Hometown cherishes memory of Chavez

Late Venezuelan leader had said he wanted to be buried in Sabaneta, so many are disappointed that he will not be.


    Hugo Chavez loved to sing, that's why in Sabaneta on the day of his funeral, people wanted to hear the national anthem sung by him.

    So while the music played, they put pictures and flowers in the main plaza.

    Like everywhere else in Venezuela, emotions run high in Sabaneta these days.

    Even though some might call Chavez a dictator, in this small town in the state of Barinas, he is a hero.

    Telma Torres was his childhood sweetheart. They used to go to school together.

    She still holds the letters he sent her when he was attending the military academy.

    "We all have a piece of the heart of Hugo. He injected us, he gave us, he transmitted so much to us, of the love for this country, for the people that now we all feel it that way," she told me.

    Like royalty

    This is an agricultural area that was submerged in poverty when Chavez was growing up.

    These days, some say, the Chavez family are like royalty.

    Hugo Chavez's brother, Adan, is the state's governor and his other brother, Anibal, is a mayor.

    So it's no surprise that this area has greatly benefited from the Chavezs' powerful positions.

    Since he came to power, Chavez returned to Sabaneta repeatedly. He even brought over Fidel Castro shortly after taking office.

    "I remember them walking here," one woman told me.

    Wherever you go you find people that knew El Comandante, and most of them believe it will be difficult to replace him.

    "Our feeling is of great loss. It is the pain to know that he is no longer here.  There are no words we are like orphans. But even if he is not here, we have to continue fighting," Yadimar Nunez told me.

    Mama Rosa school

    Hugo Chavez lived in Sabaneta until he was 12 years old but there are traces of his life all around the town.

    In the place where his grandmother's home used to be located, there is a school named after her: Mama Rosa.

    Chavez had said in an interview that he wanted to be buried in Sabaneta, so many are disappointed that he won't be.

    I met at least 10 "friends of Chavez" in the town. They refer to him as humble, a people's man and filled with energy.

    He wanted to be a baseball player when he was a child. He later entered the military academy and the rest is an old story.

    Victor Rodriguez says he was Chavez's childhood friend. He was not able to travel to Caracas for the funeral.

    "We would like him to be here because he was born here. This was his land when there were no roads and no concrete houses. This is where he wanted to be buried. It feels it's like treason."

    Not everyone agrees with this viewpoint. Other told me: "Chavez has transcended us. He belongs to Latin America and to the world. That's why he should be buried in the National Pantheon with Simon Bolivar."

    Burial wish

    In 2008, Chavez said during his famous show Alo Presidente: "I am saying today, when the time comes I want to be buried in the Savanah, heroic Savanah."

    And in his autobiography released in 2012, Chavez wrote about this area: "I want to rest there. I am saying it because I was something very simple, like my grandmother Rosa Ines."

    Who would have said he would end up embalmed and on permanent display!

    The Chavez people here remember was the human being and not the man who changed Venezuelan politics forever.

    A bigger-than-life figure who gave voice to a sector of society that those before him ignored.

    His "image" will be used over and over again to guarantee that that this so-called Socialist Revolution continues.

    Elections will be called and I am a firm believer that Chavismo, as his movement is called, is far from over.

    Just like the Peronist Party has survived in Argentina over the years, there will be divisions, ideological differences. and even fights.

    But Chavez figure and his movement will continue for a very long time.



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