"In 1990, the anthropologist Chagnon was denied a research permit by the Venezuelan authorities. Instead of appealing to the director of indigenous affairs, he affiliated with a group of wealthy people, connected to then President Perez and widely believed to be involved in illegal and corrupt activities, and obtained access to military aircraft through their foundation, FUNDAFACI. Chagnon made numerous flights into the Yanomami area without any quarrantine proceedures or other protections for the indigenous peoples. The Task Force maintains that this was unacceptable on both ethical and professional grounds and was a breach of the AAA's Code of Ethics." Thus, this organization founded by French anthropologist Chagnon doesn't stand up to the standards of acceptible practices for preservation of indigenous cultures. Concrete is everywhere, without apparent purpose or use, and steel poles hold up the examples of tribal roof architecture. The restaurant is not authentic to tribal cuisine, and the gift shop has many handicrafts unlikely to be actually used by the indigenous members who made them. Nevertheless, this place is certainly a step above the lowly commercial vendors downtown that sell animal skins and even more inferior tourist souvenirs. I bought a FUNDACI some authentic Yanomami basketry, a very nice Yanomami rallo--a grater for pulping manioc roots. Weaponry--bows, arrows, quivers, spears, etc. are also among the authentic items that we brought home by hook or crook on the airline. We noticed a marked decline in quality between visits, so consider the construction of these items carefully. Anything with nylon string, metal fragments, or modern glues or paints are not authentic. The indigenous groups have specific traditional patterns on their basketry, so if you buy something that appeals to your aesthetic tastes rather than their traditions, you are contributing to the ultimate extinction of tribal practices.
This was a very well written story on the history of the President's Plaza, but I was still puzzeled on what to do here. It seemed like there was nothing but stationary statues there.
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Perhaps one favorite activity for those with little to do is watching the sunrise and sunset on the Orinoco. At the cataracts, there are a series of islands, and if water pools nearby after a rain, then the photography can get very interesting.
The Puerto Ayacucho has a large number of tribal groups living near it, each with it's own language and lifestyle, so it's worthwhile touring the Indigenous Museum to learn more about them. Each tribal group also has it's own methods of basketry, ceramics (if they have ceramics), weaponry, dress, and so on. This is not the only museum devoted to the indigenous cultures of the region, Also in Puerto Ayacucho are The Simon Rodriguez Library, The Maria Auxiliadora Cathedral, Culture Theather, Arts Gallery.
We only had a day or two, and since we arrived unconnected, our village visits were less than dramatic. However, we drove down a lonely road and came across two hunters with their spears and a monkey that one of them had caught. Then, we proceeded further down to what must have been an agricultural workers camp. The villagers were delighted that we had arrived, and I learned to hold an authentic blowgun. Belinda found that these indigenous people spoke broken Spanish, and so communication was not easy. If I had time, I would consult with the hotel upon arrival to arrange a tour.
There's no need for a rod and real here. Along the bank of the upper Orinoco, the current is strong and the fish many. We saw plenty of fishman simply tossing a line, sinker, and bait into the water, letting the line drift until they felt a bite. Then, they pulled the line and tossed the fish on shore. The Orinoco and it's tributaries have more than a 1,000 species of fish, which provide a major portion of the diet among the indigenous and poor Venezuelans. I'm not an expert fisherman, but the size of the fish we saw being hauled in was quite impressive. Unlike most rivers of North America, the Orinoco is not fished out.
Like every pueblo and city within Venezuela, Puerto Ayacucho has a statue of Bolivar in a central plaza. The bronze statue of Bolivar galantly riding a horse is one of the more impressive examples of this in Venezuela.
Puerto Ayacucho has a plaza with bronze heads of previous Venezuelan presidents, including the great democratically elected Romulo Bettencourt. This is as good a place as any to highlight the importance of Bettencourt in Latin American politics. First, Bettencourt, in my opinion ranks with Abraham Lincoln and Benito Juarez for being a figure of considerable controversy during his time but in the historical view comes through as a man in considerable resourcefulness and honesty. Bettencourt was originally a young communist, but later founded Accion Democratica, the leading labor party in Venezuela, on par with the Democratic Party of the United States. Before Bettencourt, Venezuela had a dismal record of leadership. After the dynamic founding father Bolivar's brillant defeat of Spanish forces throughout Gran Colombia, Venezuela separated from Colombia and sank into a long string of military dictators, mostly from Caracas. With the discovery of oil in the the 20th century, Venezuelans aspired for more and Bettencourt became president via a military coup d'état and, during his time in office, completed an impressive agenda. His accomplishments included the declaration of universal suffrage, the institution of social reforms, and securing half of the profits generated by oil companies for Venezuela. However, civilian leadership ended when Perez-Jimenez overthrew Gallegos in 1948, and Bettencourt went into exile. By the late 1950's though, Jimenez was inspired to make his leadership democractic--but lost the election. Through peaceful street protests pressure built, and Jimenez flew to Miami, his bags packed with the Venezuelan treasury. Bettencourt thus outlived the power of military impulsiveness, and restarted a program of stabilizing the economomy, building schools and housing, etc. He also continued to reign in the military and survived an assassination attempt sponsored by the Dominican Republic dictator, Truijillo.