Venezuelan cults of personality

Ok, last story of the Caracas trip. Another one about interesting Venezuelan politics and society. I read that this phenomena is quite common in Latin American politics, but I hate to generalize so…This will be about the observations in Caracas.

in latin america i believe they refer to this concept as personalismo , but the general idea is that of a cult of personality. that is when a leader or group propagates the superiority or influence or importance of one man or woman. a cult of personality develops when a group forms (like a state) with an idea or ideology behind it. but as the group grows, there begins a deterioration of individual input and democratic debate. voluntarily or not, the group begins to associate the idea/movement/ideology with the man in charge. the movement becomes Mr X. his image becomes the movement, a rallying point for the believers. he or she becomes an idol.

i can not stress enough how ONE man (or woman) becomes the focal point. we do not experience this here in the US. sure, republicans are singing the praises of george bush jr. now, but in 3 years no one will care. all these people with bush/cheney stickers will get that shit removed and stick the next ad banner on their personal carbon polluter. in 4 years the democrats will have someone new to throw shit at while they try to scheme their own destructive asses into the high office.

sorry…back to Caracas. Crazy. From the first moment we arrived it seemed as though Hugo Chavez was the heart and soul of the country. as we approach downtown we begin seeing paintings supporting him; as we get into downtown we begin seeing paintings OF the man himself on walls. some images looked rushed, others actually looked they had been stenciled on, but one of them was huge as i remember it. i mean big and stylish and obviously not something that was rushed. this artist must have had time and permission from others to get this thing done. that is not something you see in the States, unless you live in Texas perhaps.

this did not really surprise me though. what really did start getting to me was all of the Chavez t-shirts. yes, t-shirts. how many people in the States have you seen sporting a george bush t-shirt? not a cheesy ad slogan shirt, no an image of bush’s face. well, these shirts were everywhere and had different images of chavez. some with just his face, others with him in his military uniform, some with quotes. they must have outnumbered Che Guevara shirts 3-1. definitely one of the strangest things i have ever seen, t-shirts celebrating a politician.

but that is not all. the coup de grace was still to come. during the World Social Forum the city had briefly closed a huge boulevard downtown. one side of the street was mostly government propaganda. most of the government ministries had set up booths touting their goals and programs. the military even had a few vehicles and soldiers out there. i will find a photo and post it. here we are in a country divided by politics and we got to take a couple of photos with smiling soldiers in front of some military hardware. you got to see this.

on the other side of this street was mostly just your average town fair kind of atmosphere. lots of vendors selling food and drinks and t-shirts and books and DVD’s (bootlegged of course). but what do you know, ‘lo and behold what do we have here? talking hugo chavez dolls! no shit. no joke bullshit either, a serious doll, complete with patriotic quotes and the cheering sounds of the masses behind him. hilarious.

all in all, it was a great trip. i will post some photos soon. if i can recall anymore funny anecdotes i will post them as well, but i think this has been long enough on this subject. nuff said.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.