Coromoto, the Venezuelan Ice Cream Parlor with 860 Flavors

Venezuelan ice cream parlor with 860 flavors

"I chose a scoop of avocado and a scoop of sweetcorn... it's amazing." Customer Marjorie Castillo

Reprinted from the BBC Online, with some photos added from various sources

You might imagine that the shop selling the largest number of ice-cream flavours in the world would be in Italy or perhaps the US, but in fact it is in the Venezuelan city of Merida, as Will Grant discovered.

After looking in the windows of a couple of ice-cream parlours but finding nothing more exciting inside than strawberry and vanilla, we eventually find Coromoto, opposite a church.

The neon sign outside, with the words “Guinness Book of Records” written in pink, is an instant give-away but, once through the doors, it becomes even clearer that this is the place.

At first glance, the counters of brightly coloured ice cream look perfectly ordinary.

Close up, the flavours are anything but.

The selection includes chilli, tomato, gherkin, onion, mushrooms in wine, garlic, and cream of crab.

Coromoto was set up in 1980 by a Portuguese immigrant, Manuel da Silva Oliveira.

The owner does not come in much any more and has left the running of the place to Jose Ramirez.

Seasonal changes

Jose is exactly what an ice-cream parlour manager should look like.

A friendly man in his 40s, his white and purple shirt is spotlessly clean, and his black moustache is perfectly groomed.

“Mr Oliveira was tired of working for the big ice-cream companies,” Jose says, “and decided that he could make more interesting flavours on his own.”

The first attempt was avocado.

Heladeria Coromoto in Merida Venezuela

Heladeria Coromoto is mentioned in the Guiness Book of World Records for being the ice-cream parlour in the world with most flavours.

“It’s a tough one to get right because avocados are so rich,” says Jose. “Mr Oliveira wasted around 50kg of ice cream trying to perfect it.”

Coromoto sells about 60 flavours on any given day, but changes the flavours according to the seasons.

On one wall, a list of its specialities is made out of engraved wooden slats.

Besides the standard options like chocolate and rum-and-raisin, there are plenty of exotic fruits: guava, papaya, mango and passion fruit.

There are several vile-sounding flavours among the 860 as well: eggs, macaroni cheese and sardines-in-brandy being a few of the more bizarre examples.

And there are a lot of oddly named ones too like British Airways, Andean Kisses and I’m Sorry, Darling.

One of them, Viagra Hope, is bright blue like the pills.

I have to ask what is in it, and am relieved to hear it is all natural: honey and pollen.

“Different people like different things,” said the shop’s manager.

Jose, manager of Coromoto ice cream parlor in Venezuela

"Of course, being Venezuela, there are plenty flavours made with rum." Jose Ramirez, manager of Coromoto

“Personally I’m a fan of the fruit flavours but many customers prefer the alcoholic choices like Cointreau, cognac or vodka-and-pineapple.

“Of course, being Venezuela, there are plenty made with rum.”

In the back room

Ushered behind the front desk, I get the chance to glimpse what most visitors to Coromoto never see: the ice cream being made.

As we walk behind the scenes, I imagine scenes of an ice-cream version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, complete with a mad inventor pouring strange solutions into test tubes.

However, a bit disappointingly, I am led into an airless room where two vast ice-cream mixers are whirring away. On one of the machines, a big tub of raisins is waiting to be added to the concoction inside.

In the other, a vanilla-coloured mixture is being turned but – as I suspected – it is not vanilla.

“Es cafe,” says the girl keeping an eye on the machines – coffee flavour.

Now it is my time to try a few.

‘Muy picante’

“What is the house special?” I ask Jose.

He chuckles and says “pabellon criollo” – a traditional Venezuelan meal of beef, rice, plantain, cheese and black beans, which Coromoto has replicated in ice cream.

Jose fixes me a small scoop of each flavour – and yes, they do beef-flavoured ice cream in Coromoto – topping it off with a half-scoop of chilli flavour.

Ice cream flavors at Coromoto ice cream parlor in Venezuela

The house special is made with several flavours including beef and cheese.

“Muy picante,” he warns me, but I foolishly nod… I’m sure it’s not that hot… and gulp it down in one.

Once my eyes have stopped watering and I have got my breath back, I manage a smile at Jose, who is laughing and saying, “I told you so!”

Clearly Coromoto’s flavours live up to their names.

