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Venezuela's Paradura leading to Reservoir Dogs finale

By Aleksander Boyd

London 24.03.07 | In Venezuela's Andean provinces, between 1st of January and the beginning of February, people celebrate a religious event called "la paradura del niño." As the name suggests it consists in taking Jesus figure out of the Christmas crib and walkabout with it, in the pretence that Jesus the child (niño) can stand up already. The whole thing is seasoned with much miche callejonero (very strong spirit made from sugar cane), food, chimo (tobaco paste for chewing) music of course and performed by humble peasants. Dulce Jesus mio, mi niño adorado, ven por nuestras almas, ven no tardes tanto..." thus starts the main song, which considering the inebriated status of most of the singers and violin players is closer to noise than to a carol. The first time I went to a paradura I simply couldn't stop laughing: the hilarious lack of rhythm and tempo amidst the seriousness of those singing and playing seemed surreal. On the way back home my father told me "if one were to lock in a room Bach, Strauss, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini and the greatest singers of all time, and ask of them to reproduce what we've just seen, they would most probably fail."

The point is not to mock a serious and widespread religious festivity, nor to undermine the artistic abilities of the less educated, but rather to try and give a flavour of an utterly disorderly spectacle, in which every person involved sings, plays or acts at own rhythm without the slightest regard vis-a-vis the rest. Coherence must be the last thing those happy drunkards have in mind.

Venezuela's politics resembles very much a paradura; mind you the country is ruled by a bunch of extremely ignorant power-drunkards, each going at own tempo in total disregard of the rest. The lead character is so ill equipped for the task that to expect any form of coherence is tantamount to flying pigs. A conscious effort to replicate the current mess by thinking people would be equally unsuccessful. What Chavez is doing in Venezuela is one of those unique and extremely rare spectacles. Similar performances are hard to find, although Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe could be put in the same category, or was it the other way around?

For some time I have argued that the best thing to do now, as I did the first time I saw a paradura, is to sit and enjoy the show. The news coming out of Chavez's Venezuela make Garcia Marquez's magic realism démodé. We see dysfunctional people failing to run a banana republic and ferociously attacking each other since the opposition is even less capable of mounting half decent platforms. The only thing that can be expected from such individuals is a replica of Reservoir Dogs finale, in which all the stupid crooks kill each other. Trying to rationalise the deranged actions of Chavez and his minions is not only impossible but entirely futile. As Daniel rightly commented "the country is circling down the drain and the NYT (and many other papers and blogs such as yours truly) are watching in a strange mix of awe, bewilderment and amusement."

Hugo Chavez needs the world's encouragement though, as the showman he is he needs to be reminded that the show must go on and be told "te la estas comiendo tigre, sigue asi" as often as possible. Indeed the show is getting really interesting, let us hope that the shootout starts soon.

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