Venezuela, a South American country which consists of a continental territory and a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea, was the first South American country to gain independence from the Spanish Crown in 1823. It was freed by one of its national figures, Simon Bolivar, whose statues still fill the streets. The country is a melting pot of cultures and the majority of Venezuelans are either indigenous or of European, or African descent. Venezuela’s economy is based on the exploitation of its oil reserves and is therefore dependent on the fluctuations in the price of oil. In the 1970’s, the country was enriched by the growth of oil prices, but when they collapsed, many Venezuelans were forced into poverty. Nowadays around 60% of households are impoverished. The late President, Hugo Chavez (28 July 1954 – 5 March 2013), was a controversial figure who was a proponent of socialist government comparable with that of Fidel Castro in Cuba. During his years in power, he made deals with countries like Libya, Russia and Iran, and also forced the nationalization of many companies, as well as being a vocal critic of the United States.
Since the 1920s, Venezuela has invested in developing a national culture through the arts, specially literature and music. Rómulo Gallegos Freire was president of Venezuela for nine months and the most notable Venezuelan novelist in the 20th century. Some of his novels, such as Doña Barbara are considered classics of Latin American literature. Arturo Uslar Pietri was a notable novelist of whom Mario Vargas Llosa said, he ‘opened the door of what will be the Latin American novel in the world’. This is evident in his novel Las Lanzas Coloradas. Teresa de la Parra, is considered one of the more notable female writers of her time. She knew how to portray the familiar and intimate ambience of the Venezuela and her works Ifigenia and Memorias de Mama Blanca made her a renowned artist in Latin America. Ifigenia portrays the drama of women in a country where they can’t express their own voice.
Several notable film directors have emerged from Venezuela, such as Fina Torres, who won the Camera d’Or Price in the Cannes Festival for the movie Oriana. Similarly Alberto Arevalo has succeed with his documentary To Play and to Fight, in which he depicts the story of El Sistema, the Venezuelan youth orchestra project, and how this orchestra system has produced some of the most renowned musicians in the world including Gustavo Dudamel, the current leader of the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Berlin philharmonic’s youngest player, Edicson Ruiz.