To put out the fire on my tongue, I go for the plantain flavour which is incredibly realistic. As is the cheese, which I would not at all recommend.

Perhaps some things, like cheddar, should not be made into ice cream.

Finally the beef. Despite my misgivings, it is rich, sweet and meaty. I can’t quite believe it, but I seem to actually like beef-flavoured ice cream.

Back on the shop floor, the customers are enjoying their choices on what is a stiflingly hot day.

“I chose a scoop of avocado and a scoop of sweetcorn,” says Marjorie Castillo, who lives in Caracas.

“It’s amazing. The avocado tastes just like avocado and the sweetcorn like sweetcorn.”

Her 14-year-old niece, Marvery, concurs. “It’s exotic, divine,” she says.

“You’ve only got 858 flavours still to go,” I tell her.

“I know,” she says, giggling into her ice-cold treat. “But I’m sure I can do it. One flavour at a time!”

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.

Cuaima, definition: 1. an aggressive snake. 2. a jealous and impulsive woman

Can someone explain to me the Venzuelan concept of the cuaima? In any case, this photo depicts Snake charmer Khum Chaibuddee kissed 19 highly poisonous king cobras in an attempt to set a world record at Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in Pattaya, Thailand in 2006. One by one, the cobras were released onto a stage, where the 45-year-old snake charmer kissed each beast and then moved onto the next.

Can someone explain to me the Venzuelan concept of the cuaima? In any case, this photo depicts Snake charmer Khum Chaibuddee kissed 19 highly poisonous king cobras in an attempt to set a world record at Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in Pattaya, Thailand in 2006. One by one, the cobras were released onto a stage, where the 45-year-old snake charmer kissed each beast and then moved onto the next.

Before you blast me, that’s not my definition. Here it is from the Urban Dictionary:

1. cuaima
The nickname of an aggressive poisonous snake, Bothrops lanceolatus. Also, used in slang to define a very jealous and impulsive woman.

“Here comes your cuaima dude.”

2. cuaima
In Venezuela (spanish), a very poisonous snake, also the wife, the women in general.

Be careful, in this area there are “cuaimas”; How is your cuaima (your wife); The cuaimas aare heving a meeting (women are having a chat).

I actually looked it up because of a recent post by the Chica Extranjera, author of “Adventures in places I do not belong.” Her post is titled, “1950 comes to Caracas” and she writes:

I just read a book that I (wishfully) thought would be a constructive critique of cuaimas but is actually a full blown celebration of the cuaima.

If in 300 years an alien comes to Venezuela and reads this book, it will think that the life of a woman passes no further than her house, her child’s school, and her church, and that her self worth depends entirely on making her children lunch and ironing her husband’s shirts. The author forgets to feed herself breakfast while making elaborate meals for her husband and children, labels her plastic surgeon a “magical god” and seeks guidance from a priest who informs her that the habits of her egoistic and alcoholic husband are something for which she needs to “be stronger”. And that the “strong” friends she really needs are the one that also cry when she goes to them with repeated sob stories about her husband’s behavior.

The narrator’s “breakthrough” moment is when she realizes that she doesn’t need to “clean what is already clean” (como se le occure hacer eso??) and that she can, in a motion of self discovery, take a walk outside with her friend, go window shopping at the mall or go to the gym to pursue a “beauty routine”. Amazingly, even if she does not clean the house that day and pursues these “independent activities”, the house will still probably be as clean as it was yesterday, so worry not.

Throughout the book I found myself hoping for a sign that it was all a farce: that the author understood the nature of her codependent existence and wrote all that drivel as a form of mockery, or at least as the “what not to do” section of a corny advice column, or that the book was a reprinted version of the 1950 edition, but no.

I recently had a discussion with gringas and venezolanas about dating/ gender stereotypes here. Highlights:

-One friend was asked by an older woman, on three separate occasions, if her boyfriend was indeed single and not married to someone else.

-After getting a haircut, one friend was complimented that if her boyfriend was married he would leave now indeed leave his wife for her. Congratulations.
-One friend’s mother regularly tells her that if she does not stay pretty and cuidar a su novio then he will unquestionably leave her.

But alas, things are the way they are, and no point in getting pissed off about them. Off to bed.

