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Venezuela: Culture of the Plains on the Internet

This post is the first in a series about the Venezuelan plains and its culture on the Internet

To get to know the culture of the Venezuelan plains, one must get to know its citizen media. In it, the natives from this region of Venezuela share distinct types of music, cooking, history and traditions, spread throughout the length and breadth of the territory. Citizens discuss oral traditions, and talk about music and celebrations.

For many, the culture of the plains is the most representative of the country. Its landscapes and customs form much of the written and oral literature. The plains culture extends to Colombia, too, and is also evidence of one of the many elements that link the cultures of both countries.

In this series, we will showcase work, opinions and stories that are shared in the different citizen media and which extoll, among other things, the expressions and the most genuine blending of the region.

In the “Veneciclopedia“, [es] a wiki of information about Venezuela, we find general information about the region:

Photo by Gunther Wegner, under license from Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Los llanos de Venezuela son un extenso sistema de praderas, bosques y sabanas inundables de gran importancia económica y biológica que cubre gran parte o la totalidad de los estados Apure, Barinas, Portuguesa, Cojedes, Guárico, Anzoátegui y Monagas de Venezuela. Forma parte del sistema de sabanas sudamericano, que en total cubre unos 269 millones de hectáreas, la mayoría de estas en Cerrados, Brasil (76%), y el resto compartida entre Los Llanos de Venezuela (11%, 28 millones de hectáreas) y los Llanos Orientales de Colombia (6%, 16-17 millones de hectáreas)

The plains of Venezuela are made up of an extensive system of grasslands, forests and floodplains of great economic and biological importance which covers all or a large part of the states of Apure, Barinas, Portuguesa, Cojedes, Guárico, Anzoátegui and Monagas in Venezuela. It forms part of the South American savannah system, totaling 269 million hectares [665 million acres], most of this in Cerrados, Brazil (76%), and the rest split between the Plains of Venezuela (11%, 28 million hectares/69 million acres), and the Plains of Eastern Colombia (6%, 16-17 million hectares/39-40 million acres).

As for the culture of the region, the Veneciclopedia [es] describes:

La cultura de los llanos ha marcado profundamente la identidad de Venezuela. Los llaneros, con su imagen romantizada de hombres a caballo viviendo de y luchando contra la naturaleza, ha representado por décadas al ideal de lo verdaderamente venezolano. Por ende, la cultura llanera, a pesar de su generalidad debido al gran número de estados que representa, se basa principalmente sobre el llanero y sus costumbres.

La música llanera es el represéntate [Sic] máximo de la cultura popular venezolana y es comúnmente utilizada como sinónimo de música venezolana. Esta música se distingue por el uso del arpa, las maracas y el cuatro. El baile de la región es el joropo, que también es el baile nacional de Venezuela, así como el liquiliqui o liquilique, indumentaria típica de los llanos, es el traje tradicional del país.

The culture of the plains has deeply influenced Venezuela’s identity. These plainsmen, with their romanticized image of men on horseback, living from and struggling against nature for decades, have represented the ideal of the true Venezuelan. Hence, the plains culture, in spite of the generalizations because of the large number of states it represents, is based mainly on the plainspeople and their customs.

Plains music is what most represents popular culture and is commonly used as a synonym for Venezuelan music. This music is distinguished by use of the harp, maracas (gourd rattle) and the cuatro (four-stringed guitar). The regional dance is the joropo, which is also the national dance of Venezuela, and the liqui liqui, typical clothing of the plains, is also the traditional attire of the country.

