Sobremesa Chronicles

platanos-calados-085“Who comes from Colombia to Venezuela? These are people who come with no education, without a penny in their pocket, it’s the poor who come fleeing … Venezuela has become a magnet, a guarantee for social rights for the Colombian people. I have to say it, and I ask for your understanding … I don’t offend Colombia by telling the truth, that Venezuela is hurting, because of all the poverty and the misery coming from Colombia … but aside from that, we get drug trafficking, mafias, and here we are, making sure Venezuela is a territory free of drugs, we are the victims, let’s open our eyes. And now, we are the victims of paramilitaries brought by the right, and send by Colombia’s far right.” Nicolás Maduro, yesterday.

It’s easy to tear one’s clothes over Maduro’s latest outburst. Channeling his inner Trump (although, to be fair, this goes far beyond anything Trump has said), Maduro basically blamed Colombia’s poor for crossing the border to become criminals, drug smugglers, and the worst thing you can be in the eyes of a chavista – a paramilitary. But Maduro points to something many Venezuelans would sadly agree with – that Colombia is the source of our problems.

More than a cliché, that’s a damn shame.

There are other elements missing from Maduro’s speech: Colombian lorry drivers who bring the food that we need in order to live. Colombian business people still willing to invest in our country. Colombian airplanes, who are practically our sole remaining link to the outside world. And the Colombian guerrilla group, the FARC, who have decided Venezuela is a great place to decamp in, thanks to the generous courtesy offered by the President.

But that’s beside the point, because the issue here is not Maduro and his obscene stupidity – one that he has repeated on several occassions. Maduro is just not interesting enough for a discussion. No, the issue that I propose you bring to the sobremesa is the xenophobic feelings that run deep in Venezuela society.

When I was in high school, we had a Japanese exchange student in our school. (Yes, times were different back then, Japanese exchange students would come to … Maracaibo!) His name was Hiroshi, and he quickly became one of the guys. We used to tease him by calling him “chino!”, ’cause we were teenagers. It would drive him up the wall. He was desperate for a way to best respond, and he found it – when we kept on calling him “chino,” he would respond, “¡CALLÁTE, COLOMBIANO!”

All of us have heard, at one point or another, an anti-Colombian screed within our midst. Resentment towards Colombians is widespread, but I have never heard anyone in the presence of hate speech such as that say “STOP.” Whether it’s our saintly aunt, a chatty taxi driver, or even the Venezuelan lady who does our laundry, anti-Colombian feelings are ugly, demeaning, and at this juncture in our joint history, almost laughable.

Many of the Colombians I have encountered in Venezuela are wonderful people. It is a blessing to have them in our country, and it is sad that many are leaving, asphixiated just like everyone else by our neverending crises.

The question then becomes when, as a society, will we put a stop to this disgusting stereotype? When will we start calling out our loved ones for their demeaning clichés about Colombians and crime – as if Venezuela wasn’t a nation of pranes. When will we start acknowledging that Maduro may be a racist buffoon, but he is channeling talk that we have heard in many places, around many a previous sobremesas, many times to our acquiescence. Isn’t it time we spoke up?

Have a good weekend, everyone.

52 thoughts on “Sobremesa Chronicles

  1. Remember “Los Colombianos” on Radio Rochela? Emilio Lovera & Co. Or the many skits about “portus”, my personal favorite was a commercial for VIM, a cleaning product, featuring Joselo: “VIM Bueinash”, he’d say as the ever-present bimbo walked into the scene.. They were funny at times, sure, but in hindsight, very disrespectful.

    “Cállate colombiano”… Or, “Sí eres bruto: portugués!”… Demeaning comments aimed at some of the hardest working people in the country.

    The joke’s on us, though, Colombia’s a serious country, we’re anything but that.


  2. Isn’t Maduro descendan of the working class Colombians who came to Venezuela? This would be like Marco Rubio speaking against Cuban immigrants in Florida. Beyond parody,


  3. Does Chavismo ever blame anyone besides
    -Colombia (although usually it’s aimed at Uribe and his ‘secret army’)
    -Opposition saboteurs
    -Exxon and co. (even though his regime has many business dealings with them)

    It seems to all revolve around that? Can’t they come up with something new. Get’s boring.


