25 November 2003
Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela N10.1185 W064.4050
Baseball, Trick or Treat and Pumpkin Pie
The baseball season is now well underway, the basketball season has come to an end, Halloween parties are over and Thanksgiving is right around the corner; can this be Venezuela? Well in fact there are many holidays and traditions that we believe are strictly American that do in fact have their origins far deeper than our 227 year old nation. But rather than discuss harvest festivals found around the world, macabre celebrations of the dead or stick and ball games found in most nations, lets just remember that American beer companies have taken these celebrations and sporting events and turned them into exemplary advertising promotion. It's no different in Venezuela. Polar is the major brewer and therefore the major advertiser. Polar trucks are everywhere and the primary if not the sole advertiser of most sporting events. There is Polar Regular or Normal, Polar Light, Polar Ice and Solar is the premium brand. Most beers are served in 8 once cans or bottles and are always cold enough to form ice in the neck of the bottle. The beer has a very light taste and full bodied beers are not available. The cost is anywhere from $.20 to $.60 depending on the ambiance provided by the vendor so at that price one can't complain.
In Venezuela baseball is the leading spectator sport unlike most of South America where soccer draws most fans. The season starts in October and the home team of Purerto La Cruz, the Caribes de Oriente, play about 25 days per month. MLB has many (if not most ) players from South America and so Venezuelan baseball has a few players from the US. Most are pitchers playing at the request of a MLB organization and the local players stay at Maremares when in town. The recent All-Star game featured starting pitchers from the US and although the ball parks are smaller in terms of seating capacity the pregame ceremonies are very similar.
Maremares resort hosted a Halloween party for it's quest but it's not only Maremares that celebrates Halloween since you can find Halloween costume stores at most malls and in the downtown shopping district. As far as we know there are no Halloween parades such as one might find in San Francisco or Key West nor is there traditional Trick or Treat activities but there are Halloween parties and there must be quite a few given the amount of merchandise. The candy industry could greatly expand the market if they could encourage trick or treat but security and the economic situation would deter any effort. Note: Will and Charlene of SV TopCat won 1st place in the costume competition and Pam from SV Pamela Jean took a close second.
Turkeys (pavo) are available at the grocery stores and meat markets but you can't find cranberry sauce nor pumpkin for pie filling. The pumpkin pies served by Maremares last year were not very good so this year Skylark brought pecans back from the states for the classic North American Pecan Pie. But of course there is the constant shortage of sugar caused by government price controls so we will see. And yes everything taste a bit different but that's the fun of it. If it ain't like Mom use to make it it's because "you're not in Kansas any more". Compared to Venezuela we Norte Americanos like our food a little spicier and with a little more fat and therefore more taste. The meat is sometimes so lean that it is a bit dry and you have to go to specialty meat shops in order to have a little fat added to your hamburger or to get steaks that have a bit more marbling. Or, the method that we all choose, just adding a little more champagne!
On the other hand if you go to the fish market you can find a wide variety of fresh fish and other seafood. It is sometimes difficult to identify certain fish due to translation and the fact that growing up in the Midwest limited the selection and therefore our knowledge. Each vendor wants you to look at the gills and eyes to tell you how fresco or fresh the fish is. Grouper and dolphin sell for about 15000 B's per kilo (or $2.50 per pound). The fish monger will clean your purchase for you and even tell you a bit about preparation if your Spanish is passable. The fishing boats are anchored right off shore however it is important to know when the fish was caught or if the boat was equipped with ice. You can find buyers lugging around 15, 20 or more pounds and we suspect that they are purchasing for the local restaurants so for those cruisers that don't like the market but do order fish in local restaurants, well.
Many boats are tucked away for the holidays awaiting calmer winds after the first of the year. The marinas are close to capacity in Puerto La Cruz in contrast to being nearly empty when we first arrived. Confidence in visiting Venezuela has returned to the cruising community since the referendum debacle has turned out to be rather peaceful and the security situation seems to have improved.
Rene' recently volunteered in a program called "Operation Smile". Local hospitals and surgeons provide pro bono work in a program that started for children with clef pallets. Cruisers and other expatriots provide all types of services during a few weekends each year. These might include cleaning surgical instruments, helping in recovery and waiting rooms to helping in the operating room. The program seems to have expanded to include more that children and more than clef pallets.
Christmas decorations are up in most the stores and the malls are filled. So for the affluent it will be a happy holiday season. The local prices have been creeping up no doubt due to the inflation rate of 30% but all in all prices are very attractive for local goods.
We are about to have the boat hauled so we are busy getting things ready.