With regard to the environment and the literature, the blog by the Centro de Estudios del Llano [es] uses formal references and adds:

La tradición cultural colombo-venezolana atribuye al llanero marcada dependencia a “su geografía”. Lo cree Ovalles (1905) cuando estima, procedente del “medio”, su “entidad psicológica”, Rómulo Gallegos presumiendo una “tiranía de lo llano” expresada en ideología igualitaria y que hace pensar a Domingo Alberto Rangel (1974) que allí la naturaleza parece “superponerse a la especie humana, y por encima de las diferencias sociales”

Opinando De Armas Chitty (1952) que “en esa forja de la voluntad que es la intemperie, “la llanura guariqueña acusa físicamente dos geografías, y dentro de ellas, sicológicamente, dos perfiles”: el del Alto Llano, desconfiado, siendo abierto el del Llano Bajo, subrayando que “cada hombre se parece a su ambiente” (1979), añadiendo que “el llano ha creado, de acuerdo con su geografía, dos caracteres: al norte, reservado, malicioso, un hombre que trata de explorar la intención de la persona a quien se dirija antes de hablarle; al sur, el hombre difiere del otro porque parece no tener malicia. Se da sin reservas. Junto con la taza de café entrega un acento cordial que sólo da el hijo del alto-llano cuando se familiariza.

The Colombian-Venezuelan cultural tradition points to the plainsman's strong dependence on “his geography”. Ovalles believes this (1905) when he considers, coming from the “environment”, his “psychological element”, Rómulo Gallegos presuming a “tyranny of the plains”, expressed in egalitarian ideology, and which makes Domingo Alberto Rangel (1974) think that nature there seems to “superimpose itself on the human species, and above social differences.”

De Armas Chitty (1952) says that “in that forging of the will that is open space, the plains of Guarico exhibit two geographies, and inside of those, psychologically, two profiles:” that of the High Plains, suspicious, while the Lower Plains are open, underscoring that “every man resembles his environment” (1979), adding that “the plains have created, in accordance with their geography, two characters: in the north, reserved, defensive, a man who tries to figure out the intentions of a person before speaking to him; in the south, men defer to others because they are not defensive. He gives without reservation. Together with a cup of coffee, he delivers a warm tone that the child of the north only gives once he trusts more.

Of the literary works that have traditionally represented Venezuela, Doña Bárbara stands out as the most famous, and most adapted. The story of Doña Bárbara, now known as one of the most popular icons of the women of the plains with great strength of character, takes place on the Venezuelan plains. And this is just one of the many stories that take place in the region.

Statue dedicated to Marisela Barquero Guaymarán, Doña Barbara's daughter. State of Apure, Venezuela. Photo by Don Perucho, used with permission

Blogs like Casanare Puro Llano [es] and Letras Llaneras [es] are dedicated to sharing the written literature from and about the region, as well as some of the traditional stories that have been told from generation to generation. In the next installment, we will present some of these stories and a little more about the music. For now, we share an excerpt from the work of Armando Benavidez, shared by Letras Llaneras, which highlights the landscape of the plains and its historical importance:

[...]La imponente serranía del Cocuy mira el Llano Colombiano y se prolonga en Venezuela como si fuera un cordón umbilical. El hombre llanero lo ha mirado siempre como un templo milenario que congela hasta los dientes.

Este abuelo de nieve rememora la llegada de un hombre silencioso que buscaba El Dorado en los desfiladeros y bajó por vez primera a la indómita llanura. Ese hombre extraño portaba en las manos un mortífero trueno y una ideas distintas en una lengua impronunciable. El indio fue vencido por la bala y el acero y sometido a servidumbre [...]

El viejo Cocuy presenció en silencio la dura lucha del criollo Simón Bolívar, para expulsar del suelo Americano la primera potencia bélica del Mundo en ese entonces “España”. Este hombre providencial se alió con el Llanero de Colombia y Venezuela para otorgar la libertad a unos pueblos sumidos en el dolor y la desesperanza. […]

[...] The imposing mountain range of Cocuy overlooks the Colombian plains and extends through Venezuela like an umbilical cord. Plainsmen have always looked at it like an ancient temple that can chill to the bone.

This grandfather of snow recalls the arrival of a silent man who sought El Dorado in the passes and stepped on to the untamed plains for the first time. This strange man carried in his hands a deadly thunder and unusual ideas in an unpronounceable language. The Indian was defeated by bullets and steel and subjugated to servitude. [...]

The old Cocuy witnessed in silence their native Simón Bolívar’s hard fight to drive from American soil what was then the most powerful military force in the world—Spain. This providential man allied himself with the plainsmen of Colombia and Venezuela to bring freedom to a people steeped in pain and despair. [...]

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