The dominant influence on the culture of Venezuela was that of the Spanish conquerors. The Native Americans of the country, lacking any political or cultural unity of their own, were assimilated into the immigrant groups and had only a slight influence on the national culture. The distinct Venezuelan contribution to folk legend is the llanero, or South American cowboy. The national dance, the joropo, and popular instruments such as the maraca, a type of rattle, and the cuatro, an instrument with four strings that resembles a small guitar, are all associated with the llanero.
Venezuelan literature gained momentum in the early 19th century with the appearance of writers such as Simón Rodríguez, Andrés Bello, and Simón Bolívar. Outstanding among later writers of the 19th century was Juan Antonio Pérez Bonalde, known principally for his translations of German poet Heinrich Heine and American writer Edgar Allan Poe. Pérez Bonalde is considered a precursor of romanticism in Latin American literature. In the early 20th century, novelist Teresa de la Parra became one of the most popular women novelists of Latin America, and Rufino Blanco Fombana produced works about life in Venezuela in the late 19th century. Two of the best-known Venezuelan novelists of the 20th century were former president Rómulo Gallegos and Arturo Uslar Pietri, who ran for president in 1968.
Gallegos’s works reflect the interaction of humankind and nature. Uslar Pietri’s novel Un Retrato en la geografia (1962, Portrayal in Geography) is an original look at Venezuelan society in which a recently released political prisoner describes the new social landscape that he encounters.
Venezuelan artists of the 20th century who developed international reputations include sculptor Marisol (Escobar) and painter and sculptor Jesús Rafael Soto. Both artists moved between Venezuela, New York, and Paris. A museum dedicated to Soto’s work is in Ciudad Bolívar. Venezuela, which was regarded as one of the less profitable colonies of Spain, lacks the splendors of Spanish architecture that are found in other South American countries.
Nevertheless, in the second half of the 20th century, the combination of the wealth produced from oil discoveries and strong ties with the United States helped foster the development of modern architecture. Carlos Raúl Villanueva, who explored the structural and expressive possibilities of reinforced concrete, is the best-known Venezuelan architect of the 20th century. He designed the campus of the Central University in Caracas. "Venezuela" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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