Traditions and customs of Venezuela

What traditions and customs are there in Venezuela?

Discover what are the customs and traditions of Venezuela.

Food in daily life

Venezuelans have three main meals: a big breakfast, a big dinner (around noon) and a very light dinner at night. Venezuelan hospitality is pervasive, so something to eat and drink is expected when visiting someone’s home. Arepas, the most characteristic Venezuelan food, are thick discs made of precooked cornmeal, either fried or baked.

Large arepas, with a variety of fillings (the most popular being ham and cheese), are eaten as snacks throughout the day; the smaller arepas are typically served as a side to all meals.

Similar to arepas are empanadas and cachapas, which are filled with cheese, ham, and/or bacon. Among the main Venezuelan dishes is the Creole pavilion, which consists of black beans, fried sweet plantains, white rice and shredded meat, all covered with fried eggs.

Also popular are pernil (roast pork), asado, bistec a Caballo (horse steak), and pork chops. Fruit juices are also very popular and there is also a wide variety of salads, although they are traditionally seen as a side dish, not a main course.

Tequeños, small long rolls filled with hot cheese or chocolate, take their name from Los Teques, a town on the outskirts of Caracas. The typical drink of the plains, chicha, is made with ground rice, salt, condensed milk, sugar, vanilla and ice.


Venezuelans practice marriages of indefinite duration, which means that there are few legal restrictions as long as the person marries someone of the opposite sex and of legal age. At present, however, there are various concerns about who to engage with, particularly in terms of class and race distinctions.

People are expected and prevalent to marry others of their own or higher social class, including racial status as well. The ideal is usually to marry someone “whiter” or at least of the same race; the opposite, while not completely uncommon, is considered to be against the norm.


Venezuelans are characterized by their outgoing and gregarious character. This outgoing behavior is visible in traditional forms of greeting and in people’s body language. When meeting someone, even if it is the first time, it is common to give two kisses, one on each cheek; women greet men and women in this way, while men only kiss women.

Among men a strong handshake is the custom and many times this is accompanied by placing the other hand on the side for added emphasis. A hug is also used between men, especially if the men haven’t seen each other for a while.

These forms of masculine greeting, however, are used for people of equal status and indicate familiarity and are therefore not used with someone of higher status.

Body language among Venezuelans is also much more fluid and penetrating. People stand very close to each other while talking and gesture with their hands and body to make a point. It is also common for people to touch each other to further emphasize what they are saying.

Friendly conversations can also seem like arguments due to their loud and light-hearted nature. Meanwhile, there is also a lot of unique sign language.

For example, finger pointing is considered rude and vulgar; it is much more acceptable and widely understood if one only points with the mouth. At the same time, a smaller version of the “okay” symbol is often understood as an insult rather than a symbol of agreement.

There is also an enormous amount of public expression of machismo. Women are often full of comments and looks from men who want to show admiration and admiration for their sexual beauty.

This behavior, however, very rarely goes beyond a compliment (small flattering phrase) and any contact or pinching is not tolerated. Women tend to ignore most of these comments and learn early on not to publicly acknowledge them (whether favorably or not).


Religious beliefs

The majority of Venezuelans – at least 90 percent of the population – are Catholic. Since the 1980s, the Protestant religions have attracted more followers, especially Evangelists and Adventists and, to a lesser extent, Mormons.

There are also important Jewish communities in Caracas and Maracaibo; these communities are traditionally grouped under the banners of the Asociación Israelita Venezolana and the Unión Israelita de Venezuela. Venezuela also has a smaller number of Islamic practitioners.

Most indigenous religious practices were lost with the decimation of the American Indian population, and the few surviving indigenous populations practice their religious traditions in total isolation from the national culture.

Although the indigenous religion did not survive intact, many Venezuelans participate in a symbiotic religious practice known as the cult of María Lonza (“cult” meaning more religious practice than worship). This cult is based on the hill of Sorte, near the small town of Chivacoa, just east of the larger western city of Barquisimeto.

María Lonza is depicted as a Venezuelan witch/healer who was born to an Indian father and a Spanish Creole mother. She is traditionally represented with two other figures, that of a black henchman, Negro Felipe, and that of an Indian cacique (chief), Guaicapuro. All three together are traditionally known as the Tres Poderes (“Three Powers”).

Another interesting religious belief shared by Venezuelans is the veneration of the figure of Dr. José Gregorio Hernández. This Venezuelan doctor, who lived at the end of the 19th century, was recently recognized as venerable by the Vatican, but has not yet been officially recognized as a saint by the Church.