    • of course, comrade! just to name a few: Spain, capitalism, the 4th Republic, the media, I even remember one time when milk scarcity was blamed on the Chinese…


      • I remember that! That was at the same time as they were claiming that the entire world was in the midst of a global food shortage and that, thanks to Chavismo, Venezuelans were much better off than the rest of the world.


  4. I read that the sweeps of barrios for ‘criminals’ by the National Guard types often report they have found/arrested ‘illegal’ Colombians. Perhaps, with things going so badly, Maduro et al are trying to play on what you describe and scapegoat Colombians, no?


    • That’s probably going to backfire. Chavez went and gave a lot of these folks cedulas and they vote, Maduro alienating a sizeable chunk of his electorate isn’t going to help his party with the AN.


  5. This Maduro speech is one of the most reactionary things I have ever read in my life. I thought we were all part of a Bolivarian Patria Grande, where our poor could easily cross borders to receive governmental arepas from any beloved socialist leader they choose as father/mother. I thought that Cristina, Dilma, Evo, Nicolas and Rafael were free of this sort of prejudice against the most vulnerable in our societies. I thought that they saw criminals as victims that needed more help, love and compassion than anything else. I thought that with this revolution our poor uneducated masses would be welcomed by the Bolivarian leaders and his subjects anywhere, and not repelled like they are in white capitalist countries in Europe or North America that only care about profits. But it seems that I was wrong. I believed in a lie this whole time!

    I thought that this was an international revolution, without imperialist borders defined by capitalist pigs hundreds of years ago emprisioning our poor uneducated masses as if they were slaves during the plantation-era.

    I want to cry…

    Just kidding, I just read that Dilma’s impeachment is closer than ever. Get your champagne ready. Haha!


  6. JCN, did you call Hiroshi’s mother “Ma”? Yes, Venezuelans have always referred to foreigners in endearing terms, like, “Gringo de mierda”; any slanty-eyed person called “Chino”/”China” to their face, never by their name; all Colombians are thieves/drug-dealers, even bachaqueros, and lately paramilitares,as exemplified by the OLP announcements always emphasizing the few of these in any GMV roundup (rarely/if ever, mentioning a native-born Venezuelan, God forbid, especially now that he is a “Hombre Nuevo” de La Patria)–and, of course, the three Gallegos necessary to change a light bulb-2 to hold up the 3rd to reach the socket, and then turn him around to screw the bulb in–mostly all of this because these nationalities, plus the Portus, were willing to break their backs working long hours to get ahead, while the typical born/bred Venezuelan wasn’t willing to do this. Venezuela in the 1950’s had a large influx of Southern Europeans, from war-ravaged countries, working in Venezuela as day construction laborers (eating “pan y Pepsi Cola”, to save money), or as waiters (too menial a job for most Venezuelans–they didn’t like to be “bossed”), many of which saved and went on to own businesses/bars/restaurants (Lee Hamilton is just one, for example). Colombians/Ecuatorians/ have generally been hard-working/honest people, who have contributed mightily to making what Venezuela used to be pre-Chavez.

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    • Do you believe Americans hate Poles?, that the Brits hate the Irish? , That Caraquenos hate Gochos ?? that Venezuelans hate Colombians ?? That people in Spain hate Extremenos ??, In all cultures there are stereotypes that emblematically represent some human flaw , doenst mean that the flawed stereotypes are hated , it only means that ordinary people like to make malicious fun of those they identify with such human flaw , there is for the most part feelings of good humoured derision towards those steriotypes , not of true visceral hatred like that fhe french felt for the germans or the poles for the russians or the palestinians against the israelites. We Venezuelans are not good haters , there are people we can come to feebly dislike depending on how they behave but true hatred like that of nazi germans against the jews is scarce if not negligible .

      We have to learn to read nuances in the way our emotions manifest themselves , to lump visceral hatred with good humoured derision together is to falsify the authentic sometimes subtle quality of our emotional experiences !!

