As you may have heard, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, died of cancer yesterday. He was 58. This morning I knew nothing about him or the country he lead. Now I know all sorts of stuff.
The closest I have ever been to Venezuela is Aruba, an island about located 17 mi (27 km) north of the coast. (If you ever go to Aruba – skip the touristy stuff and go ride a horse on the beaches on the northeast side of the island – beautiful!) But now I really want to go to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, because it sounds so gosh-darned exciting! As far as I can tell, you need ‘protection’ (ie. men with guns) if you want to move around safely, and occasionally your ‘protection’ might want to hire protection. Sounds like lots of fun, right? Lots of robbing and murdering going on all the time, free of charge!
So about this Chavez guy: first of all, his name was actually Hugo Chavez Frias, but his friends just called him Chavez. (side note – in my extensive reading today, I noticed that a lot of people in Venezuela go by their middle names. I learned that it is the tradition in many Spanish speaking countries to give your child two last names – the last name of the father and the mother. The father’s last name is first and that is the ‘official’ name.) He grew up as a cowboy, dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, then joined the military. Sounds like a US American, doesn’t he? Yeah. He wasn’t in the military long before he organized his buddies and tried to take over the government. He surrendered almost immediately, which pissed off all his buddies, but he made such a pretty speech on TV that when he got out of jail, the people elected him president.
Yes, that actually happened. Chavez had Charisma. Charisma is this magical power some people have to make all the other people around them start drooling like idiots and just agree with anything they say. Elvis had it. Hitler had it. Kennedy had it. I have a theory that the more charisma you have, the less likely it is that you will live a long life. (That is why I am as obnoxious as possible to everyone, I want to live to see the tricentennial in 2076. I’ll be 105. I’ll have no friends, and probably no teeth, but I’ll be alive and waving a flag.)
It was his smile. In fact, Chavez spent most of his 13 year reign on TV, because he had the most charismatic smile known to mankind. You watch him on his weekly talk show (called Alo Presidente) that would start at 11 AM and run for five or six hours, just waiting for him to smile. When he smiles, you just sigh and think, all must be well in the world. I can’t go outside because I’ll probably be robbed, but Chavez’s smile makes everything ok. He once spoke on TV for eight hours straight. I haven’t found that episode yet, but I’ll bet he does a lot of smiling in it.
So I learned a lot today, but I will probably forget most of it tomorrow. If you are someone who is offended by my ignorance, I apologize. There are lots of people out there who know more, I read a lot of their words today, but they don’t seem happier for the knowledge. I’ll keep my blissful ignorance, and let the knowledgeable call each other names in the comments.
A man with a nice smile died yesterday. And it is a sad day when the world loses a smile, anyone’s smile.