November 28, 2006

Amarillita, Azulita y Rojita...

Quico says: If you ask me, the best part of Rosales' campaign was the way he set up the contrast between his "Tricolor Avalanche" rally and Chavez's "Red Tide." I'm talking about the titles here. His choice of tags mirrored his use of "For 26 millions" in contrast to Chavez's 10-million slogan: both set out to contrast a vision of inclusion and tolerance with Chavez's sectarianism.

But I think the "Tricolor Avalanche" - the name itself - was far more symbolically resonant. Why? In school, we were all taught that the yellow stripe on the flag symbolizes the riches the conquistadores sought in our land, the blue stripe our distance from and connection with Spain and European civilization, and the red the blood spilled in the brutal, fratricidal wars of independence.

Together, these three stripes encapsulate our complex and contradictory identity: our tendency to equate wealth with worth, our simultaneous connection-to and alienation-from European modes of thinking, and our usually latent but always present wild-side, with its rejection of all civilized values and its glorification of savagery for its own sake.

These three intertwined (if contradictory) strands, brilliantly described in J.M. Briceño Guerrero's writing, make up the deep core of our culture. Their coexistence and permanent tension is what makes us unique, what makes us us.

Rosales, in embracing the Tricolor in explicit contrast to Chavez's monochromal obsession, draws attention to the way chavismo seeks to dismember our identity, to blow it apart by subjugating the yellow and the blue strands, burying them, and recasting our identity through a sectarian and exclusionary celebration of struggle as a goal in itself, of anti-intellectualism and violence (for now, mostly symbolic) as the exclusive marks of true Venezuelan-ness.

Venezuela cannot be made roja, rojita and remain fuly Venezuela. The embrace of the tricolor in contrast to Chavez'd dreary, unyielding red underlines a basic reality no amount of state power can overcome. As Briceño Guerrero puts it, "they can oppress us, repress us, compress us, depress us and squeeze us, but in the end they can't impress themselves upon us, they can't suppress us."