Venezuela The Cultural Melting Pot

The Culture of Venezuela is product of a very rich and diverse set of cultural traditions. A sort of melting pot culture has been created by wide influences, from the original American Indians to the Spanish and Africans who arrived after the Spanish conquest. Then 19th century and 20th century immigration brought many Italians, Portuguese, Arabs, Germans, and others from the bordering countries of South America. About 85% of Venezuelans live in urban areas in the northern part of the country. Although almost half of the land area is south of the Orinoco River, only 5% of the population live in that area. About 95% of the population call themselves Roman Catholic. The rest belong to other churches, mainly the Protestant church.
Venezuelan culture is indeed a mixture mainly of two main cultures: European (Italian and Spanish) and Indigenous. The Indigenous influence is found mostly in the typical food of the country (like arepas), in the vocabulary and in many place names. The capital of Caracas is named after the tribe of indigenous people that lived in the valley where the city now stands. The Italian and Spanish influence was of course the heaviest, and in particular the influence of the regions of Andalucia and Extremadura from which most of the colonial people came. Examples of the Spanish and Italian influence is easily found in the religion, language, architecture, music, food (pasticho, fabada austriana, fideos napolitanos) and other aspects of Venezuelan culture.
Venezuela was also enriched by other European cultures during the 19th Century, especially the French. Most recently, the large cities and oil-rich regions saw a large influx of again Italian, Spanish and Portuguese immigration, alongside American influences. Adding to the already complex cultural landscape, the fact that baseball (competing with soccer) is the country’s national sport demonstrates that the country’s culture has been particularly influenced by the United States.
Arguably, class difference is more important than racial difference in Venezuela (though class is also heavily inflected by race). Tropical and Afro-Venezuelan rhythms are enjoyed in all social circles, whenever there is a fiesta, wedding, quinceanera (15th birthday) parties or other festive occasions. A significant part of the population from all social classes listen to pop music, including American pop. Metal and heavy lovers are a minority. The difference between urban and rural areas is also important, as it is elsewhere in the world. Curiously, youngsters from low income families are the most keen on brand name clothes while middle class ones tend to give less importance to the labels.
High culture
Early 20th Century Venezuelan literature includes Teresa de la Parra, who wrote Las memorias de Mama Blanca (1929), a somewhat nostalgic look back at an idyllic youthful existence on a rural hacienda. Ramulo Gallegos is probably Venezuela’s most famous and influential author. Gallegos wrote Dona Barbara (also 1929), an allegory of the distinction between barbarism and civilization.
Roman Chalbaud is undoubtedly the country’s most important twentieth-century film director, with commercial and critical successes such as El pez que fuma (a satirical national allegory set in a brothel), though Venezuela has been more successful in exporting its popular media (particularly telenovelas) than in establishing a fully-fledged film industry.

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