Three Months in Paradise: A Chinese Businessman’s Life in Venezuela

Chinese team Inspecting equipment in Venezuela

Chinese team Inspecting equipment in Venezuela

I recently came across a description by a Chinese businessman of his trip to Venezuela. It seems he is an employee of the China Machinery Industry Corporation and was sent to negotiate a corporate contract. In any case I found his narrative of his three months in Venezuela to be interesting. It’s essentially a press release on the corporate website, and the actual name of the businessman is not given. I see in it elements of the Chinese culture which requires putting everything in the best possible light, and in which social harmony is the ultimate goal. I am reprinting it here:

My Life in Venezuela

2008-05-07

The airplane just took off and the home-departing trains of thoughts engulfed me like overcast dusts. The airplane, like a giant hand, picked me up by my collar and turning around, put me down in a strange city over the other side of the Earth.
Landing in Caracas from the Air
The irregular changes of colorful clouds outside the plane over more than 20 hours and the beautiful scenery I saw in transit at Pairs could not be compared with the happy surprise I felt at the first sight of Venezuela, which could not be described just with the word of “gorgeous”. Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, is a city grown in forests and mountains. Green trees, distant mountains and the perpetually clear sky are surrounding the simple groups of buildings. Just thinking about it could calm you down and once in the city, you felt contended with the peace of mind. The road from the airport to our residence was full of colorful slogans. “Marching towards socialism!” and “Support Chavez!” were most common words bumping into your eyes, from which one could not help but feel strongly the surging emotions of Latin American people.
Life + Work = Intimate Family Members
To share your spare time together with your boss for the first time indeed made you feel somewhat uneasy. Fortunately, my colleagues had already managed to separate work from life. During work, we were dedicated and hardworking and united as one for good cooperation, and thus turning heavy pressure into joys of common struggles. In life we were forthright and unrestrained, passing good mood to everyone near you. In this intimate environment, colleagues gradually became friends and friends gradually became family members. Unconditional support and trust became the biggest motivation to drive you to grow, for each of your small progress could invite loving watches of leaders and colleagues.
Fighting!
In work, we seemed to be fighting everyday and so it was not strange for our colleagues in China to call where we were as the “front line”. Morning always elapsed in a hurry without notice and we had to handle more than ten e-mails everyday. Telephone calls from subcontractors seemed endless. Each entry of payments had to be recorded for files and the thick contract copy was full of notes and remarks. Running here and there all the time with documents in hand, when at last you touched down on the chair, you could be dragged away at the next moment. This was the routine for everyday. It had already been noon time while you were still thinking as if the day had just started.
The negotiation seemed more like a seesaw battle, and a competition of wisdom and willpower. Both sides were so highly absorbed in their state of mind and the ashtray would be full of cigarette stubs in a while. The negotiation venue changed from the long table into the dining table and again changed back from the dining table to the long table. More than often, the battle would last until it got dark. Touching the hungry belly and looking at the revised contract filled with dotted remarks, one would feel contented in heart for at least something had been accomplished out of the hard efforts. With a piece of bread and two hands still busy on the keyboards, I was racing against time to finish the translation of the revised contract, which would be sent back to China for review. It was already dead night after the day’s work. After a quick bath, I dragged my worn-out body to bed. I was still wide awake enough not to forget to set up my alarm clock.
Together with You!
To keep in touch with the company in China was an indispensable part of our work in a foreign country. The time difference between Caracas and Beijing was exactly 12 hours. The overtime in the evening after a day’s regular work was normal routine of the day. Under such environment, to adjust and relax promptly was more than necessary to keep good working morale. Weekends were the time when everybody felt most relaxed. There were quite a few options to choose, such as watching movies, Karaoke, strolling along the streets, enjoying sumptuous meals, going to beaches or hot spring spas. It was all up to the mood of everybody. But most of time, people would feel excited to respond once there was a suggestion or a hint as what to do. Could not remember who had said something to the effect that “What matters is not what, but who.” No matter where we went, there would be joys and laughters as long as we were with our colleagues.
At twinkling of an eye, three months had passed by since we came to Venezuela. More than 1000 pictures were stored in the camera, very faithfully recording each and every smiling face and little bits of our life here. Do you need a reason to love a city? Perhaps, the answer would lie in our smiles.

The airplane just took off and the home-departing trains of thoughts engulfed me like overcast dusts. The airplane, like a giant hand, picked me up by my collar and turning around, put me down in a strange city over the other side of the Earth.

Landing in Caracas from the Air

The irregular changes of colorful clouds outside the plane over more than 20 hours and the beautiful scenery I saw in transit at Pairs could not be compared with the happy surprise I felt at the first sight of Venezuela, which could not be described just with the word of “gorgeous”. Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, is a city grown in forests and mountains. Green trees, distant mountains and the perpetually clear sky are surrounding the simple groups of buildings. Just thinking about it could calm you down and once in the city, you felt contended with the peace of mind. The road from the airport to our residence was full of colorful slogans. “Marching towards socialism!” and “Support Chavez!” were most common words bumping into your eyes, from which one could not help but feel strongly the surging emotions of Latin American people.

Life + Work = Intimate Family Members

To share your spare time together with your boss for the first time indeed made you feel somewhat uneasy. Fortunately, my colleagues had already managed to separate work from life. During work, we were dedicated and hardworking and united as one for good cooperation, and thus turning heavy pressure into joys of common struggles. In life we were forthright and unrestrained, passing good mood to everyone near you. In this intimate environment, colleagues gradually became friends and friends gradually became family members. Unconditional support and trust became the biggest motivation to drive you to grow, for each of your small progress could invite loving watches of leaders and colleagues

Fighting!

In work, we seemed to be fighting everyday and so it was not strange for our colleagues in China to call where we were as the “front line”. Morning always elapsed in a hurry without notice and we had to handle more than ten e-mails everyday. Telephone calls from subcontractors seemed endless. Each entry of payments had to be recorded for files and the thick contract copy was full of notes and remarks. Running here and there all the time with documents in hand, when at last you touched down on the chair, you could be dragged away at the next moment. This was the routine for everyday. It had already been noon time while you were still thinking as if the day had just started.

The negotiation seemed more like a seesaw battle, and a competition of wisdom and willpower. Both sides were so highly absorbed in their state of mind and the ashtray would be full of cigarette stubs in a while. The negotiation venue changed from the long table into the dining table and again changed back from the dining table to the long table. More than often, the battle would last until it got dark. Touching the hungry belly and looking at the revised contract filled with dotted remarks, one would feel contented in heart for at least something had been accomplished out of the hard efforts. With a piece of bread and two hands still busy on the keyboards, I was racing against time to finish the translation of the revised contract, which would be sent back to China for review. It was already dead night after the day’s work. After a quick bath, I dragged my worn-out body to bed. I was still wide awake enough not to forget to set up my alarm clock.

Together with You!

To keep in touch with the company in China was an indispensable part of our work in a foreign country. The time difference between Caracas and Beijing was exactly 12 hours. The overtime in the evening after a day’s regular work was normal routine of the day. Under such environment, to adjust and relax promptly was more than necessary to keep good working morale. Weekends were the time when everybody felt most relaxed. There were quite a few options to choose, such as watching movies, Karaoke, strolling along the streets, enjoying sumptuous meals, going to beaches or hot spring spas. It was all up to the mood of everybody. But most of time, people would feel excited to respond once there was a suggestion or a hint as what to do. Could not remember who had said something to the effect that “What matters is not what, but who.” No matter where we went, there would be joys and laughters as long as we were with our colleagues.

At twinkling of an eye, three months had passed by since we came to Venezuela. More than 1000 pictures were stored in the camera, very faithfully recording each and every smiling face and little bits of our life here. Do you need a reason to love a city? Perhaps, the answer would lie in our smiles.

Smiling Chinese visitors to Venezuela

Smiling Chinese visitors to Venezuela

Life in Maracaibo, Venezuela – Part One

Colorful colonial houses of Maracaibo, Venezuela

Maracaibo is the second largest city in Venezuela, 500 km west of Caracas, with a population of three and a quarter million. In recent years, many people have moved there from Caracas to escape the unchecked crime in the capital.

The city of Maracaibo sits on the shores of Lake Maracaibo; it’s the capital of the beautiful and agriculturally productive Zulia state. Separated from Caracas by distance and geography, Maracaibo has been shaped in unique ways by its isolation and its overwhelming physical feature, the lake. 13,000 square kilometers in size, the lake cuts a huge teardrop shape out of Venezuela’s northern coast.

Map of Venezuela. See Maracaibo at the upper left.

Map of Venezuela. See Maracaibo at the upper left.

For 390 years of the period of Spanish settlement, Maracaibo could only be reached by ferry across the immense lake. The General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge, named after a hero of the War of Independence, was completed in 1962. It spans Lake Maracaibo; 5.5 miles (8.7 km) long, it is the longest pre-stressed concrete bridge in the world.

Bridge across Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela

Bridge across Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela

The people of Maracaibo – known as Maracuchos – are proud of their city, their culture, and of Zulia. They sometimes think of themselves more as people of Zulia than Venezuelans.

Maracaibo is known for its colorful houses, warm weather, the unique indigenous lake villages and canoe traffic still found on the lake, the famous bridge across the lake, its own style of Afro-Venezuelan folk music called gaita Zuliana, its unique dialect (the people speak quickly and roughly and use the Castilian “vos” plural), and for generally being culturally different from Caracas in every way.

A floating church on Lake Maracaibo

A floating church on Lake Maracaibo

The Source of Maracaibo’s Wealth

If I’ve made Maracaibo sound like some backwater lake village, forgive me. In fact it is a bustling, modern metropolis, with modern towers lining the lakeshore. With its remote location, this might seem unlikely, except for one fact: oil.

I’ll write specifically about this in Part Two, so stay tuned.

A gaita zuliana band in Venezuela

A gaita zuliana band in Venezuela

Kidnapping in Venezuela is out of control

The film Secuestro Express was about a Venezuelan kidnapping gang

The film Secuestro Express was about a Venezuelan kidnapping gang

The guardian.co.uk published a recent article by Roy Carrol titled, “Fear grips Venezuela as even the poor are seized by kidnap gangs.” The article says that “pensioners, students and children are grabbed in streets and shopping malls.”

This kidnapping plague seems to be spreading all through Latin America. In Mexico of course it has been out of control for a long time. In Colombia it’s practically a way of life. In Panama, supposedly a stable and economically prosperous country by Central American standards, these sorts of kidnappings have just started to appear.

Often (though not always by any means) police are involved and are even running the show. This boggles my mind. The idea of dirty cops is not new to me and I know that a lot of cops all over the world are not averse to pocketing a little money, but running a kidnap gang? How does someone become so corrupt.

Anyway, I was dismayed to read that even poor people are being targeted by Venezuela’s kidnappers. The article says:

A wave of kidnappings across Venezuela is spreading fear and anger among communities who say that criminal gangs are out of control.

Hundreds of men, women and children have been swept off the streets in broad daylight and held for ransom, forcing their families to sell homes and other assets to buy their freedom.

The national assembly debated a bill last week that would make sentences of up to 30 years mandatory for kidnapping, as part of a long-promised government crackdown. Official figures released last week recorded 166 abductions so far this year, more than one a day. Most of the kidnappings go unreported and the real figure is estimated to be up to four times higher.

“It’s horrific. We have had four students abducted from the campus,” said Briceida Morales, a lecturer at Santa María University in Barinas, the worst hit state. “People are snatched from shopping malls. Women, children, pensioners, it doesn’t matter if you’re wealthy or not, they take anyone.”

In one incident, three men seized a three-year-old girl from her mother at a bus stop in a Barinas slum. The mother gave up the family’s most valuable possession, a fridge, to pay the ransom…

The virus infected neighbouring Venezuela about a decade ago when armed groups started seizing victims – especially farmers – in remote border areas.

“Even if they don’t kill you, you’ve got nothing left. Your home, your livelihood, everything you’ve built, gone,” said César García, 58, a rancher held for four months until his family paid a ransom.

The gangs realised that even poor families could drum up thousands of dollars by selling household possessions. “Insecurity has got worse and there is a sense of impunity,” said Jhonny Campos, a police commissioner in Caracas.

The topic inspired a former justice minister, Fermín Mármol León, to publish a thriller detailing four kidnappings. One family with showbusiness links ran a comedy night to raise a ransom. The relative was freed last month.

Some of the gangs use unlicensed taxi operators at the arrivals terminal of Caracas airport. European diplomats and American journalists have been among those who have had guns pulled on them.

So-called “express kidnappings” can end within days, or even hours, if the ransom can be drawn from cashpoints. A 2005 hit film, Secuestro Express, depicted a young couple’s terrifying night in a gang’s clutches in a seedy Caracas underworld. “Kidnappings are so common in Caracas I first thought they weren’t movie material,” said the writer and director, Jonathan Jakubowicz. “Every year Venezuela gets more violent. What has risen the most is kidnappings done by cops.”

Of 12 kidnap gangs identified by a special police unit, the CICPC, nine are linked to Colombian armed groups and three are home-grown, including one comprised of police officers. Local crime reporters say the proportion of home-grown groups is higher. They have nicknames such as “Los Invisibles” and “Los Rapiditos”.

The government hopes that freezing the assets of victims’ families, as well as tougher sentences, will curb the epidemic. Amid a rash of new abductions police celebrated one victory: two brothers, aged 14 and 16, were freed in Caracas after detectives intercepted a gang member collecting a bag he thought contained a £96,000 ransom. On his way there the kidnapper, Carlos Guerrero, texted his mother: “Mum I’m on my way to work, send me a blessing.”

Personally I feel that most criminal justice systems are seriously out of whack. Is it so insane to demand the death penalty for violent crimes like kidnapping, while advocating alternative sentencing and treatment for non-violent offenses like drug use or petty theft?

One of the basic jobs of any government is to ensure a certain minimum quality of life for its citizens, and that includes personal safety. The rise in violent crime, including kidnapping, has got to be stopped. I don’t know what that will take, but drastic situations call for drastic measures. Latin America as a whole needs to put a spotlight on this issue and come up with some serious solutions.

Dating Venezuelan Girls

Venezuelan girls

Venezuelan girls

I was just browsing today and came across this website called Road Junkie Travel. It’s got blog posts by travelers from many countries, including Venezuela. You can see the Venezuela page here:

http://www.roadjunky.com/article?c=Venezuela

There was a funny post by a guy named Seb Kennedy about dating Venezuelan girls. Apparently there are special challenges in dating a girl who expects drama, cheating, and general bad behavior from her man. He writes:

Put simply, dating Venezuelans is great if you are after a casual fling or a holiday romance. It’s when you enter into a proper relationship when the problems and cultural differences emerge.

Venezuela is an extremely macho country and girls almost expect their men to treat them badly. They expect them to periodically leave them at home and go out drinking all night with their mates, wind up at a brothel, and come home in a mess the next day. Then they will have an insane shouting match where things get thrown about, she ends up in a huff and he goes out on the piss again. Eventually they will make up, and they will be so in love it will make you sick until the next time he goes out to screw hookers.

When a Venezuelan girl doesn’t get this from her foreign boyfriend she will be very surprised and will either ask to marry you on the spot, or spend months trying to figure out why she isn’t being taken for granted. For some girls, haranguing their boyfriends is their second favourite pastime after gossiping, so they may miss the melodrama when they date a man from a country where women expect to be treated as equals.

For a foreign woman dating a Venezuelan man the relationship works in reverse. He will most likely be unfaithful to her, but will still rely on her to perform all manner of domestic duties. She may even find him turning up unannounced at her house with a huge bag of washing and a shirt missing a couple of buttons. Any attempt to engage in a discussion regarding gender equality will fall on deaf ears and will be dismissed as foreign nonsense.

There is a thriving gay scene in Caracas, catered for by a fair selection of gay bars. If you are lucky, you will find one playing host to a karaoke show featuring drag queens and transsexuals grinding away in enormous spangley stilettos to Madonna classics and “Sobrevivire” – “I Will Survive” in Spanish. It may seem unusual to find a lively gay scene in such a macho country, and although the word “marico” (queer) is a common insult among men and even women, the attitude of straight Venezuelans to homosexuality is typically one of slight amusement or bemused indifference, rather than the jeering ridicule you may expect.

Personally I’ve never dated a Latin American woman, but I have North American friends who have, and one of the complaints I’ve  heard consistently is the cavalier attitude of the women toward keeping dates and showing up on time. Of course they expect the same thing from the man, so to me it’s miracle that anyone ever actually gets together. Or maybe they get together just long enough to do the deed, which is perhaps why I see so many single young mothers. In some cases the father drops in from time to time to visit. But I’m getting off track.

Another complaint I’ve heard is that once you get something steady going with a girl, her entire family expects you to underwrite their expenses and fund their business ventures. It seems that you do actually have to lay something out – otherwise what would be the benefit to the girl of dating you? – but you also have to know where to draw the line between being generous and being a sucker.

Have you dated a Venezuelan girl? What was the experience like for you? Share your comments.

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

By Humberto Márquez

 

Gustavo Dudamel, Conductor

Gustavo Dudamel, Conductor

Source: IPSNews.net

 

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 Marlinmag.com. 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:

http://www.marlinmag.com/travel/south-america/dont-give-up-on-venezuela-52985-page-1.html