The cultural diversity in Venezuela – #2 Serie’s Isuue
GUSTAVO MIRABAL IN VENEZUELA
The history of Venezuela is marked by a mixture between the natives, the Spaniards and the slaves from Africa that the colonizers brought with them. From there derives a rich cultural diversity in Venezuela, hence the importance of addressing this issue.
The interrelation of different cultural traditions has resulted in the rich plurality in the expression, beliefs and customs of Venezuelans. This being one of the most outstanding characteristics of the cultural diversity in Venezuela
An example of this is the music that brings together European and African forms. In relation to gastronomy, Spanish and Indian practices are combined. On the other hand in the religious aspect, Indigenous, African and European aspects are mixed.
Derived from these mixtures of cultures dating from the fifteenth century in the different regions of Venezuela, customs tend to be very varied. That is why we talk about the great cultural diversity in Venezuela.
Indigenous, African and Spanish culture
Within the cultural diversity in Venezuela there are the oldest inhabitants of these lands, such as the natives.
In relation to the handicrafts that the indigenous people elaborate they find: manufacturing baskets, textiles, ceramics, pottery and other objects.
Their way of life varies according to the region where they are located. We must take into account that there are different tribes. These tribes are located in the states: Bolívar, Amazonas, Delta Amacuro, Anzoátegui, Sucre, Monagas, Apure and Zulia.
In relation to the typical foods of the natives is the casabe and the arepa. Both dishes have strong roots in traditional indigenous crops such as corn and cassava.
Undoubtedly there are the original roots of the Venezuelan population that later mixed with Spaniards and Africans giving rise to the cultural diversity in Venezuela.
As for African culture, customs remain in coastal towns, since the work of Africans was crucial there. A sample of this is the cultural crossroads in popular festivities, in music and in drumming.
With respect to the Spanish culture, this is one of the most outstanding in its contributions, since we inherit the mother tongue. Another aspect of utmost importance is religion, devotions and festivities of peoples. The Catholic religion, predominant in Venezuela, was brought by the Spaniards and taught by the so-called peaceful colonization.
Another element in which they marked their indelible mark is in gastronomy, in architecture, in music.
Cultural diversity in The Gastronomy of Venezuela
One of the most striking aspects of Venezuela’s cultural diversity is its gastronomy. Venezuelan food, in addition to being among the most awarded worldwide, has also stolen the hearts of many foreigners even with the touch that Venezuelans give to local food.
For those who have visited Venezuela they say that Chinese, Spanish and Mexican food are better in Venezuela. And it is that the creativity of the Venezuelan is unlimited when it comes to food. This is probably due to the influence of the different cultures that converge in Venezuela.
Sausages, olive oil and a taste for seafood were brought to Venezuela by the Spaniards. Black pudding is one of those dishes of Venezuelan gastronomy that has the stamp of Europeans.
The use of cassava, sweet pepper and “branches” is typical of indigenous culture. In addition, two dishes inseparable from Venezuelan culture such as hallaca and arepa have indigenous roots. Remember that corn is of indigenous origin and everything related is linked to this culture.
On the other hand, a dish that is currently unknown to most has its roots in African culture is funche. We could say that the traditional Christmas buns are descendants of this tradition halfway between the hallaca and the funche.
The hallacas of Venezuela according to the region
Let’s look at the cultural diversity of Venezuela in a dish like hallaca:
- In Caracas, hallaca is assembled with previously cooked stew. This may have to do with the fact that the kitchens in Caracas homes do not have the necessary space for the installation of a stove. These are necessary to cook for many more hours the hallacas. In addition, many times the dressings of the stew are liquefied for greater ease.
- In the Andean region: hallacas are made with raw stew and it is cooked when they are put on the flame for 4 or 5 hours on a stove or reverberator. Many times even the stove can be made with firewood. You can opt for this to give it a particular taste to yield the available gas because it is not so abundant in the regions outside Caracas. They usually have a little more salt and also incorporate chickpeas into the stew.
- Zulia State: it is chosen to use grated banana or banana flour to make the dough of the hallacas, instead of the traditional corn flour.
- Eastern Region: given its fishing tradition, it is typical to use fish or shark meat instead of making the stew with beef, chicken and pork. And it is that of this region the dogfish is the typical meat. The dogfish which is a marine animal related to the shark, but smaller. Additionally they put egg and potatoes to the stew… Something that almost all Venezuelans outside the East consider a sacrilege. There is the cultural diversity of Venezuela.
