In this third part of the visit to the River Turbio valley in Barquisimeto (Lara State), I was shown the Santa Rita hacienda, which is currently under the administration of the Venezuelan Agrarian Corporation (CVA), even though the Pedro Camejo Socialist mechanized company has all kinds of machines there such as tractors, seeding trailers and ploughs.
The hacienda house is typically colonial with tiled roof and open corridors. There is also what is left of an old trapiche (sugar-mill) to turn sugar-cane into molasses. Interestingly enough, there is an eye-catching old and abandoned chapel belonging to the hacienda along the road leading to the house. The hacienda has historical links with Simon Bolivar. CVA officer, Joel Morales informed me that the government hopes to turn the hacienda into part of the National Simon Bolivar historic route.
Pedro Camejo president, Carolina Urteaga said she would like to see the hacienda turned into a museum. What I could not understand is why the Sigala/Gomez family allowed the chapel to fall into ruin or why they allowed the Palavecino council to practically close the road with rubble. The logical conclusion is that they wanted to prepare the area for massive houses-building projects.
The farm, which the State recovered a month and a half ago, had been immediately planted with maize at the back of the farm and sorghum at the front in view of the intercommunal highway to Cabudare, now a full dormitory suburb for the city of Barquisimeto.
The government recovered the land because it was underused and needed for its national food security policy. The owners are part of the Tamayo/Sigala/Gomez families that have dominated all spheres of life in Barquisimeto from newspapers, politics, the economy and sugar-producing plants.
The government's argument is that sugarcane production in the valley has been used as a smokescreen to show that haciendas are producing and therefore, free from government interference.
CVA officials tell me that while the owners may be able to show title papers, they have no means of showing how they obtained the land. The history of colonialization and land acquisition is enlightening and the losers have been indigenous populations and local poor peasants who have been dispossessed of the lands with the aid of corrupt officials related or bound to the big names.
The supposed owner's argument that sugarcane plantations are vibrant and productive is a myth as evidenced by photographic material and soil and crop analysis.
In the case of Santa Rita, whose visible representative is Milagros Gomez de Blavia, who, I believe, once directed the museum in Barquisimeto, the future, apart from agriculture, includes the opening of a museum where people can learn about the feudal system in Venezuela.
I am sure that Milagros Gomez de Blavia will see the irony in the future plans and possibly feel pride in the historical value of the chapel, hacienda and molasses mill, which Simon Bolivar once visited during his fight for Venezuela's Independence.
Patrick J. O'Donoghue