Maracaibo

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I left off at the bit about the 12 hour bus ride. It wasn´t too bad, mostly thanks to the long, interesting conversation I had with the priest. I found out that in Zulia, the state where most of Venezuela´s wealth comes, the people strongly dislike Hugo Chavez. The priest explained(and this was re-established with every other person I talked to in Maracaibo) that Chavez is nothing more than a dictator bent on spreading Marxism throughout Latin America. That, and a combination of Chavez´s narcissistic desire for more and more power. At this point, Chavez has changed the constitution to lift the restriction on term limits and owns almost all of the media. He also tends to put his political opponents in jail and thus Venezuela is frighteningly close to a dictatorship. The priest came up with elaborate hypotheticals in which Chavez would be thrown out of power. Here is one: Colombia and Venezuela get into a war and then the US backs the former, and then Chavez is kicked out. One last thing about Chavez and state. All over Maracaibo there is strongly worded anti-chavez grafiti. Manuel Rosales name (former political opponent who fled to Asylum so Chavez couldn´t put him in jail) is still plastered on many of the public buses.

On the the aesthetics. Maracaibo is hot, very hot. The first night we stayed at a roach hotel, which was far too small for the sizeable three of us. We upgraded the next day and started our tour of the city. Maracaibo is a city of about 2 million, and it is the center for Venezuela´s oil industry. For breakfast, we went to Mcdonald´s. I know, I know, you´d think it wasn´t that cultural, but you´d be wrong. On the menu, the breakfast included a ubiquitous local type of food–the Arepa. Pretty tasty, though Jamie doesn´t like it. Despues, we flagged down a cab to head to the city center, where the tourist destinations are. The cab driver spoke fluent english, as he had studied in the States way back in the day. He explained a lot of the historical landmarks of Maracaibo, and was generally a friendly guy. Once in the center, we stopped at various landmarks. First was the brightly blue colored Iglesia de Santa Barbara. It was pretty, and a relief to go inside to escape the sweltering Carribbean sun. Inside, the Church was modestly decorated, yet it still struck me as beatiful in a certain way. Also, it was the oldest church in maracaibo.

Next, we went to El Teatro Basalt. Ah, the air conditing inside was great. Two friendly, english speaking punk rockers showed us the theater and explained its history. The Theater was spacious, and had a ceiling painted in some sort of beautiful manner(i´m not good at describing art). The theatre was founded in the 19th century and was the showed the first movie in South America, a short two weeks after the U.S. showed its first movie.

After that, we walked down a calming, fountain-clad promenade in which a 30 foot high, bright white statute of the Virgin de Chichinquira loomed high in the sky. The Virgin is a venerated figure in Maracaibo. Like in Mexico, some campesina found a piece of clothing or something, and there was some miraculous image of Mary incarnate(i’m probably wrong, here). At the far end of the promenade, the Basicala de Chichinquira, with its exquisite external facade, stood. The Basilica had the image of the V irgin on the high altar. The inside of the Basicala was ornate, yet somehow it did not rank as high as the Santa Barbara Church in my eyes.

It is hard to tour in these hot temperatures. We called our English-Speaking cabbie to pick us up and so we eventually-after stopping at the mall–got back to our hotel.

In the hotel, we went from our room to the elevator, so we could get to the Pool. Two Venezuelans were on the elevator when we stepped inside. Once we stepped inside, an alarm bell went off and a button that said sobrecarga lit up red. Sobrecarga means too much weight. We had pushed the elevator over its weight limit–we be fatttttttt! Ok, I´m off to Playa Grande. Have a good day.

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