Category Archives: Things to Do

Squid Fishing in Venezuela

Venezuela fishing town

The Venezuelan fisherman's home town

Geraldine is a young British woman who has done a lot of travelling in Latin America and written about it in her great blog, Mole’s Eye View. She traveled through Venezuela as well, and wrote some interesting posts about it. In one, she wrote about her experience squid fishing in Santa Fe, Venezuela.

She had a great time, though she only caught one small squid, while the fishing guide was pulling them up hand over fist. It sounds so messy with the ink spraying everywhere.

Here’s Gerlandine’s story:

Squid Fishing in Santa Fe, Venezuela

Out of the six people who the evening before had wanted to come squid fishing, only two of us made it. It was worth every bit of the early morning. Speeding across the water as the sun rose made me wonder why I didn’t get up early more often. But then it’s not everywhere that you can share the sunrise with schools of sardines and a dozen dolphins.

The three of us sat for two and a half hours with fishing lines poised for a bite. The art (or lack of it in my case) of catching squid is not all that different to other types of fishing, but there is no bait. I’m a big fan of that as it means you never know how many times you got a bite but were too skill less to snap the line quick enough to claim the fish.

Squid in a bucketWith squid fishing you cast out the line, wait for it to reach the sea bed and then keep pulling the line to attract the attention of any squid who may think that the hook is a sardine. When the squid engulfs the hook, that’s when you snap the line and bring in the catch.

Our fisherman deftly handled his two lines and kept bring up squids that squirted ink all over the boat as they hit air.

It took me two long hours to get my first and only calamari. Luckily, our fisherman gave us all the squid he’d caught as well as some mackerel from another boat we passed on the way back in, otherwise our evening barbecue wouldn’t have fed more than a small child.

I don’t think I’ll be quiting city life to live off the land…

Lonely Planet guide out of date on Venezuela

News crew at Catia La Mar beach, Venezuela

News crew at Catia La Mar beach, Venezuela

In a blog post titled “Lonely Planet or off the planet?”, Cowboy in Caracas complains that the 2007 edition of Lonely Planet’s Venezuela guide is woefully out of date, whether as a result of poor research, or political bias. He writes:

From Caracas the nearest beaches are west of the airport in Catia La Mar or east of the airport in the direction of La Guaira.

A horrible tragedy hit this coastal area in December, 1999. Some estimates of the dead were as high as 50,000 inhabitants. The massive landslides wiped out not only humble dwellings but even multiple-story apartment buildings. Ship containers were washed into the ocean and survivors had to be evacuated in helicopters and military landing craft. Hardest hit was the area east of the airport.

A drive from Caracas along this eastern area today reveals a completely different picture. Some beaches are larger than before as the landslides pushed the coast maybe a hundred yards further into the ocean. A six-lane road covers a part of the coast where before one had to take a slow drive through a coastal town. Flowers, bushes and trees fill the brilliant yellow curbing that divides much of the way. In other places the cement dividers are painted in pastel colors. Long walls are covered with colorful mosaics. Hanging from the lampposts are decorative and bright drums and maracas, seahorses and crabs—illuminated at night.

The beaches have new restaurants and stands for vendors. And, the beaches are packed this week with visitors.

Catia La Mar from the air. Clearly there is quite a lot of development.

Catia La Mar from the air. Clearly there is quite a lot of development.

Now read what the 2004 edition of LONELY PLANET had to say about this area:

After the 1999 events, “The whole area from La Guaira to Naiguatá became a sea of ruins,…. Macuto, Caraballeda and Naiguatá, once thrilling seaside resorts for ‘caraqueños,’ were turned into ruined ghost towns, and remain much the same. It will take decades before the urban fabric is fully rebuilt, if ever.”

In 2004, the authors of LONELY PLANET’s Venezuelan guide saw no hope—possibly forever—for the region. But it didn’t take decades to restore the area. It didn’t even take half a decade…

A few days ago, a visitor showed me his 2007 edition of the book. LONELY PLANET doesn’t seem to be aware of what has happened here. The same words of the 2004 edition are basically repeated, although now the book at least gives the names of a few hotels in the region, something they didn’t do in 2004.

I suppose one can forgive the authors for not being able to foretell the future in 2004 (although progress was already happening), but to repeat their mistaken forecast in 2007 was a case of blindness.

A New Life for At-Risk Kids in Venezuela, and Music Too!