      My own take in what Maduro is trying to achieve by creating a big show with the colombian incident, with instigating the hatred of colombians is that the govt knows that its popularity is being hit hard by peoples day to day hardships and the irritation it produces against the govt . This is universal , widespread and constant, the number one subject of conversation among any place where v’enezuelans meet are the travails we all suffer from the shortages inflation and rampant crime and ….the our irritation at th govt whom we rightly blame for our oenuries .

      What can the govt do to offset that ??, it tries to create diversions , using fantastic convoluted tales of wicked plots and conspiracies and crimes by the paramilitaries , by the pentagon, by Colombians , by Oppo people which draw peoples mounting irritation against the regime towards a new target , in a way trying to tell people hate the colombian paramilitaries, hate Uribe , hate the opposition instead of us !! They are desperate and grossly exagerated efforts at scaping the hatred that the crisis is bringing on them by using these tall and exagerated tales to distract peoples attention from their hardships and channel the resulting hatred and irritation away from them into other outlets .

      The stratagem is so clear, so transparent that I wonder why its not mentioned ore in the social media!!


      • Yes, I believe SOME of those people hate all those other people. Saying it doesnt happen is just purposeful blindness. Even more, the whole stereotyping thing is part of a cultural “aggresion” against those people, a gauge of how their societies still feel the need to mark them as outsiders to be mocked, in the best case.

        As a gallego, I have plenty of experience of knowing who is pulling my leg, with is not fun when it is the 999999 time in the month but you learn to endure and give back, and who says gallego as if he pretends I should be ashamed of it. And up to this day, in both sides of the Atlantic, there are more of those than you think


  7. “Who comes from Colombia to Venezuela? These are people who come with no education, without a penny in their pocket, it’s the poor who come fleeing …

    Back in the ’70s, a family friend who was a Colombian with a STEM graduate degree was considering taking a job in Venezuela. He ended up in the US at a job commensurate with his education.


  8. I will be the first to admit I was raised in an evironment that made me have strong prejudices against colombians. Its inevitable: there is such a thing as inherited hatred.
    Thanfully chavistas came along and I quickly realized that Venezuelans are the WORST.PEOPLE.ON.EARTH. So I guess I am ok with them now?

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  9. Mean and gentle all Colombians,
    Behold, as may unworthiness define,
    A little spit of Maduro in your eyes.
    And so our palms to our faces must fly,
    Where – O for pity!- we shall find much disgrace…

    All kidding aside, I do think we tend to be insensitive towards multiculturalism. People say it’s “all in good fun” when using nicknames like Chino, Negrito, Portu, or Gringo, but something ugly is always hiding below the surface of those terms. All it takes is a slight change in the tone of voice when using them to open up a big can of worms.

    A Portuguese baker puts up a poster that says “I don´t have bread, but I have patria” and suddenly, Chavistas on Twitter aren’t angry because he’s a bread hoarder or an economic hitman, but because he’s an ungrateful, sunburned **Portuguese** who’s been mooching off our food and our country.

    If you say that using dodgy nicknames and curse words as terms of endearment desensitizes us to political correctness, most people will tell you you’re being a buzzkill.
    But God forbid someone makes a joke at our expense, because we will light the torches and get the pitchforks. So something’s not quite right there.


    • We are a people descended from the weak and scared, and we still are. So what? Sometimes, it’s healthy to be scared and feel weak. So long as it doesn’t swing unrealistically one way or the other…

      Venexuela always survived on not being a big player, a game-changer. We have our little corner of the world, and we humbly go about keeping our grip on it. And thus we look outside.

      Gringos are scary. Negros too, but for different reasons (we did a lot of shit to them). Chinos are hard to digest for our provincial minds. Immigrant southern europeans are uppity, as all europeans (progenitors of the ways of life we are humble copyers of). Colombians and ecuadorians are also scary in that they have been through decades of tyranny.

      We aren’t mean, just self-concious. The disease comes from our inability to adapt to the change engendered by a world more ambitious than us.