- In the Venezuelan plains: Here the hallaca is very similar to the hallaca in Caracas, with the difference that they choose to place some additional ingredients such as peas.
International influences on the gastronomy of Venezuela
In addition to the traditional Venezuelan food with roots in the colonial era, there are other influences of great importance. The Spanish, Italian and Portuguese migration resulting from the Second World War marked the Caracas of the middle of the last century. Through the streets of the center of Caracas we can find prestigious restaurants of Spanish and Italian food.
That is why today we find that hallaca is not conceived without the respective olives, raisins and capers, typical of European cuisine. In the same way, sweet chili pepper has positioned itself in all Venezuelan meals. This has permeated Chinese and Mexican food and a paella in Venezuela is not conceived without this seasoning.
Today in Caracas we can eat a delicious octopus arepa or a sausage arepa, or the so-called “domino”, caraotas and cheese. A gastronomic delight that mixes indigenous and European roots.
Pasta and pizza have also carved a niche for themselves in the heart of Venezuelan gastronomy. Pizza, a primarily Italian product, has been combined with corn very successfully. Other combinations have also won the favor of foreigners, rating Venezuelan pizza one of the best. The riskier versions use goat cheese, cream cheese and almonds. Without a doubt, the creativity of the Venezuelan has no limits.
Even a signature dish of Japanese food has been touched by the Venezuelan flavor. The option of fried plantain has also been added to sushi as a topping of the Rolls. This has become the feeling of many. For the Venezuelan there are no untouchable dishes… The success of Venezuelan gastronomy is a sign of the cultural diversity of Venezuela and its advantages.
The Cultural Diversity of Music in Venezuela
Venezuelan music is incredibly diverse. This is due to the enormous amount of cultural influences in Venezuelan society.
Venezuelan music reflects the mix of indigenous, African, and European influences.
Here are some musical genres and expressions that are examples of cultural diversity in Venezuelan music.
Types of music that shows Cultural Diversity of Music in Venezuela
- Joropo: Joropo is one of Venezuela’s most emblematic musical genres. It originated in the Venezuelan plains, and it has several variants depending on the region. The “joropo llanero,” for example, is known for its fast rhythm and use of traditional instruments such as the harp, cuatro, and maracas. The “joropo tuyero” has characteristics that distinguish it from the “joropo llanero”, including the use of the harp and the bandola.
- Gaita: Originally from the state of Zulia, it is a musical genre that combines indigenous and African rhythms. It is the quintessential Venezuelan Christmas music. The Zulian bagpipe is characterized by the use of drums, maracas and the tambora.
- Afro-Venezuelan drums and rhythms: The African influence on Venezuelan music is evident in the rhythms of different festivities and celebrations. African rhythms are a fundamental part of celebrations such as Carnival and other traditional festivities.
- Salsa and merengue: Due to the migration of people from other regions of Latin America and the Caribbean, salsa and merengue have also found a place in Venezuelan music. Although not native to Venezuela, they are very popular in Venezuelan festivals and celebrations.
- Contemporary Music: Venezuela’s music scene encompasses a wide range of genres, including pop, rock, and hip-hop. Venezuelan artists have incorporated elements of traditional music into their international works and rhythms. This has created a unique fusion that reflects the cultural diversity of the country.
Music is irrevocable proof of Venezuela’s cultural diversity. Through Venezuelan music you can appreciate the richness of indigenous, African, and European traditions. All these roots and rhythms that have contributed to forming the musical identity of Venezuela.
Contributions of indigenous culture – Cultural diversity in Venezuela
Each culture contributed great things to the Venezuelan cultural heritage. We can certainly say that Venezuelans are culturally a mixture. Beyond all this, the indigenous culture had important contributions in terms of language, Venezuelan cuisine and craftsmanship
Contributions of indigenous culture to the language
In the common language and in the name of many places we can find vestiges of the influence of indigenous culture in Venezuela.
Below, we will describe some of the indigenous names given to cities and states that remain to this day. They are certainly a sample of cultural diversity in Venezuela.
The capital city of Venezuela is called Caracas. The name Caracas is of indigenous origin.
Caracas was the name of the valley that made up the area and the tribe that inhabited this valley.
There is also a flower in the area that is related to the name of the city, the “caraca”. This flower is currently known as amaranth or amaranth and has great nutritional power.
Other important cities in Venezuela have names of indigenous origin as we will see below.
City of Maracay:
It is one of the most important cities and belongs to the state of Aragua. This Venezuelan city has a strong industrial base named after the indigenous leader Maracay. This in turn opened taken its name from the jaguar whom the Indians called Maracay.