By Humberto Márquez


Gustavo Dudamel, Conductor

Gustavo Dudamel, Conductor



CARACAS, Aug 24 (IPS) – On tour in Germany after performing to rave reviews at the BBC Promenade Concerts in London, the members of Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra and its wild-haired conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, have made a remarkable journey from their less than promising social origins.

They received a standing ovation at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, on Aug.19. “In 30 years of attending every season of the Proms, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said John Douglas, professor of music at Oxford University. 

Behind their success is “the system,” shorthand for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela (FESNOJIV), a network of 125 youth and children’s orchestras founded 28 years ago by José Antonio Abreu, which has put instruments and music scores in the hands of 400,000 children and young people. 

Abreu, 68, an economist, organist, conductor and minister of culture from 1989 to 1993, started to give underprivileged kids a new beginning when he gathered 11 young people together for a rehearsal in an underground carpark. The next day there were 25, then 46, and then 75. 

The children’s orchestras then began to spring up all over the country. Abreu sees them as a way of rescuing children and young people in at-risk social, health or school situations because of poverty. Eight Venezuelan administrations have financed the “system”, which has a budget of about 30 million dollars a year. 

“For most of the children we work with, music is a pathway to social dignity. Poverty means loneliness, sadness and anonymity. An orchestra means joy, motivation, teamwork. This is a human development project, which is also the aim of the Venezuelan state,” said Abreu in a recent interview with IPS. 

Xavier Moreno, a former executive secretary of FESOJIV, has said: “Our main goal is not to create professional musicians. Our goal is to rescue the children.”

Venezuela's Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra

Venezuela's Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra

They succeeded in the case of Lerner Acosta, who was arrested nine times for theft and drug possession before “the system” offered him a clarinet. 

“At first I thought it was a joke. Nobody would trust someone like me not to steal an instrument like that, but it was for real,” Acosta said. Now he plays the clarinet in the Caracas Youth Orchestra, and teaches at the Simón Bolívar Conservatory. 

Edicson Ruiz worked part-time as a bag boy in a supermarket to eke out his mother’s meagre salary until he was nine. He still remembers being given a viola and a seat in the middle of the orchestra. At 17, he became the youngest ever double bass player in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Two feature-length documentaries have been made about the experiences of kids from “the system.” “Tocar y luchar” (Playing and Fighting), which offers the stories of six boys, is by Alberto Arvelo, who was himself a musician in one of these orchestras between the ages of nine and 17. “Maroa,” by Solveig Hoogesteijn, is about a young girl rescued from a life of crime through music. 

Now in Germany, the Simon Bolívar Orchestra is waiting for Argentine-Israeli pianist Daniel Barenboim, the soloist in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, to be performed in the Berlin Staatskapelle on Sept. 16 and 17, conducted by Dudamel, 26, who was once his student. 

Dudamel, too, is a product of “the system,” although his family was better off than most. He studied music from an early age, taking up the violin at 10, and when he was 14 he began to study conducting with Abreu and other teachers. By 1999 he was already conducting the Simón Bolívar Children’s Orchestra, and by 2000, the Youth Orchestra. 

Since 1999 he has won admiration in Chile, Mexico, the United States, France, Italy and Germany. In 2004 he won the Gustav Mahler conducting competition in Bamberg, Germany. 

Last year he won the Pegasus prize at the Festival of the Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, and was named principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in Sweden, which he conducted in the 2006 Proms. Dudamel has now been named to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in the United States. 

In September he will continue to accompany the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra to the German cities of Essen, Lubeck, Leipzig, Dresden, Bonn, Frankfurt and Berlin, where he will be joined by Barenboim. 

“The ‘system’ has been a real source of inspiration. Our musicians love music passionately, and enjoy it. That’s why they make the audience enjoy it, too,” said the young conductor. (END/2007) 


Fantastic photo of the youth symphony orchestra!

Fantastic photo of the youth symphony orchestra!

Blue Marlin Fishing in Venezuela: Best in the World?

Blue marlin fishing in Venezuela

Blue marlin fishing in Venezuela

Check out this story in The author has traveled to Venezuela many times over the years to go deep sea fishing, but had not gone in several years. He was not sure what to expect on his latest trip, and his friends and family thought he was crazy for going. (I don’t quite get that. Just because Venezuela is a political opponent of the United States does that mean that it’s some kind of xenophobic anti-American danger zone?). Anyway, he was pleasantly surprised right from the start as he entered Caracas’ gleaming new international airport, was warmly greeted, and experienced some of the best blue marlin fishing in his life.

Here’s the full link: