Archive for January, 2009


If you’re in the Miami area this Saturday, check out an exhibit by Nestor Paz called “Textures of the Soul” at the Edgar Ace Gallery. Above is one of his canvasses entitled El Venus en la cama (Venus in bed).

Paz is a native of Venezuela, and has been an artist since early childhood.  He studied painting and sculpture at the Conservatoria Cultural de Zulia and graduated from the Universidad Cecilio Acosta in the city of Maracaibo.

The exhibit is noted today in a Miami Herald blog.

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Venezuelan-owned Citgo Petroleum held its official launch of the 2009 home heating oil assistance program today in Washington, DC. A press conference was held in the backyard of one recipient, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in the Northeast neighborhood of Petworth. In the picture above, Kathy Boylan expresses her appreciation for the much-needed help.

Citgo President Alejandro Granado (pictured above) said:

We are making an enormous effort. Despite the limited resources available at the moment, we are continuing the program as a demonstration of the solidarity of the Venezuelan people. Our critics have called this political, and it is true: our politics are aimed at building bridges between the people of Venezuela and the United States.

In 2009, the fourth year of the program, some 40 to 45 million gallons of home heating oil will be distributed in the U.S. through Citizens Energy at a cost of about $75 million. The resources will benefit around 200,000 homes across 23 states.

AP coverage is available in English and Spanish.

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The World Social Forum began yesterday in Belém, Brazil, a city located at the edge of the Amazon Rainforest. The Presidents of Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Paraguay (pictured above from left to right) are attending this massive ninth annual event, which brings leaders and citizens together under the slogan “Another World is Possible.”

The summit coincides with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. With economies across the globe in crisis, the alternative view provided by the Social Forum is particularly important this year. Here is what people are saying about the forum:

We are raising our voices as a wake-up call to the world, especially the rich countries that are hastening its destruction… [for] we are the ones who were born and raised in the middle of the forest, and who lead a lifestyle that contrasts with the ambition of capitalism, which does not bring benefits to all.

Edmundo Omoré of Brazil’s Xavante Indigenous community

We are launching an SOS to the world. The planet is in danger and is heading for destruction. That’s why we’re here asking for solidarity. …The big multinationals are going into our territories, sometimes with the help of paramilitaries, sometimes with the assent of the government, pushing out our own communities. And those who resist are persecuted.

— Miguel Palacin, Andean Coordination of Indigenous Organizations

Indigenous and environmental issues top the agenda this year. See coverage from the BBC, AFP, and IPS. A good video can be found at Euronews.

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The wildly popular Mexican norteño band Los Tigres del Norte has a new song about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez called “Corrido de un Hombre Valiente” (The Song of a Brave Man).

The song is a corrido, a traditional a Mexican musical style often used to recount the stories of legendary figures and heroes. Chávez’s corrido tells of his struggle to defeat corruption and alleviate the suffering of the Venezuelan people. Los Tigres applaud the Bolivarian movement, singing:  “the elderly and the children have education and health.”

They call President Chávez “a great example and a great man,” and express hope that other countries in Latin America will follow his example.

Click here to listen. Article in Spanish.

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Hey soccer fans! On Sunday, Venezuela’s national team, the “vino tinto” emerged victorious against Peru after a hard-fought game. SoccerNews.com reports: “Venezuela too Strong for Peru.”

The FIFA Under-20 South America Cup is currently underway in Venezuela, and after Sunday’s win, the country is on course for a spot in the final game.

This is the fourth time Venezuela has hosted the regional sporting event, where rising stars of soccer showcase their talent.

The games will be held in three stadiums in the cities of Puerto Ordaz, Maturin and Puerto La Cruz which also hosted the 2007 Copa America (Americas Cup). The U-20 Cup will run for 35 games.

See more info in English and in Spanish

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Marco Granados has just released a new disc entitled The Music of Venezuela. The master flutist’s latest work is composed of 16 traditional pieces accompanied by the cuatro, bass, and percussion.

Granados, called a virtuoso by music critics, has had a long and active international career as a soloist, chamber musician, and teacher.  He has  also shared his gift by conducting musical workshops for children in Guatemala and South Africa.

Granados’ works range from classical to folk, but always maintains that Venezuelan flavor.

Here’s a great review from EJazz.

Check out Marco and and his band Un Mundo performing a traditional Venezuelan Gaita:

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S. Schaefer

Hey science fans! Did you know that Venezuela is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world? You can find animals there that live nowhere else.

