Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Feliz Navidad!

Maybe you have forgotten to get a really good book for someone for Christmas. If you and your loved ones want to know something about Venezuela, you should read two books that were published this year. One, Cowboy in Caracas, is a short and very accessible book about everyday life in Venezuela written by our friend Charlie Hardy. Charlie came here from Wyoming twenty years ago as a Maryknoll priest and spent nearly ten years living in a cardboard shack alongside some of the poorest people in the city. Although no longer a priest, he is still in Caracas and still on the side of the poor. In his own special, good-humored way, Charlie lets you know why the majority of Venezuelans have chosen to support Chavez and the revolutionary process.

Then there’s Hugo!, seen here sitting in front of our house

Hugo is an excellent biography written by Bart Jones, who spent 8 years in Venezuela, most of the time as an Associated Press reporter. In September, the week after the book was published in the United States, I was the one designated to deliver the three hot-off-the-press copies to three of Bart’s closest friends in Venezuela. Of course, I made sure I read the book completely before giving up the last copy. I’ve been meaning to write a full book review ever since, because this is by far the most comprehensive and informative biography of President Chavez that I have found in either English or Spanish. (There are some opposition versions that are full of invective and misinformation, while a couple of fairly accurate books in Spanish suffer from a bit too much adulation.) Jones´s book is long, at over six hundred pages, every one of which is necessary to give the non-Venezuelan the historical background needed to understand both the Chavez phenomenon and the necessity of revolutionary change. Since Bart writes succinctly and gracefully, you should not find it difficult to keep turning the pages.

And don’t forget to keep checking online articles at Venezuela Analysis (http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/), the only comprehensive website in English that covers politics and social change in Venezuela. Greg Wilpert, who founded the website some years ago, also has a new book about the Bolivarian Process that is bound to enlighten you.

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