Our Greatest Evil Has a Name: It’s “Simon Bolivar”
“A society constantly looks for a good and strong father, with the expectation that this father gives us all those things we deserve, without having to work for them. This kind of society is summarized in what Venezuela is nowadays.”
Conversation with Asdrúbal Aguiar
What history myth relates with Venezuela’s Tragedy? The loss of the Garden of Eden or the entrance of Odysseus o hell?
I believe that Venezuela’s tragedy is the result of the domination that the culture of the present has in all of us This is a country that denies its history and denies its future.
Does this mean that we are afraid of being happy and we sabotage ourselves?
We sabotage ourselves constantly because we suffer from an existential trauma that we have not been able to settle. Every person who suffers some kind of shock, a close person passes, for example, lives in grief, makes therapy and finally gets over this. Venezuelans hasn’t followed this process.
But, we also have the option of letting ourselves die as nation.
The problem is that, if we had decided to die, we could sublimate a part of our existence, but we want to live without living.
Without growing up?
Attached to the present. I have argued after some historical readings, and rectifying myself because I had a different insight. The truth is that what has hurt Venezuela the most was having broken with its brief history. The history that Bolivar despised. He claimed (three hundred years are not enough) to have broken traumatically with that history and to have not assumed the challenge to change history in something new. Then, there was a crack that let our memory blank.This happened for the obsession of a man who believed that the people he wanted to free didn’t have the characteristics, conditions or merits to possess the greater good of freedom.
He saw us as a weak group of people that needed redemption, and at the end of the journey, happened like in other cases: when the Messiah passed, his followers remained in total exposure and orphans. They followed the Messiah, but the paradise never came to the terrestrial world. In Venezuela, we had, 300 years of learnings that could have, in some way, fastened us to a well-established culture. A culture of many changes, like the old Hispanic culture was, could have allowed us to ask ourselves: What are we?
One thing is certain, when we study Venezuelan history since its briefness (1830 until present day) we are: the Coat of Arms, The Flag and Simon Bolivar. Therefore, a country reduced in this way, when those symbols are corrupted how the statues are torn down leaving them in total nudity. Venezuela is an orphan country. It has brilliant citizens, Venezuelans that have been successful, that are known abroad. However, Venezuelans as a collective and cultural expression are extinct.
The orphan condition of Venezuelans has made us look for fathers after the Messiah passed. It seems that many people cried the father for whom never cried in real life, but they transmuted him in that moment.
But there was a double circumstance, 1) We were the country that we weren’t at the moment of that existential breakdown in the independence era because the country hasn’t mixed yet. This country lacked what other Latin Americans countries had, very strong indigenous communities. Here, we just had the few Caribes that escaped from the adverse habitat. When slaves arrived, blending with the Spanish migrants, that synchronized process took years and time, and when it was just moving forward, a man with liberating pretensions and messianic characteristics alleging to be the liberator of oblivion. In the background, there was a war between a metropolis and a colony, when at the end metropolis and colony were the same. The ones who call themselves Creole, were just sons of Spaniards or foreigners in an abandoned land with no texture. At the end, there was just a fratricidal war under a sort of myths that were forged on that time. In essence, the events showed a topic that Venezuelans have not assumed in this brief history of 200 years.
First of all, Our greatest evil has a name, it is “Simon Bolivar”. Beyond the gratitude, we could owe him for his efforts and the recognition that he has in history. As an intelligent, well-read man, who drank from the medieval scholastic fonts, who predicated that, when the helpless people give their lives to the monarch, they have no way of claiming their authority, their power, that’s a reading.
However, that was not the reading of the Spain that rose against Fernando VII, it was read from a different scholastic slope, the power given to a monarch can be taken from him if he doesn’t respond to the common good. Bolívar read the other side.
When we read the Cartagena Manifesto, that is the product of his betrayal to Miranda, he tried to justify, in essence, his own failure as militar along the first Republic. He argued that the men gathered in the Congress in 1811 were to blame for it. This group, whose 70% were graduated from the old Santa Rosa de Lima University and Tomás de Aquino, the current Universidad Central de Venezuela; they were doctors in letters, law, theology. Finally, they were illustrated and learned from the revolutionary American and French fonts of the time, until he said “These men are creating ethereal Republics”
What had Bolívar imagined for Venezuela?
When he arrived to Angostura he said “I imagine a hereditary senate composed of militaries because Venezuela owe everything to the armament” Later, in 1826, before been ostracized and near to his death, he imagined the Bolivian monarchical model. He said a president for life who would choose his heir in the Vice President figure. This signaled his breakdown with Colombia, his exile in Colombia, and the anger of his partners urging the actual Venezuelan Independence in 1830. Then when the Congress met in Valencia to shape the current Republic, they proposed a condition: The expatriation of Bolívar, not only from Venezuela, but also from Colombia. They asked this to Colombians, in order to be able of rebuilding and imagining a moderately organized country. In Venezuela, it was born the myth of the gendarme, a bolivarian creation that later came back to the positivist school of the early 20th century. Those plumaged under General Gómez command were positivists, they believed that people needed a gendarme, of democratic Caesars. They exalted and enhanced that reality, that was added to another moving myth, that we still drag, which is the myth of “El Dorado”.
A society that constantly looks for a good and strong father, but with the expectation that this father will give us all those things we deserve, without having to work for them. This is what represent Venezuela nowadays. Essentially, the trauma that we are living is the generation that enjoys the modernity goods, that goes to universities, a generation grew in the last 50 years. (Venezuela was a latrine country in 1958) Marcos Pérez Jiménez in his last message, commemorating the October 18th, 1945, said “I solved the sanitary problem in Venezuela, I have built 450000 latrines”, Venezuela, a latrine country, we discovered sewage and drink water just in the last 50 years of the Venezuelan life. The country began to urbanize, began to build itself, the living standards raised.
