Critical Introduction: Conclusion

In his 1999 inauguration speech, Chávez states, “Una de mis principales tareas queridos amigos y así la asumo, es decir las verdades en las que creo” [One of my principle tasks my dear friends, and here I accept it, is to speak the truths in which I believe] (11-12). Faintly reminiscent of Bolívar’s “Mi delirio sobre el Chimborazo” (in which Time instructs Bolívar to “di la verdad a los hombres”—speak the truth to men [13]), that statement seems to embody the cunning of Chávez’s discourse. Throughout his presidency, Chávez exploited what seemed to be an innate understanding of the intersection between truth and belief and the subjectivity of both. His natural abilities with language allowed him to create the strong narrative brand with which he labelled his government and which greatly contributed to his political success. In this introduction, we have explored at length the influence of that narrative. This has been carried out through an analysis of Chávez’s overall discourse in terms of Mona Baker’s narrative theory. Through that analysis we learned how “the everyday stories we live by” affect identity formation and decision making on both micro- and macro-levels. The strategies employed in Chávez’s individual speeches were examined through the framework for political discourse analysis established by Isabella and Norman Fairclough. That examination highlighted the strategies through which Chávez positioned his audience and his use of values and other frames to, ultimately, manipulate that audience. Finally, through Lawrence Venuti’s arguments for foreignizing translation, we considered translation as a political act that achieves very specific results within individual projects and for society as a whole. Overall, what I take away from this project is that all texts and their translations are produced in response to conversations that are particular to the cultures in which they are conceived in dialogues that have been evolving over hundreds of years. The challenge I face now, along with all translators, is to account for that complexity and convey my source author’s narrative skill as I understand it through translation, to contribute to a conversation on/with Hugo Chávez that is evolving still.

Consider Nicolas Maduro’s use of chavismo to get elected following Chávez’s death in 2013. Rory Carroll notes that “[b]y [some]… count[s],” Maduro named Chávez “more than 7000 times during… [his] campaign” (290). These repeated references even included the claim that a reincarnated Chávez had given Maduro his blessing:

‘All of a sudden, a little bird circled three times around me, stopped on a wooden beam, and began to sing a pretty song. Then I, too, began to whistle.’ Maduro whistled like a bird, then continued. ‘The little bird looked at me in a strange way. He sang, circled me once and flew away. And I felt his spirit. I felt him giving us a blessing, saying now the battle begins, go to victory.’ (trsnltd in Carroll 290)

However, according to the media, Maduro seems to lack the narrative prowess of Chávez, evidenced in his slipping control over society and his political party. The year 2014 has been a particularly difficult one for Venezuela: forty-one died in the spring riots in which human rights were grossly abused by the government, and drops in oil prices (which accounts for ninety-six percent of the country’s foreign-exchange earnings) have led to a profound recession and steep rises in inflation (“Human rights in Venezuela,” “On borrowed time”). As with anything, time will tell if Maduro can regain control over society, the government and the economy, and how far from out of Chávez’s shadow he will move. What is certain is that Chávez’s influence on Venezuela and her people will endure. And whether they glorify or condemn him, Chávez certainly told a good story. And based on the foundation I’ve established with this project, I hope I have the beginning of a good story too.