Today Venezuelans have been celebrating 200 years of independence with formal ceremonies and cultural events around the country, as well as a giant civic-military parade in Caracas.
On 5 July 1811 the congress of Venezuelan provinces adopted and signed the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence, marking the point when Venezuelans decided to break away from the Spanish Crown and establish a new nation. The new nation was based on a range of premises including equality, abolition of censorship, and freedom of expression that were radically opposed to the practices applied during the preceding three centuries of colonisation.
President Hugo Chavez, who arrived one day earlier after having been operated on and begun his recovery in Cuba, communicated through his Twitter account, “Happy birthday dear motherland...5 July you finally arrived, a shivering hurricane of patriotic passion, 200 years later...next is 24 June 2021, the bicentenary of the [battle of] Carabobo!”
Celebrations began with fireworks in Caracas at 12am. Then, at 7am a formal ceremony in parliament saw the opening of the arc which contains the original Act of Independence. It will be on public display for the next ten days.
At 10am in Caracas there was a civic-military parade. A total of 12,000 people from the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB), social missions, communal councils, and 400 people from a range of Venezuelan indigenous groups participated in the parade, while over 30,000 seated observers watched on.
Also on show were various military vehicles, and according to YVKE Mundial, it was the largest parade in the history of the country. The parade was also broadcast live on national television.
Speaking by phone, Chavez gave the authorisation for the start of the parade, saying that today was a “jubilant day” and that, “Today, 200 years later, we can say it: After having lost that independence that cost so much, Venezuela, in these last ten years...has recovered its independence...and this recovered independence is a door that we should keep open so that for the next years and decades we can recover all the needs of the people: Freedom, equality, happiness, living, life, a humane country, a full country.”
Cheresade Torrealba, a paragliding sergeant with the FANB, highlighted the new and important role women were playing in the army. After the parade she commented to the Correo Del Orinico that women can get to the level they want to in the army, “If they put out rocks, we’ll jump over them...with pride and dignity women face the obstacles in our way.”
Foreign ministers and other representatives from around Latin America and the Caribbean attended ceremonies today in Caracas, including the presidents of Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivar, who later plan to meet with Chavez. Also, students and other people from various nations around Latin America, as well as Palestine, dressed up in the national costumes or flags and participated in the parade.
After the parade, Uruguayan president Jose “Pepe” Mujica said that Latin Americans are “used to thinking in terms of small countries” and they need to broaden that perspective and “think of all of our America”.
Around the country big and small plazas were renovated for the day, and many houses put out their Venezuelan flags. In main plazas the FANB and civilians conducted ceremonies, sang the national anthem and placed floral wreaths, and many cities will hold their Bicentenary Parades this Saturday culminating in re-enactments of 5 July 1811.
From last weekend to this weekend, there will also be hundreds of free cultural events around the country, including orchestra performances, music, theatre, literary events, dance, local handicraft, sport, food exhibitions, and photographic and artistic displays.
Last year, on 20 April, Venezuela also marked the forming of the First Republic of Venezuela, which lasted until 25 July 1812. The event was similarly marked with a large civic-military parade.
For more photos of the day, see VA's images section