Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has died according to news reports. Given the controversial statements he's made regarding the US and US leaders and his performance in his own country, he's definitely a mixed legacy he's leaving behind. As an international figure he was not afraid to speak truth to the larger powers of the geo-political stage and say what he felt needed to be said but at the same time domestically his efforts to move progress forward for the poor of Venezuela didn't seem to have the impact that one would have expected given the vast resource wealth that the country possesses.
I have always had a strong pull to that country, as a child I dreamed of going to see Angel Falls...the tallest waterfall in the world.
In what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle called "The Lost World" when he wrote about it. I made friends online and one was from Venezuela and she introduced me to a diversity of views on the country, an inside look into what it was like to be Venezuelan.
And talk about ethnic! I had once believed...being born and raised in Brooklyn...that I lived in the most diverse city in the world, the many people and cultures that I've encountered here, the food, the religions but there is a sort of separation between communities here that keeps us not as fully culturally mingled as we can be.
Venezuela showed without a doubt what the future could be, it was impossible to discern ethnic distinctions unless I was taking very long trips between regions (which I did) and even in that...the self identity was always Venezuelan first. Even in the deep heart of Canaima, the Pimon Indian natives...their blood barely mixed from Spanish and African and other influence considered themselves Venezuelans.
This stood as stark contrast to what I've heard from the mostly immigrant based population of NYC, granted it's been a long time since Venezuela had large amounts of immigration (the slave trade being the biggest) but it's amazing to see the results of the mixing of all that cultural and ethnic DNA to form the beautiful and proud rainbow that is the Venezuelan people. If anything, the US can learn from that lesson of inclusion...that we are better together than apart that it seems the Venezuelans have learned quite nicely. I hope for the sake of my friends there that this strength in unity overcomes this time of transition and allows them to move forward peacefully.
I wanted to go back in 2012 but couldn't make it...that next visit is still waiting to happen but it will surely happen. The final legacy of Venezuela on me was the choice I made on a river (picture below) to leave the job that was stressing me at the time at McGraw Hill and focus on solving a big problem I identified, a week after getting back home I did just that..I quit. The startup I am working on now is based on that work, the extension of the Action Oriented Workflow paradigm to include autonomous work routing using the Action Delta Assessment algorithm...so Venezuela is still changing me for the better.