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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

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According to Billboard Music, the band Mongrel is “genre smashing”. The supergroup promotes peace and political consciousness in their lyrics.

Comprised of  members from several bands, including Reverend & the Makers, Poisonous Poets, Arctic Monkeys, and Babyshambles, Mongrel is set to put some Venezuelan flavor in their tunes.

This month they’ll travel to Venezuela to launch a musical program and give a free show.

Mongrel is dedicated to sharing music and will give away thousands of CDs when they arrive in Caracas later this month. 400,000 copies of their last album “Better than Heavy” were distributed for free throughout Britain.

They’ll also make an appearance on the President Chavez’s weekly television show Aló Presidente. Plans are in the works to do a new album based on Jamaican reggae and Venezuela folk music, hopefully featuring Damian Marley.

Watch this video of their song “The Menace”.

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Debuting soon is a new documentary about Colonia Tovar, the German settlement that lies just 60 kilometers outside of Caracas, but is culturally much further removed. The community, a small but well-touristed village of perhaps 6,000 people, was founded in 1840 by the intrepid Italian geographer Agostino Codazzi.

Colonia Tovar provides the setting for “María y el nuevo mundo” (Maria and the New World), the first full-length film from Venezuelan director George Walker Torres. It tells the story of a middle-aged woman who struggles to survive on a garbage dump and dreams of being reunited with her daughter. A parallel is drawn between her search to create a better life and that of the initial founders of the town.

The documentary is promoted by Venezuela’s National Film Board, or Centro Nacional Autónomo de Cinematografía (CNAC). Read more in Spanish. Check back here to watch the trailer once it’s available.

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Intercultural education will soon become a reality in Venezuela, if Professor Angela Diaz has anything to do with it.

She spoke at at a public event today in Washington sponsored by TransAfrica Forum. Diaz has been making her way around the U.S. capital,  speaking at Howard University and meeting Members of Congress to discuss the Afro-Venezuelan experience.

Diaz is a member of the Network of Afro-Venezuelan Organizations (La Red de Organizaciones Afrovenezolanas), has worked tirelessly over the past decade to help create a more inclusive education system. Like the U.S., Afro-descendants and Indigenous peoples in Venezuela have been too often distorted or omitted from public school curricula. Due to the work of people like Diaz, Venezuelan students will learn about all the ethnic groups that built the South American continent.

The new inclusive curriculum has been implemented in 17 states so far. Part of the process involves inviting community elders into the schools to teach.  In one school, grandparents taught students how to make a fish recipe, which is stuffed in a plantain leaf. Fish is a vital resource for residents along the Caribbean coast, many of whom identify as Afro-Venezuelan. Along with the recipe, the children learned about history, culture, art, and the environment. Sharing ancestral knowledge is the key to transmitting what has been left out of the history books.

Diaz emphasized that students are inspired when they can see themselves and their communities represented in their lessons. See more of Professor Diaz’s work with Fundación Curduvare.

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Johan Santana, the star pitcher for the Mets who hails from Venezuela, says that despite elbow problems he will be ready for Spring training on Thursday and wants to pitch opening day on April 6th.

“Right now, I feel pretty good, and I felt like I could get in a game,” he told the New York Daily News. This is despite the fact that he did not pitch in the recent World Baseball Classic, disappointing Venezuelans.

Santana told Newsday: “I haven’t skipped anything. Just staying with the plan. Hopefully whenever it’s the time, the right time, to get on the field, we’ll do it. We’ll get on the mound. But as of right now, there’s no reason to have that competition mind-set. It’s just about getting ready for Opening Day.”

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The arepa is truly a food without borders. Though it is emblematic of Venezuela, the savory cornmeal snack has a presence abroad, too! Here are some suggestions for where to find arepas in the U.S.:

In New York, the Caracas Arepa Bar (pictured above) is located on 7th St. the East Village. Here, rumor has it you are nearly required to to try Venezuelan-style guacamole, called guasacaca. Rivals El Cocotero are over on West 18th St.

Lucky for folks in Boston, the up-and-coming Orinoco has two locations, one in the South End and another in Brookline.  They have a nice date-worthy ambiance and also sell t-shirts with funny slogans like “arepa boy” and “no se aceptan sifrinos!” (no snobs allowed!).

This may not be the policy at Coupa Cafe in Beverley Hills and Palo Alto, which claims to sell “the finest mountain grown single estate coffees from Venezuela.” It has an entire section of its menu dedicated to gourmet arepas.

Surely Miami is home to the highest density of Venezuelan eateries, but we recommend you try this one first: Caballo Viejo (named for a famous folkloric song by Simon Diaz ) has been described as a “hole-in-the-wall” and a “mom and pop” restaurant that is clean and simple.

Where else do you like to eat arepas? Let us know in the comments section.

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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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Caracas is full of clowns. And acrobats. And jugglers. Yesterday marked the start of the ninth annual International Circus Festival of Venezuela.

According to TeleSur, it includes performances by artists from Chile, Mexico, Peru, Spain, and Italy, as well as seven different groups of performers from Venezuela. The event runs until Sunday and includes free shows for the public.

A series of workshops and discussions will also be held at the festival to gather ideas for how to improve the circus arts in Venezuela. We have written before about an initiative to create a national circus. It seems that plans are continuing, and with any luck, the country will soon be defying the laws of gravity as never before.

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