Caracas Needs A Christmas Star
Posted: Monday, December 23, 2002
VHeadline.com commentarist Charles Hardy writes:
There is a strange symbol in Venezuela that dominates the winter sky in many parts of Caracas. It is the Cross of Christmas. High on Mount Avila, there is a brilliant white cross that is illuminated at this time of the year and that, theologically, makes no sense.
A star is the usual symbol of the Nativity, recalling the star of Bethlehem.
It appears on Christmas cards, on wrapping paper and in crib scenes. But nowhere have I encountered the cross on any card I have received this year, on any gift paper. I have looked at in the stores or in any creche that I have passed by. It just wouldn't make sense to have a crucifix, for example in the middle of a Nativity scene.
But for some odd reason, someone decided to put a massive white cross on Mount Avila and light it at Christmas time.
I first noticed it during the Christmas season of 1990. I was sleeping in the South Cemetery at that time as bodies in black garbage bags were being removed from a part of the cemetery known as La Peste (The Plague). The cadavers were of people who "disappeared" in February and March of 1989 during the government of Carlos Andres Perez. They had been thrown in a common pit by the authorities and the government denied that any such place existed. I spent several nights there with other volunteers to assure that the government could not destroy the site.
68 bodies were removed ... three were positively identified and then the process of identification stopped.
Are there more such common graves in the South Cemetery?
What is the total number of the "disappeared"? Who will ever know?
The first body identified was that of a 16-year-old boy, Jose del Carmen Pirela. It is interesting to recall that no banks closed at that time to express their solidarity with the victims as they did recently after the deaths in Plaza Altamira. Possibly their executives were too busy planning how they would move their money out of the country a couple of years later when their banks would close. That left the ordinary person without their money and the government with the responsibility of trying to find some way to repay them. And don't let anyone try to tell you that the victims were simply looters. Someday I'll tell you the stories of some of them. (Speaking of looters, it would be hard to find any barrio person who could compete with the bankers of Venezuela.)
The volunteers would take turns sleeping and keeping vigil. Usually there were few moments of sleep as we talked and reflected about life in Venezuela. Often there were two Metropolitan Police present. I use the word "often" deliberately ... they were supposed to be there at all times, but seemed afraid in the cemetery environment. It was not hard for them to find reasons to leave for prolonged moments. The need for hot coffee was a frequent one ... it would sometimes take them a few hours to find it ... they had a vehicle; the volunteers didn't.
Well, it was there, on a Christmas hillside high above the tombs of the poor who had been buried recently and the wealthy who had been buried there before the newer and more elegant private East Cemetery existed, that we looked at the Cross of the Nativity ... it was from there that the cross seemed to make some sense, a macabre sense.
Christmas, was a time to speak of new life, new hope for the world. There, almost two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, we were surrounded by needless symbols of death in the bodies being exhumed. Were those who put the Cross of the Nativity on Mount Avila prophesying what would some day happen in Caracas?
The question comes to mind again, even more strongly.
I went to Plaza Altamira the other evening to see if I could see the Cross from there ... I couldn't and so I asked a couple who lived in the area about it. They told me that the high buildings around the plaza hide it.
I wondered to myself if the 5-star-hotel generals could see it from their hotel rooms. It seemed to me that it would be a perfect symbol for them and possibly the motivation behind what they are doing to the Venezuelan people this Christmas time.
I don't understand it, but some people seem to enjoy crucifying others.
Well, I have a suggestion for the present Venezuelan government. Take the Cross of the Nativity off Mount Avila. Put it in Plaza Altamira and leave it there forever as a reminder of the cruelty that some human beings can inflict on other.
But on Mount Avila ... PUT A STAR! Let there be a new symbol of hope to fill the December sky in Caracas.
Possibly the 5-star-hotel generals, Carlos Ortega and Carlos Fernandez and their PDVSA friends won't be able to see it because of the high buildings, but the ordinary Venezuelan won't be able to see them either because of the buildings.
And beneath that star and the star-studded sky we could all go to sleep ... and have a Merry Christmas, now and forever ... in spite of Plaza Altamira.