Ichthyologists Francisco Provenzano from Universidad Central de Venezuela and Scott Schaefer of the American Museum of Natural History have found a previously unknown species of climbing catfish. Lithogenes wahari appears to be an evolutionary marvel.

One fish was discovered in a remote region of Venezuela’s Amazonas state nearly 20 years ago, but good and plentiful specimens weren’t found until recently. The catfish was eventually found in large numbers in the Cuao River, a tributary of the Orinoco.

The fish are bony and armored, have a “specialized pelvic fin” and a “grasping mouth” that allow them to climb onto rocks in a locomotion similar to that of an inchworm. Lithogenes wahari evolved to adapt to rapidly changing water levels in the Venezuelan Amazon.

Check out these links from Live Science to learn more.

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oliver-stone-chavezOliver Stone and crew have been hard at work on a documentary about the Venezuelan Revolution, starring President Chavez and “huge cast of characters.”  According to Stone, Chavez is a “world changer” full of “intoxicating” energy. The film will explore the progress he has inspired in Venezuela and the region.

Stone interviewed people throughout the United States and Latin America and says he has enough footage “for two documentaries.” The film is meant to “capture the spirit” of the social movements in Venezuela and will be released in a few months.

Check back here for more info when the film is released!

In the meantime, check out these great articles from Variety and the AP.

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Wondering what you’ll have to look forward after Obama’s inauguration comes and goes and all the parties are over?

Here’s something: the arrival of “the Dude.” That’s right, Venezuela’s master conductor Gustavo Dudamel comes to the U.S. to lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic next season.

He’s in New York this month conducting Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, and after that, he’s off to California.

Check out the latest from The Economist.

UPDATE: Somehow we missed this article from the Guardian about “El Sistema,” the world-famous youth music education program on which Dudamel was weaned.

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copia-de-mision-sucre-1UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics says that Venezuela has the second-highest rate of university enrollment in Latin America. At 83% enrollment, Venezuela is second only to Cuba, and far above the regional average of just 30%, Radio Nacional de Venezuela reports.

To keep up the momentum, Venezuela is opening several new institutions of higher education this year.

Last Tuesday, President Chavez announced that the following five new public universities would soon open their doors: The University of Hydrocarbons, National University of Security Studies, University of the Peoples of the South, School of Telecommunications and Computer Science, and University Institute of Civil Aviation.

Venezuela’s National Council of Universities has also approved 22 new majors in everything ranging from tourism to nursing to petroleum and sugar engineering.

Much of the progress made on education in Venezuela can be attributed to the country’s social missions, which have helped change the lives of millions of citizens. “Mission Alma Mater” builds new universities and learning spaces to meet the needs of the increasing number of students seeking higher education. “Mission Sucre” has greatly expanded the country’s higher education system, with the goal of granting universal access to public universities.

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Las 4 Monedas (The Four Coins) are pioneers of Venezuelan ska and reggae. The band, originally known as Los Hermanos O’Brien, was composed of the O’ Brien siblings Marlene, Kenny, Brenda, and Gary. The famous Venezuelan composer and producer Hugo Blanco discovered them in 1968 and changed their name.

Las 4 Monedas represents Venezuela’s “first wave” of reggae-rocksteady and was the first Venezuelan group to record a reggae song. That song,  “Buena Suerte” (Good Luck), is set to the tune of Desmond Dekker’s “007 (Shanty Town)” and is still popular in Venezuela today. The band toured the world, performing in Europe, Israel, and throughout Latin America.

Las 4 Monedas translated numerous English-language classics into Spanish, including Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe,” and Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.”

For more information and a discography check out these links.

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Si se puede! A Venezuelan pianist groomed by the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra will be performing at the inauguration of President elect Obama next week.

Her name is Gabriel Montero. She will perform with the master cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and clarenetist Anthony McGill — get this — right before Barack Obama takes the oath of office.

Montero says: “I’m very excited to be part of this great day. It’s going to be a great moment for the entire world.”

Montero is now a naturalized U.S. citizen. She first came north on an educational scholarship from the Venezuelan government.

In the clip below, watch her take a silly ditty that is the theme song for the BBC children’s program The Wombles and turn it into an amazingly beautiful improvised piece. Improvisation is Montero’s trademark, according to the New York Times.

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