BS01333_.gif (2013 bytes) Culture

In the years that followed the conquest, the Spanish colonists came to entirely shape the national culture of Venezuela. The influence of the native, pre-Hispanic communities was marginal, as they were soon assimilated by the strong cultural and political unity of the Spaniards.

After the Spanish conquest, Venezuelan music evolved as a blend of Spanish, African and Indigenous rhythms. Today, an African influence is particularly apparent in the music of the northeast coast, formerly the 'slave coast'. The Gaita is the traditional music of Zulia State and consists of improvised rhyming vocals over four-string guitars and maracas. The Gaita is featured in festivals throughout the year and has now become Venezuela’s traditional Christmas music.  The national Venezuelan dance is the joropo, which is associated with the Llanos region and, like the Gaita is a rhythm accompanied by improvised vocals, four-string guitars, maracas and harps. However, the merengue of the Dominican Republic and the Puerto Rican salsa are the most popular dances in Venezuela.

Venezuelan literature only began to develop during the colonial period, and writings of the era were dominated by Spanish culture and thinking. Chronicles and various styles of poetry were the chief literary manifestations of the 1700s. The 1800s and independence saw the rise of political literature, including the autobiography of Franciso de Miranda. Romanticism, the first important literary genre in Venezuela, unfolded in the mid 1800s and is best illustrated by Peonia, by Manuel Romero García. After independence, Venezuelan literature began to diversify, but only began to rapidly evolve under the regimes of Guzmán Blanco, from 1870 to 1888. The early 1900s saw the rise of several significant writers, novelists and poets, among them Andrés Eloy Blanco, Rómulo Gallegos, Arturo Uslar Pietri and Miguel Otero Silva. Literary tradition became established in Venezuela in the mid 1900s.

Colonial architecture in Venezuela did not really compare to the grand buildings of Columbia, Peru and Ecuador. Churches and houses were simple, and most buildings were constructed in a Spanish style. However, Venezuela stands out for its Modernism. Modern architecture came in two phases, the first under the regime of Guzmán Blanco in the 1870s, and second and most significant in the mid 1900s, when much of the new-found oil wealth was invested in the renovation of Caracas. Today, Caracas is one of the most modern cities in the world.

Pre-Columbian art in Venezuela consisted mainly of rock carvings and cave paintings in the form of petroglyphs. The colonial era was characterised by religious painting and sculpture in Spanish style, of which notable examples include the sculpture St Peter the Apostle by Enrique Antonio Hernández Prieto, and Antonio José Landaeta’s painting The Immaculate Conception. In the years following independence, history took over from religion as the dominant theme of art, a genre best illustrated by the exceptional work of Martín Tovar y Tovar. 20th century art has been marked by modernism, and many changes of style occurred in the 1930s and 1940s. Kinetic art has emerged in the last few decades, and has been most successfully represented by the work of Carlos Cruz Díez and Jesús Soto.

There are many museums in Caracas, including the Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Colonial Art, the Natural Sciences Museum and the Simon Bolívar Museum.

Venezuela’s theatre tradition began in the late 1700s and has been progressively growing ever since. The national theatre became established some thirty years ago, and is now based in Caracas. Venezuela is not noted for its cinema; few films are made and foreign films are favoured.

Venezuela has a strong folk and popular culture. Many regions have well-known symbolic icons which personify their cultural roots. Most significant are the andinos, the hardy mountain folk; the guayanés, the tough frontiersman following a dream; the llanero, the cowboy of the Llanos and the maracucho, the energetic entrepreneur of the Maracaibo area.

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Page created: 11/04/98
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