  10. “No, the issue that I propose you bring to the sobremesa is the xenophobic feelings that run deep in Venezuela society.”

    I don’t think Venezuelans are particularly more xenophobic than any other “society”, if you must call our astonishingly ignorant series of populist bachaquero tribes a “society”. Actually, quite the opposite, compared to many other less open and welcoming countries.

    Example: I grew up in CCS, typical middle-class hood in El Cafetal, parents directly from Spain. Went to el “Colegio Francia” , that eclectic private school next to our embarrassing “Whitehouse” (la Casona en La Carlota,… Across neighborhoods, there were the usual jokes between “espanolitos” or other European descent kids, or gringos etc, and the tough Venezuelan local chamos.. but we all got along just fine in no time. In school it was even more interesting, by stupid Government decree, there had to be 60% Venezuelans and no more than 40% French, so we had 2 separate “secciones”, Venezolana y Francesa, with completely different people from all over the world, mainly French but also Germans, American, Asians, everywhere, one of academically much lower standards, in Spanish, as opposed to the rest completely in the French academic system. No problem, it was great. There were some nationality jokes and the occasional little fight in the entire 14 years I spent in there every day, but we all got along great, and knew each other, at worst, tolerated and respected everyone from anywhere.

    Inevitably, some “sophisticated Frenchies” arrived every new school year with some stupid superiority attitude, — you know the French can be real a-holes when fresh-off France for the first time.. . but we quickly drilled some good Criollo sense into them and became lifelong best friends in many cases. Same as some ignorant, bullish Venezuelans, they blended in after a while and quickly realized their stupid prejuicios or dumbfounded dislike for foreign people in such a mixed and rather tight International environment . In the end we were soon dating the Venezuelan or French girls and viceversa, making the coolest groups across the artificial government divide (4 sets of separate buildings). Sports events for all sections in the Liceo helped a lot, but mainly Education was the key.

    My point is that “xenophobia” is way too strong a term, “homophobia”, or even “machismo” for example, is much more real in Vzla. On the contrary, Venezuelans tend to be quite open and friendly to foreigners. Some initial rejection of who is “foreign” or “strange” is rather natural, and it happens everywhere in the world. Even the Canadians have small issues with the Americans, or the Spanish with the French, the Germans with the Scandinavians, etc. Small stuff. If it gets worse than that, and turns into Hatred for foreigners, “intense or irrational dislike, hatred or fear of people from other countries” it’s only where massive under-education rules.

    Therefore, any trace of “xenophobia” in Venezuela is due to the massive lack of Real education, as many of us saw first hand while going to various decent schools or Universities, where we quickly learned to enjoy experiences with people from anywhere in the world, actually learned to appreciate the diversity.

    It’s obviously a Castrista nationalistic propaganda, a hate campaign, older than the Romans’ Divide and Conquer. (the phrase is attributed to Philip II, king of Macedon (382-336 BC), describing his policy toward the Greek city-states. In politics, divide and rule ..)

    The Chavista Regime targets the grossly uneducated Venezuelan majority of the populace that is ignorant enough to actually Believe the “xenophobic” or “sifrinophobic” lies from their highschool dropout bus driver.

    And it works too damn well, doesn’t it. Guess WHY..It starts in school, as everything else.


  11. Well, part of the anti-colombian feeling comes from the fact that the farcassassins used to came to slaughter people in the zones near the borders.


  12. On a serious note with all this rumors around Maduro being Colombian,Maduro is starting to sound like one of this closet homosexuals that bash gays while being on the down low, i bet the cumbia and vallenato echoes in the halls of Miraflores


  13. As the son of an immigrant I always was on the butt end of not one, but two “ethnic” categories, so I would get “double the fun” as it were, all the time.

    You learned to take it in stride and give as good as you got and on we went.

    With Colombians, however, I always sensed a bit more than just ribbing. There was always a slightly darker connotation compared to the rest.

    Could be from back when we were one country and split up?


  14. Wow, and now we have Morales threatening Brazil!

    These Bolivarians are getting too bellicose, aren’t they? They are feeling really threatened…

    Brazil and Colombia Vs Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador

    Make your bets!!!