It should be noted that the name of the Aragua state also has its origin in the indigenous languages. The meaning of the name of the state Aragua is “my place, my place”. This name comes from the roots “Are” which means site and “Gua” whose meaning is “my thing”.
City of Maracaibo:
The city of Maracaibo owes its name to “Cacique” Mara. This “Cacique” or indigenous leader got his name from the rattlesnake which in indigenous words is called “Mara”. On the other hand, the word “Caibo” means place of origin. Therefore, it can be considered that Maracaibo means “Place of origin of the chief Mara” or “Place of Origin of the rattlesnakes”.
State and Apure River:
Its origin is derived from an indigenous word meaning “The most distant land” and also from an indigenous leader known by the name of Apur.
State and city Barinas:
The name of this Venezuelan state (and city as well) has its origin in the indigenous name that designates “a strong wind in the rainy season”. This name is also used to designate a very common shrub in the area.
Delta Amacuro State:
The indigenous word that originated the name of this region means “weaving of waters” and is of Warao origin. It is the name of a Venezuelan state with a strong presence of indigenous culture located in the northeastern part of Venezuela.
Its name in the Indigenous language means “Savannah of Water” and comes from the words Karau (Savannah) and Bo (Water).
It is a Venezuelan state located in the central-western part of the country. Its name means “to collect water from afar” due to its indigenous roots Yara or Yarai which means “to collect water” and Cui which means “in the distant”
As we can see, the indigenous culture is preserved in the Venezuelan language and geography. It reaches to the present day through the designation of the places and regions that remain today.
Other words that come from indigenous voices
Other words such as Barbacoa or Cacique also have their origin in indigenous languages.
The word cacique is used in popular slang to designate a leader. And that is precisely the meaning of Cacique for the Venezuelan aborigines. The chieftain was the leader of the tribe.
On the other hand, barcaboa means “set of sticks” and was used to designate meat cooked into a set of sticks.
Last but not least is the typical breakfast of Venezuelans, the “arepa”. The name of this delicious “corn cake” comes from the term “erepa” which simply means “corn”. A word we use every day.
The cultural diversity in Venezuela in contemporary history
As a country evolves brings infinite changes. However, the cultural diversity in Venezuela is not only derived from indigenous, African and Spanish ancestors. The cultural diversity in Venezuela is also due to a mixture with European foreigners who arrived in the country after the crisis caused by the Second World War.
In the 19th century, Germans, Spaniards, French and Italians arrived in Venezuela. This continued during the twentieth century as the Americans came to the country with oil exploitation.
In Venezuela we can see important Spanish and Intalian communities in Caracas.
On the other hand the Germans created the so-called Colonia Tovar which is a very tourist sector. Colonia Tovar is famous for its architecture, its charcuterie, its fruits and the typical dishes of German culture. Nestled in the mountains that separate the Capital District from the Aragua State, it has wonderful views and climate.
Subsequently, as a sequel to the world wars of the 1930s and 1940s, a wave of immigrants came from countries such as Spanish, Italian and Portugal.
Venezuela being a prodigious land has opened the doors without any discrimination in the 70s and 80s immigrants arrived from Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Chile.
On the other hand, Chinese and Arabs have also arrived who have settled in different regions of the country.
We can see how the great cultural diversity in Venezuela began and how at different times other nationalities have joined to enrich and make Venezuelan culture much more diverse.
Popular festivals of cultural diversity in Venezuela
Various traditions and festivities are carried out throughout the national territory, depending on the time of the year.
In general, there are songs, festivals and traditional dances among which are mentioned: rounds, lullabies, milking songs, cross wakes, patron celebrations among others
In the region of the Venezuelan Andes that includes the states of Táchira, Mérida and Trujillo, activities such as children’s paradors, the day of the magi, the crucis route, among others are carried out.
One of the typical things of Venezuelan culture is the religious syncretism on which some elements of santeria are based, the cult of Santa Barbara (related to the cult of Shango) among others.
What religious syncretism does is merge religious elements from various sources and blur their boundaries creating hybrid religions. In other cases there are people who believe in things that could be considered contradictory or even opposed.
On the other hand, the Velorio de Cruz, El Carite, El Pájaro Guarandol is celebrated in the region of Eastern Venezuela. El Espuntón, Danzas de las Cintas or Sebucán, Callao carnival is also celebrated in the region of Eastern Venezuela.
Some traditions that are practiced throughout the country are the celebrations of Christmas and Easter activities.
