Traditions: La Cazarola
I need to be real with you chamos. I didn’t know if I was going to tell you all this, but I know you all are ready to hear it. The past two weeks have been really tough, not necessarily for me but for my country of Venezuela. It seems so weird that you might not know about this, because it’s been all of the news here, but we had the presidential elections Sunday the 14th of April.
This was easily one of the most important elections in the history of Venezuela. This is because March 5th the president of Venezuela: Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias passed away. After his death the government had one month until there would be an election for the presidency.
A match between the vice president of Venezuela: Nicholas Maduro who was now the “interim” (meaning he was president until they elected a new president) president vs. Henrique Capriles Radonski who lost to Chavez in the elections this last December.
There have been many issues with Nicholas Maduro. (Okay stick with me here, I know you can understand this)
- In the Constitution of Venezuela it says that if the president should die the Leader of the Assembly will become the interim president.
- The constitution also says that you must be born in Venezuela to run and become president.
Maduro should never have been the interim president (he was vice president) and he was born in Colombia so he should never have been able to run for the presidential elections nor become president.
But on Sunday April 14th, Nicholas Maduro was announced to have won the Venezuela elections at 9:30 PM. And this was no easy win.
Nicholas Maduro: 7,505,338 votes Henrique Capriles: 7,270,403 votes
This might seem like a big difference, but in the world of politics this was nothing! Less than 240,000 votes difference.
Then, because it was so close, Capriles asked for a re-count of the votes and Maduro said yes.
BUT the next day pictures were found of men in the military who were sent by the government (that is obviously pro-Maduro) boxes filled with the votes. This meant that no one would ever really know how many people voted for Capriles and how many really voted for Maduro and that means there would be no proof to say if Capriles had won and thus, Maduro would be sworn in as president.
Due to this, many people decided to act. Some decided to riot and become violent. Because of this I had to spend two days literally on “house arrest” where I was not allowed to leave my house because they were afraid of what might happen. But one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life took place every night after April 16th, it’s called a cazarola.
At 8:00 PM my family told me we were going to attend a cazarola. What do you think that word sounds like? Casserole. Well it’s fitting. What happens is that everyone in a neighborhood, or in this case Merida, plans a time in which everyone starts at their house and walks to the middle of their neighborhood bringing whatever pot, pan, or dish with metal spoons, ladles, or knives to bang the pots with.
My entire family, even Edgar who is four years old and even my Tia Dulce who’s 65 years old, left the house with all the pots, pans, spoons, ladles and even one of fire-poker they could find to bang on pots!
People slowly but surely walking out of their houses, most in their pajamas with their kids and dogs came together in the middle of the neighborhood to bang pans. Some kids were draped in Venezuelan flags. And when you hear the sound of the pots you know you need to go out and bang pots with your neighbors. And after about a half an hour of all your neighbors coming together, you walk together to the two busiest streets in Mérida: Urdaneta and Las Americas. Then all the neighborhoods line the streets banging pots and eventually all walk up the two streets- taking over the streets entirely.
Now they do this is in protest of their votes not being heard. The people banging the pots believed that the election was a trampa (meaning cheat) and that the government had changed votes so that Maduro would win. This was because of the pictures of the burning of the votes done by the government’s military men as well as Maduro was not allowed to be president because he was born in Colombia.
Now to us this seems crazy and for many of my American friends here, useless. What is banging a couple of pots going to do? But we come from a different country. We know that when we vote, that our vote counts and that our government follows through with what the people say. But for generations, even centuries, these people have had to deal with their government being corrupt and not listening to them. So this is how they make them listen. By banging pots and forcing people to hear them and coming together as a community to make the city stop (literally by filling the streets) and listen (by banging pots).
But the most amazing thing was seeing parents bringing their kids out, teaching them from a young age how to fight for their rights in a non-violent way. This just showed me how blessed we are in America, that we can vote and know that our vote counts. But also that we need to vote, because so many people in the world can’t vote knowing that their vote counts! I know you are all too young to vote, but never forget this! Take advantage of the power of your voice by voting and know that you are voting and so many people in the world don’t have the same privilege as us. VOTE!