get trashed after a concert. this is a great way to get live music banned on campus, just like last year
and, it might be a step towards justifying (in the eyes of the jefes) the evergreen police getting their own rifles, which is disturbing.
on a related note, torches were apparently thrown at a separate set of police cars in olympia on the 18th in response to police violence. and i think that´s pretty cool

oh also, this is semi-related and i can´t believe i almost forgot...
on friday classes were cancelled at UPEL because some hooligans threw a bunch of tear gas bombs to hold up student and administrative elections. they haven´t had an election in over a year and a half because of it. the school is considered muy anarquista because there are so many colectivos de estudiantes here with really radical opposing positions


  1. Significant that both Evergreen and UPEL have folks not afraid to exercise their opinions in extreme ways. It speaks well to both that the dialog is happening (even with tear gas and police cars). It is all about the debate.