However, this has not stopped Venezuela (and other Latin American countries) from proclaiming Brother Gregorio (as he is called) a miraculous healer who actually operates and heals people while they sleep.

Rituals and sacred places

The Catholicism practiced in Venezuela largely follows the guidelines of the Roman hierarchy. Masses are celebrated every day, but attendance is compulsory only on Sundays. As Vatican Council II masses are no longer celebrated in Latin, but in Spanish, and the priest (men only) now faces the audience instead of celebrating the ritual with his back to them.

The mass is believed to re-enact Jesus’ last supper with his apostles before his crucifixion, and the ritual itself is believed to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ for all to partake of freely. mortal sin.

There are Catholic churches throughout Venezuela with the most impressive cathedrals located in Caracas and other major cities. In the smaller towns, however, there are also churches with a great colonial architectural style: these churches had greater importance during Venezuela’s colonial period than they do now.

The main rituals associated with the cult of María Lonza involve the main practitioners falling into trances through hypnotic music, dancing, drinking rum, and painting themselves with different colored dyes. During these stretches they “see” what is in the supplicant’s psyche and what the future holds.

Although this cult has a strong rural and Afro-indigenous origin, it is not uncommon to see practitioners from all social strata and classes involved. There is also a nude statue of María Lonza mounted on a tapir in downtown Caracas.

Death and the afterlife

Venezuelans’ belief in the afterlife follows the Roman Catholic belief in hell (for those who were bad in life), purgatory (for those who still need to do penance for their sins), and heaven (for those who don’t). are not to blame). Even the syncretic practices of María Lonza and San Gregorio are intertwined with this Catholic understanding of death and the afterlife.

In the practices of María Lonza and San Gregorio, however, both also express the possibility of communicating with dead spirits and deities. These beliefs in establishing a real connection to the world after death are closer to the beliefs of African-based religions such as Voodoo than to those of Christianity.

Secular celebrations

There are several important and officially recognized holidays in Venezuela in addition to New Year’s and Christmas. Carnival is by far one of the liveliest Venezuelan traditions. This public holiday falls on the three days before Ash Wednesday (in the Catholic calendar).

It usually means a vacation exodus from Caracas and other cities to the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and even to Trinidad (an island off the northeast coast of Venezuela), which is famous for its carnival celebrations. In seaside towns, carnival generally means parties with lots of drinking and dancing, parades with drums and people in costumes, and generally a higher level of sexual undertones.

Other important holidays are Bolívar’s birthday (July 24) and Venezuela’s Independence Day, which is celebrated on the day of the victorious battle of Carabobo (June 24). Columbus Day is celebrated on October 12 with parades. This day also has great religious significance for the followers of María Lonza.

Venezuela also celebrates a series of religious festivals that commemorate the appearance of the Virgin Mary (or a saint) to an indigenous or rural peasant or the miraculous protection of the city from an epidemic or natural disaster.

The most famous of these festivals are: the Corpus Christi Festival in San Francisco de Yare, the Divina Pastora Festival in Santa Rosa, and the San Juan Bautista Festival, which is celebrated with rhythmic drumming and dancing in Caracas and elsewhere. from the country.

The arts and humanities

Arts support

Since the 1920s, the Venezuelan state has invested in the development and maintenance of a national culture through the arts. The two areas that have benefited most from this support have been literature and music. Caracas has a publicly funded symphony orchestra that plays not only classical genres but also the more nationalistic genre of joropos.

The state also supports several museums that house part of the national artistic production. The three main ones are: the Museum of Fine Arts, founded in 1938; the Museum of Colonial Art, located in a house from the 18th century; and the Museum of Natural Sciences, founded in 1940 and which houses more than fifteen thousand pieces. All three are located in Caracas.


Very few Venezuelan artists are known outside the national borders. Exceptions to this in literature include the writers Rómulo Gallegos and Arturo Uslar Pietri. Gallegos in the first part of the 20th century and Pietri in the second half worked within a continental tradition of nostalgic and national writing about the nature of Venezuelan/American identity.

Graphic arts

Architects such as Carlos Raúl Villanueva have gained international recognition, while other architects such as Enrique Hernández, Enrique Zubizarreta and José Castillo are also widely recognized for their designs.

Performing arts

In the field of music, Venezuela has produced one of the most important salsa bands in the world in the person of Oscar D’León, whose music has become emblematic of the tradition of this genre, even in Puerto Rico and the city from New York (the original sources of salsa music). World pop diva Mariah Carey is the daughter of an Afro-Venezuelan man.

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