"Chávez is way fucked up. He's the worst, he's the worst."
I've been listening to Devendra Banhart a lot over the last few weeks, his two recent albums. Enjoying them both very much, after adjusting to his odd quavering voice. There's so many beautiful lines in his lyrics.
I came across an interview with him in Amsterdam from earlier this year (click above). Invariably, as it always happens nowdays when talking to a Venezuelan, the inevitable topic came up during the interview. Banhart said:
"Chávez is way fucked up. He's the worst, he's the worst. Hasn't done a single thing for the country. Yeah, he's so fucked up, so fucked up. Paying the poor people to say that they love him. You know what I mean? That kind of shit. You know, this totally pseudo-communism bullshit. About if you have two washer machines you're gonna give one to the people. That's such bullshit. All he did was change the name of the country..."
He goes on about it a bit more, but you get idea. He also talks about not wanting to go back to Venezuela, feeling he was lucky to have left when he did at 13, even though much of his family still lives in Caracas. Reminds me of my younger brother who, ever since we left in 1982, has no desire to return. He and I travelled there together in the early 1990s and had an excellent time. He went back on his own later but hasn't returned since 1995. After hearing about the problems my sister and I had at the DIEX two years ago in Caracas, my brother has vowed to never return until Chávez is gone.
I imagine this blog could just as well be called poetics. What is it that's made me so intent on identifying with Venezuela, ever since I left? For most of my life, it's been a memory or photographs, voices over the phone or books. The seven years I lived there as a child were not idyllic in any way. My Venezuela has always been about dispersal, exile, brevity, the city and the myriad shades of green in the jungles and mountains that surround Caracas. How the green looks under the moonlight when driving from there to Rio Chico, stopping for cafe con leche on the highway, the views of the coast throughout Barlovento and the mountains seen from a car in Anzoategui, mountains that steadily pulled the rain out of the low-flying clouds.
But the violence, vanity and backwardness that Banhart mentions in this interview were also a part of my experience. Maybe I was subconsciously aware that I would spend very little time there, so I fixated on the country, on how to make it portable. Caracas culture, at least my experience of it, has always been cosmopolitan, impure, a mixture of the North American and the European and the African and the indigenous, ad infinitum. Distance distorts my memories.
Open this new year with love.
I've been editing the manuscript of Caracas Notebook recently. It's more or less done. It has taken on its own life and direction (for which I'm grateful) and what I've tried to do is simply edit it according to what the text requires. If anyone would like a pamphlet version, email me and I'll gladly send you one.
It's built around three voices, which repeat themselves with variations. A map Caracas (radiography?) but also of Boston and Tampa. Numerology and an affinity for couplets.
Thank you for reading this blog. Peace.