These positive changes didn’t distort looking the modernity pass decoupled from the citizen freedom issue?
No, because changing the discourse meant to kill the needed gendarme myth. There is a fact, the fathers of our civil Republic, Betancourt, Caldera, Villalba, tried to create a civil and civilized Republic, but they had a major flaw, they were followers of Bolívar. As long as They couldn’t dispose of this restraint, they founded a civil Republic inspired in a warlord. The truth is that Venezuela found the modernity in these 50 years. In Pérez Jiménez years, there was just a boutique in Caracas, but those who traveled to the interior could see no more than a latrine Republic. I knew latrine when I was a kid.
In 50 years, we moved from 3 to 400 universities, from 6000 km (3728 miles) to 98000 km (60894 miles) of roads, from an illiterate society that have to go to State Capitals to study, to a country where children could find primary and secondary schools in the furthest corners of the Republic.
But we haven’t ended some myths, the Columbian Myth (this is a rich country, the richer country in the world, if I am not rich, somebody is robbing me), the needed gendarme, the redeemer, Robin Hood, the one who comes to solve my misery, that Simón Bolívar.
Then we have a country with very successful people, that find possible to migrate for their profession and place in the pinnacles of universal life. But they don’t have any roots, they missed the personal paradise where to find themselves, that pulls back to look forward.
We are a country with a culture of the present. Hence, we are cultural outcasts.
I say, what is the Venezuelan challenge nowadays?
Solving what we haven’t solved in 200 years.
Our national identity?
Knowing what we are. Because at the end, when the Berlin Wall fell down, and the Republican devices created by the old Europe ran out, in Yugoslavia, Serbian people said (we are Serbian), we are Croatian. They had a sort of foundational base that allowed them to look themselves in the present and construct a better future.
The question is: What are we without Simón Bolívar and Miranda’s Flag? We have a love-hate relationship with what we are. This is an extension of the Hispanic Greco-Latin culture. We assume it with a big complex and we look at the foreigner, like we look at the “gringo”, with a libidinous curiosity, because we feel that flirting is sinful. We like it, we go here and there, but essentially we love the idea that the Anglo-Saxon world is a sin and the Greco-Latin world is also a sin. So, definitely, what are we? Nothing.
Mexicans can say they have a strong indigenous tradition root, Peruvians can say that too, but Venezuelans can’t. This is nobody’s land.
Are we no more than barracks?
When we were born as a Republic, we were born in barracks, because after the dissolution and anomie of the XIX century, Gómez artificially created a State in the image of barracks.
At the end, it was an extension of the Bolivarian preaching, but Gómez eventually realized, also López Contreras, Medina and Pérez Jiménez, that it was just empty barracks. That’s why they replicated what Paez tried to do, but federal war prevented it. When Paez rose to power in 1830, he issued a decree that request for people to come to make communities and to create culture. He said “The ones that look alike the first settlers are the Canaries, they think like us, they talk like us, they are catholic, come Canaries, come!”
The world of López, Pérez Jiménez and Medina said, “come Europeans”, they created migration offices to fill those empty barracks.
The desideratum of the 28 and 36 generation was (we don’t want the needed gendarme anymore) but they misunderstood, because they saw General Gómez like the gendarme. They didn’t like Laureano Vallenilla Lanz for writing democratic Caesarism. However, they didn’t realized that Laureano Vallenilla Lanz was just reaffirming or repeating in the imaginary the Bolivarian teachings. It was not Gómez, Gómez was an extension of Bolívar, like Castro, López, Medina and Pérez Jiménez.
They opposed to the gendarme, but they feared finishing off the Bolivarian cultural pattern. I am convinced that as long as Venezuela don’t overcome those two harmful myths (the Bolivarian myth and the needed gendarme) it won’t be able to acquire an identity, get social emancipation, or find its cultural roots. What are our roots? The arepa, the hallaca, the territory. The tragedy is that Venezuela is now in the XXI Century challenge. This is not about territory, but about time and speed.
You can only take with time your grounding values.
Do you believe that Venezuelans are trying to translate a tragedy that would take some generations to translate? Can we translate our tragedy in real time or the task is exceeds our possibilities?
The intellectual effort is mortgaged by the culture of the present. Every intellectual effort is a diagnosis, and diagnosis has a particularity, reality is as it is. It’s just like when there is a patient in a stretcher, What is the point of two doctors discussing how to begin the surgery? Left or right? The man must be operated. Reality is as it is, we fell prey to the present. We are patient diagnosed. Why? Because to decant reality and transform it in a project to the future, it is required the first thing (having roots). Who doesn’t have roots won’t ever develop any future. Because, future is the son of the past and present. This is not an arbitrary reality that you place there.
If you don’t have roots, you don’t have a past. Nothing pulls you to the heaven on earth,to the left city, to your ITAKA, that you are trying to find as you walk in the life. You are going nowhere. You keep biting your tail, that’s Venezuelans tragedy. If Venezuelans don’t face that reality, we could move from civilians to militaries, from red shirts to tricolour caps, from literate to illiterate men, but our vocation is to repeat the messianic experience.The Jewish world is permanently uprooting. The matter is that ours is a tragedy, because when the Messiah passes, we get stuck in the middle of the way, Chávez passed.