Barcelona - one of S.A.'s oldest cities


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We took a wonderful tour through Barcelona, the capital of Anzoátegui State, Venezuela, with Andres [next to Dave in the picture]  Andres lived in Denver for three years so he speaks excellent English and was able to translate for us.  We really enjoyed learning from him.  Bob and Susan from Pipe Dream, another trawler, accompanied us.  Bob is known as the "Mayor" of our marina and his lovely wife Susan is a nurse from Austria.  


Barcelona was founded in 1671, and is integrated with Puerto La Cruz. Barcelona is where the airport that links both cities to other parts of the country is so all of our guests will fly into this city.


However, unlike Puerto La Cruz, Barcelona has well-preserved colonial architecture. Due to its historical buildings and tourism infrastructure, the city offers attractive options for the tourists visiting the eastern coast of Venezuela.


Colonial buildings surround the Plaza Boyaca, [below] the original plaza built when the city was founded. The city's cathedral, [immediately below] named Iglesia El Carmen, was built between 1748 and 1773; a long period that included extensive repairs for damages caused by an earthquake. The surroundings there are very quaint and picturesque, contrasting with the modernism found in the center of the city.  Notice the gold gilt everywhere.  Also read about the crypt below.


On the Avenida 5 de Julio there is La Casa Fuerte (strong house), a national historic monument which was Initially constructed on the ruins of the old Convento de San Francisco.


In 1811, during the independence war, La Casa Fuerte was taken by the founders of the republic and turned into a fortification by Simón Bolívar, being equipped with two canons to defend the city from the attacks of his opponents. After several attacks on April 17, 1817, the house was taken and destroyed by the royal forces, which then went on decapitating all of its residents. It stands now as a reminder of the independence spirit. Andres told us that 1,500 people perished there, defenseless; there is a statue of Eulolia Buroz, a woman who died in its defense.


Between Barcelona and Puerto La Cruz is the development of El Morro, an immense complex built to house thousands of tourists and Venezuelans in condos, apartments and hotels. The complex is home to many marinas and boatyards and is a popular cruising destination for yachtsmen. This is where we are staying.


Many water channels crisscross the complex, affording virtually every dwelling access to the sea. One of the most ambitious developments within el Morro is the Maremares Resort and Spa, originally built by Daniel Camejo. Once a five-star hotel that hosted a summit between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba Prime Minister Fidel Castro, it has fallen on hard times and its pools, lagoons, and golf courses are poorly maintained.


At one point in early 2006, its entire air conditioning plant was non-functional for several weeks and guests difficult to walk down the pier at its marina without tripping over sprung planks. Close to El Morro is the modern shopping center Centro Comercial Plaza Mayor, built in the colorful Dutch colonial style, similar to those found in Curaçao.  This is where we do our shopping


The principal beaches that surround Barcelona and Puerto La Cruz can be found on the El Morro isthmus, and include Isla de Plata, Conoma, Arapito, Cangrejo, Lecherias and playa Mansa. These beaches offer many open-air restaurants that serve delicious seafood dishes. Puerto La Cruz is also the entry point of Mochima National Park, one of the most spectacular in the country. From its port, the tourist can take a ferry to Margarita Island, and also hire a boat to take a ride to the neighboring islands, such as Las Chimanas, Cachicamo and Borracha. At the end of the day, tourists and local people go to the Paseo Colón (Columbus promenade) to take a walk, preparing their appetite for a nice dinner in one of the various restaurants of the area.

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Above is the crypt that holds the remains of an Italian soldier during the crusades that was made a Saint by the Pope.  In order to qualify as a Cathedral, you must have the remains of a Saint so here they are.

On the right is the stairway leading to the balcony where all of the elite sat.  The peons sat downstairs.  Below is the main square, which is dedicated to General Anzeoatequi, who fought along side of Simon Bolivar during the War of Independence from the Spanish in 1811.  Below also is the Virgin of the Valley, a statue that was decorated in one of the shop windows illustrating the importance that they place on this festival.  All in all, I loved Barcelona.  It was quiet and peaceful and truly quaint - like the French Quarter, in the middle of New Orleans.  The museums were truly interesting as was the history.  Andres was a great tour guide.


