For our cultural analysis of Venezuela, we touched on all the different aspects that make up culture, which was based on Figure 2.1 (Components of Culture) from the textbook. The eight components that make up culture are Values & Attitudes, Manners & Customs, Social Structure, Religion, Personal Communication, Education, Physical & Material Environments, and Aesthetics.
Venezuelan’s are very proud of who they are and where they came from. Family is an essential part of the social structure in Venezuela. They are very family-oriented people, your network and make connections through them. In times of need, the extended family steps in and helps out financially or around the house. In many villages, it’s normal for members of the extended family to live near each other, often on the same street. In our textbook, we learned that in some cultures, nepotism is practiced. Venezuela is a country that supports it “Nepotism an accepted practice and is considered a good thing since it implies that employing people one knows and trusts is of primary importance” (“Venezuela – Language, Culture, Customs, and Etiquette,” 2019). Venezuelans are also very good hosts. They try to make their guests feel welcome and will do whatever it takes to make sure your stay is enjoyable.
When it comes to proper etiquette in Venezuela, there are many rules one must follow to be polite. Some manners and customs are similar to what we see in the United States, while others are unique to Venezuelan culture. When you meet a group, you must shake hands firmly with the oldest person first, and use the appropriate greeting for the time of day. Since they speak Spanish in Venezuela, you would use “buenos dias”, “buenas tardes”, or “buenas noches”. It is important to address someone using their last name until they allow you to call them by their first name. When you leave, you must say goodbye to each person individually, like you did when you greeted them. This is almost identical to what we do in the United States. We greet a group by shaking hands with others and saying “good morning/afternoon/evening, Mr./Ms./Mrs.____”. When we leave, it is usually a goodbye to the group, however, sometimes we say it to each person. We also allow others to call us by our first name once we become comfortable around them. In our class, we talked about gift-giving etiquette with the Amish, and in Venezuela, they have their own unique customs. If you are ever invited to a dinner party, you should send flowers to the host in advance. Arrive 15-30 minutes later than invited. If you come on time or early it shows you are too impatient or greedy. This differs significantly from the United States, we try our best to be right on time to any kind of party or event. If you give the host a gift, they will open it right when they receive it. It is important to never give someone a handkerchief because they are considered unlucky in Venezuelan culture. If you are ever offered coffee, never decline it, it’s a symbol of hospitality to Venezuelans. When eating you must hold your fork in your left hand and the knife in the right. In the United States, we hold our fork in our left and cut with our right, but then switch the fork to our right hand when eating. Hosts in Venezuela will usually make a toast with the word “Salud” and then invite everyone to eat by saying “Buen provecho” (enjoy/have a good meal). Once you are finished, it’s polite to leave a little bit of food on your plate with your fork facing down and your knife facing to the right.
Throughout the years, Venezuela experienced a change in social structure due to its ruler in the early to mid-1900s. Under dictator Juan Vicente Gomez from 1908-1935, Venezuela became the world’s largest oil exporter. This completely changed the Venezuelan population “Before the oil era began in the mid-1920s, about 70 percent of the Venezuelan population was rural, illiterate, and poor. Over the next fifty years, the ratios were reversed so that over 88 percent of the population became urban and literate” (SOCIAL STRUCTURE, n.d.). Everybody in Venezuela was impacted by the oil era, even the tribal Indians. The economic growth gave people the opportunity to be a part of the wealthy upper class, increased opportunities for immigrants, enlarged the middle class, and established a sector of organized workers in the lower class. Venezuela’s social structure would not be the same if it wasn’t for their involvement in the oil industry.
Similar to the United States, in Venezuela, freedom of religion is guaranteed by their constitution. There are many different religions practiced throughout the country, but Roman Catholicism is the most popular. It was introduced during the colonial era but eventually lost followers to Protestant Christianity. Protestants were unable to broadcast Christian TV or radio before Hugo Chavez. Also, the government suspended visas for missionaries after a famous Evangelical made comments about assassinating the President. A small percentage of the population in Venezuela is Agnostic or Atheist. These numbers have increased throughout the 21st century. Santería is another religion practiced by a few Venezuelans. It’s a mix of West African, Native American, and Catholic ideas. There’s also a small group of people that practice Buddhism and Judaism.
There are about 40 languages spoken in Venezuela, but Spanish is the official language of the country. The other languages are spoken by local tribes. The most common indigenous languages are Wayuu, Warao, Piaroa, Yanomami, Kahlihna, Manduhuaca, Panaré, Pemón, Guahibo and Nhengtu. They originate from the languages of the Caribs, Arawaks, and Chibcha.
Basic education in Venezuela is free and mandatory between the ages of 6 and 15. Secondary education is a two-year program that is free as well, but not required “More than nine-tenths of Venezuelans age 15 and older are literate. The vast majority of Venezuelan children are enrolled in school, but nearly half the adults have no secondary education and a large number have no formal schooling. Most middle- and upper-class parents send their children to private elementary and secondary schools” (Lieuwen, McCoy, Martz, & Heckel, 2019). Most middle and upper-class families send their children to secondary school and universities. Some of these universities include the Central University of Venezuela, the National Open University, and the University of Carabobo. Their educational system is similar to ours where there are different levels of education and colleges you can attend. However, primary and secondary education you must pay for and is required in the United States.
Venezuela has many physiological features that make it unique. These include the Andes Mountains, the Orinoco River, Lake Maracaibo, and Angel Falls. It’s hot all year round for places not located in the mountains and has a dry season and rainy season. Venezuela was originally a poor agricultural society before the 20th century, but after the oil era, it became an urbanizing one. Venezuelan cities grew because of a large influx of immigrants both legal and illegal from neighboring countries.
One of the most interesting parts of Venezuelan culture would be its music, art, literature, and food. Some of the famous types of folk music include Aguinaldo, Merengue, Balise de Tambor, and Joropo. Joropo comes from the plains of Venezuela and includes a harp, cuatro, and maracas. It is accompanied by a dance where a man and women hold hands. Joropo is the national dance of Venezuela. It’s a fast-paced dance that includes many short steps and spins. The art in Venezuela was originally based on religious ideas but then moved to historical and heroic themes. The National Art Gallery in Caracas has many of these pieces on display. Written literature was not a big part of Venezuelan culture for a significant amount of time. Instead, legends and stories of war and history were told by the Venezuelan tribes. It wasn’t until the Spanish conquest of the region that written literature became more popular. Venezuelan dishes are influenced by the local tribes, West African, and European cuisines. In most of their meals, they use rice, corn, beans, and other commonly used vegetables. Some of the dishes they are known for are fried fish, empanadas, pastel de Pollo, and chocolate mousse. Some of the popular beverages include beer, rum, tequila, passion fruit juice, and ponche crema.
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