It should be noted that these dates are celebrated by the Catholic Church where the faithful attend the itineraries organized by the parish.
Traditions of the cultural diversity of Venezuela
We already mentioned before the case of the devils of Yare which we will detail later. But this is not the only case where we can see this cultural fusion. On the contrary, Venezuelan traditions are permeated almost entirely by a fusion of influences that is impossible to dissociate.
The Venezuelan both in the festivities, in the gastronomy, music and other manifestations makes his own the alien and transculturizes them until he becomes Venezuelan. We can notice this even in the way in which these traditions are carried out in different parts of the country.
For example, the Virgin is celebrated in multiple and very particular ways depending on the region where we are. In other countries, the dishes are standardized to give it the seal of authenticity. The Venezuelan gives it his stamp of authenticity through diversity and that makes it magical.
But let’s get to know some of the most important traditions that will help us “feel” Venezuelan cultural diversity in all its dimension.
Christmas in Venezuela
Venezuelan Christmas is enjoyed in different ways depending on the region we are in. The common element is that Christmas in Venezuela is a family time. No Christmas or New Year’s parties with lots of strangers in a hotel…
There is nothing happier than giving a hug as a family on the 31st or opening gifts with the little ones in the house. Some of these customs, although they have tried to be encouraged, simply have not spread because the Venezuelan is familiar.
Within Christmas in Venezuela is the tradition of the Christmas dish. This Christmas dish is composed of hallaca, ham bread, pernil and chicken salad. However, if we keep an eye on the hallaca we can notice that there are great differences depending on the region in which it is done. As an example, we have the cultural diversity of the hallaca in Venezuela that we saw earlier.
But let’s look at some differences of the celebration of Christmas in Venezuela according to the regions.
Christmas celebrations according to the regions:
Here are some of the Christmas celebrations that take place in specific areas of the country:
- In the central states, the first Sunday of December is celebrated “The Dance of the Shepherds of the Child Jesus”. That day the baby Jesus is honored with a mass and processions, dances and songs in the streets. One of the curiosities is that the performers are entirely men, but since the dance is in pairs, some of the participants dress up as women.
- In the states of Lara and Mérida, a tradition called “the theft and search for the child” takes place. This celebration stages the theft of the baby Jesus and the search for this by the Virgin Mary together with the community. The houses are searched in search of the children until they reach the house where they will be delivered and the thieves of the baby Jesus are “captured”, to end up returning him to his place. It is a more dramatic version of our next tradition which is called “the child’s paradura” (the child’s stop or the child’s stands in english).
- In the Andean region a beautiful tradition is celebrated called “the child’s paradura” (in Spanish “la paradura del niño”). During this celebration each neighbor makes a manger for the baby Jesus to walk from manger to manger between the different houses of the community. In each house where “the child” stops, music is played, sings, prays and eats to bless the homes and their next year. Finally, after the tour the child is returned to the community manger.
As we see there are endless Christmas manifestations and religious devotion of the Venezuelan according to the region thanks to the cultural diversity of Venezuela.
Role of women in Venezuelan culture
Women today have conquered various spaces, so they are considered to have the same rights as men. In the workplace, Venezuelan women hold various positions in public and private administration.
The role of women in the cultural diversity in Venezuela is of great relevance. Since it transmits all these customs and habitats to the next generations, in this way perpetuates the theme of culture in the family.
An example of this is the elaboration of the hallacas in December where the whole family integrates to carry out this beautiful Venezuelan tradition.
On the other hand traditions such as weaving are taught to other people mainly by women. So most of the country’s work schools are women the main protagonists of gastronomy, crafts, sewing, weaving, embroidery, painting, among others.
Venezuela, a paradise of cultural diversity:
We can see the great relevance that immigrants have had in the diversity in culture in Venezuela. Depending on the region of the country, traditions will vary. Although there are some that are general throughout the country as mentioned earlier.
In relation to gastronomy there is also a marked difference. Since in the area of the coast what predominates is fish. While in the area of the Andes are the cupcakes, the Andean pinch and the meats. However, in the general gastronomy, an icon of the Venezuelan is the arepa, the Creole pavilion, the hallaca among others.
The stages that have been experienced in relation to the entry of immigrants and how the Venezuelan has been hospitable and kind to the neighbor. It is worth mentioning the contribution that foreigners have given Venezuela in all economic, social, educational and cultural aspects.
Venezuela is an immense range of cultures fused in one place which makes it great for Tourism and those who wish to see multiple beliefs gathered in peace in one territory. A beautiful place to visit.
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