INTERVIEW. Benito Irady discusses the importance of mass-participation in cultural activities in a socialist Venezuela


 The culture of inclusion


The director of the Center for Cultural Diversity shared his understanding of the role that culture should play in the process of socialist reform.  He believes the center is a necessary part of this vision, increasing indigenous and Creole representation in the public sphere.  However, the focus on traditional cultures could undermine efforts to include all sectors of society.  


Yesterday’s article in this section of The Daily Journal introduced readers to the Center for Cultural Diversity and the various projects which this semi-autonomous government-funded institution is and has been involved in. The center is dedicated to preserving and celebrating ethnic traditions in all their manifestations, providing a space for the voice of communities which have been to varying degrees marginalized as a result of industrialization and modernization.

Two years ago, the retired rector of the Universidad del Oriente, Benito Irady, became director of what was then the Foundation of Ethnomusicology and Folklore (FUNDEF). Last August, when FUNDEF was upgraded and re-branded as the Center for Cultural Diversity, Irady took on the task of what he described as “converting an institution into a more liberalized model which allows more space for dialogue.”



In an exclusive interview with this newspaper, Irady explained his vision for the role of culture in the process of socialist reform that Venezuela is currently undergoing, and how the Center for Cultural Diversity which he heads fits into this scheme.

Central to this vision are the concepts of inclusion and participation, which Irady made repeated references to during the discussion which took place on the first floor of the center’s headquarters in Los Rosales.

“There is no doubt that the Constitution establishes that the country is multi-ethnic and multicultural. This same Constitution establishes that popular cultures, which constitute ‘Venezuelanism’, ought to enjoy special attention. We noted that that there was a lack of a multi-ethnic focus within the cultural institutions of Venezuela, and what we are looking to demonstrate [is that] culture should have a space in which everyone can participate.”



I put it to Irady that there are certain sectors of the country – in many cases, those that voted against President Chávez in the recent elections – that do not identify with the process of revolution that the country is undergoing. I added that these sectors are those that could benefit most from the much-touted mantra of inclusion, as a means of reconciliation to lower tensions.

He agreed, but maintained that any sense of exclusion being felt by any sector of society is a direct and deliberate result of their own actions, citing as an example the opposition’s “refusal” to participate in the National Assembly elections in 2005.

Irady made it clear that he disagreed with this approach, emphasizing that the opposition “should participate and have representation in parliament”, adding that “the most appropriate thing would be for them to get involved.” But he stressed that this should happen on the condition that they “understand that Venezuela has entered into a significant process of change” – one which he went on to describe as “inevitable” and which “affects every Venezuelan”.



This being the case, the Center for Cultural Diversity can clearly be identified as the instrument in this process which performs the constitutionally-required function of re-invigorating the cultural practices of traditional communities, both indigenous and Creole. Laudable and necessary though this is, if the mandate of inclusion is to be followed to the letter, it should not occur to the detriment of any other culture – although this would appear not to be the case.

By prioritizing one under-represented sector over another which is less so, what is actually happening is a process of reverse discrimination, the result of which has already manifested itself in the national museums and galleries.



Consider, for example, “La Veta Util”, the current exhibition of ethnic wooden objects at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Informative and educational though this exhibition clearly is, it does not appear entirely logical for a gallery which is dedicated to displaying the cultural products of modern (and post-modern) society to display objects whose means of production have not changed for decades or even centuries.

But this is exactly what giving popular cultures “special attention” in the nation’s cultural institutions implies – something which is regrettable when this overrides an institution’s defining function, as in the above case.

The positive work being done by the Center for Cultural Diversity should not be overlooked or undervalued, but it is perhaps more a task for the Ministry of Culture to ensure that their operations do not result in the exclusion of those cultures that fall outside of the center’s pro-ethnic remit.