Hugo Chávez assumed the presidency in 1998, promising to usher in new powers to the neglected Indigenous peoples of Venezuela. They make up about two percent of the population and are concentrated in the southern and western areas of the country. Soon after he took power, Chávez designed special seats in the National Assembly for Indigenous deputies. October 12th, known as Día de la Raza, was renamed 'Indigenous Resistance Day'. He also changed the constitution to grant them the right to assume land they traditionally lived on-- which could be half of Venezuela. This right has gone largely unfulfilled.
Yet indigenous faces continue to grace the walls of many government murals-- breaking out of chains or solemnly gazing out to the passerby behind thick shades of paint. Chávez likens the pre-Colombian civilizations to modern day Socialist societies. He has also rendered them instrumental in the battle against imperialism. A few examples:
"No to colonialism by the media." An interesting, though of course controversial, comparison between the Spanish rule and current, Western-led globalization.
'Indigenous resistance: Our peoples have kept their Socialist roots.' A very revealing mural, downtown Caracas. Apologies for the poor quality of the picture-- I was in a car and couldn't get out to photograph adequately.
Venezuela's most famous indigenous leader: Guaicaipuro. This government-backed graffiti group has assumed the name of the Teque commander who battled the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century.
Depiction of Indigenous lifestyles on a government mural in central Caracas.
State mural in the lower-class area of 23 de Enero.