      • Oh… You havent read the last Bolivarian memo, Roy, hehe.

        For those lunatics, an impeachment against one of them = coup d’etat. That’s what they are babbling 24/7 now. Evo Morales is just repeating what Dilma herself has been saying.


        • BTW, remember Lugo’s perfectly legal impeachment? A ‘coup’ according to them. That’s their leninist modus operandi: “accuse them of what you do.”

          But even if Morales was mentioning a classical coup (which he wasn’t), what does he mean by “we won’t accept it”? Will he send in his troops? And how the hell can he call out the Brazilian military like that? Does he have any idea about how serious is to say something like that to a neighboring country? I think he put Dilma in very troubled waters now. Next week shall be fun.


          • They really can’t to much except scream and pout, but they will try to have Brazil kicked out of Unasur, and any other Bolivarian president’s club. And, no, he doesn’t realize how serious his language was. They scream about respect for their “sovereignty”, but accord no respect for the sovereignty of countries they don’t like or who have something they want, like Guyana.


            • “They scream about respect for their “sovereignty”, but accord no respect for the sovereignty of countries they don’t like or who have something they want, like Guyana.”



      • hahahaha! Now I understand what he is willing to do to revenge Dilma when he said “we won’t accept it!” There’s a lethal knee ready to set South America on fire!!!

        And I remember that tragicomic soccer episode, you can see how this kind of people really possess an authoritarian personality. “I’m the president, I can do whatever I want.” Just like Rafael stopping his car to hit a random kid in the street recently:

        Insane people.


        • The funniest thing about that incident in Ecuador? That there are those imbeciles who think that the president is some sort of sacred deity that can’t be displeased in ANY way by no one.
          Fuck these commies definitely…


  15. In a casual conversation with a stranger today, I found out that he was convinced that:

    1. The economy of Colombia is tanking.
    2. Poverty in Colombia is crushing and many people are starving there.
    3. The Colombians are stealing all of Venezuela’s goods creating the shortages.
    4. All of the problems on the border are caused by Colombian criminals and desperate poor people.

    Obviously, he spends too much time watching state television. I was shocked anyone that took the state propaganda seriously.


    • I had a similar experience, only that the person was telling me on how elitist and stuck up Colombia is, and how a few live in wealth while the mayority live in poverty,that the country is all smoke and mirrors creating a false image of how good thing are in there, if it was so good in there why are they stealing our resources? he said, and he told me all this while we were waiting in line to buy some chicken, was so surreal i just stood there looking at him befuddled.


      • I was a bit “befuddled” by my guy too. But, one of the basic tenets of propaganda, is that if you repeat a lie often enough and loud enough people will start to believe it regardless of how absurd the proposition may be.


  16. It’s funny, I never took much notice of the anti Colombian thing probably because it is not a racially based bias and secondly, because Colombia dwarfs Venezuela, it is kind of like a flea complaining about dogs, or a Canadian complaining about Americans…it’s just a silly affectation. But yes, it is real and I’m sure it is good politics in Venezuela.


    • “…because Colombia dwarfs Venezuela”

      That didn’t sound right, so I looked it up…


      Population: 29,275,460 (July 2015 est.)
      Area: 912,050 sq km


      Population: 46,736,728 (July 2015 est.)
      Area: 1,138,910 sq km

      So, about 50% more population and less than 20% more area. So, “dwarfs” is a bit of an exaggeration.


  17. Nothing new. Every single government since I remember has stirred the anti-colombian sentiment whenever it is in trouble.

    Why is there an anti-colombian sentiment? IMHO one has to go back to when Colombia was a “virreinato” and Venezuela a simple “capitanía general”. They had the resources (gold and silver) and attracted a much more upscale type of spaniard. We got nothing, and appealed to criminals and adventurers. Colombia was the big country of the region, and Venezuela just a tiny nuisance for the empire. No wonder revolution came from Venezuela and no wonder Bolivar tried for all the means to have Colombia’s backing.

    In the end, the anti-colombian sentiment was so strong, that Paez was successful in his quest for separation.


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