How I Miss Venezuelan Girls
“Follow me to the bathroom,” she said. Never one to refuse a lady I did exactly as she asked…
Venezuela is world renowned for its natural assets; crystal quartz, coffee, chocolate and of course Oil. However, perhaps its most abundant natural (well mostly natural…) resource of all are its much celebrated beautiful women with the country producing a steady tirade of Miss World winners.
Today I will share my experiences with and reflections on the latter because after all I have already written about my experiences with (the shortages or availability of) coffee, chocolate & oil and have previously addressed other Venezuelan stereotypes such as crime. However much more than this the salient truth is that when I lay awake at night thinking back on my time in Venezuela it is the dark eyes and tender embraces of my friends and lovers that I recall long after the images of supermarket queues and gun-toting hoodlums have vanished from my memory. Therefore not to write this would be to leave my story of Venezuela incomplete even though I suspect that in writing this two things may happen; (1) I will see myself labeled all manner of things and (2) the next British Airways flight to Caracas will mysteriously sell out.
It was a rainy Wednesday evening. I had just met up with another two Brits (bringing the total number of English people I had found in Merida to 4…) and we were having a few rounds of Polar Ice beer in a hip-ish bar popular with students, scenester’s and Jafake-ans (white men with dreads who think that owning Bob Marley “Legend” makes them Rastafarian). We drank and chatted, casually minding our own business as much as a group of 3 obvious foreigners in a country which receives so few visitors can. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see a girl stood before me, dark skin, dark hair and dark eyes which promised imminent indiscretions. Amongst the noise of drum n bass pounding through the overhead speakers, she whispered something to me, the only word of which I caught for certain was the last one; “Baño” or bathroom in English. By this point, my Spanish had reached a passable level of competency so I ventured a guess that the precluding words had been something along the lines of “Venga Conmigo…” or “Vamos a…” and in the spirit of unquestioning acquiescence I set down my beer and headed straight to the men’s bathroom. She followed behind me, closing the cubicle door as she waved a condom in my face. We exchanged names as I tore open the wrapper and that was that. Five minutes later we both returned to our friends and beers exchanging only occasional, playful glances across the bar acknowledging our shared, secret mischief.
Over the coming 2 months, I found myself headed towards public bathrooms with girls I had just met on several occasions, sometimes arguing with obstructive security staff about the birds and the bees or failing to bribe zealous toilet attendants to look the other way duly earning myself the nickname of “Baño boy”. From there on my time in Venezuela was divided neatly and distinctly into daytime and night time activities. By day, Spanish lessons, long discussions about the right and wrongs of Socialism and Yoga classes. Then by night, $10 bottomless rum sessions, latin-ska & reggaeton discos and drunken discussions about the rights and wrongs of Socialism many of which ended up back at my $2 per night room with some amiga (or amigas) putting the newly learned Yoga positions to the test. My neighbors in the adjacent rooms came to both admire and resent me for keeping them awake at night and my ever patient landlord had to mend a broken toilet and broken bed both of which had been damaged amidst nocturnal excitements.
Well, why me? I’m ok looking, I keep fit, dress well and I groom but I’m no pin-up. I didn’t learn Salsa and I certainly didn’t “invite” girls (take them and their friends out and pay the entire tab) both of which are apparently “essential” to getting anywhere with Latina girls according to many travelers. Was it simply the quaintness of my (comparatively) pale skin and my (to them) posh, plummy accent? Was I nothing more than the novelty foreigner? Venezuela does not receive many foreign tourists and Europeans are considered high status throughout South America automatically providing us with some kind of minor celebrity; indeed, other travelers I spoke to often found themselves very popular with the chicas. The cynics out there may aver that the black market for dollars (meaning I left every change with a brick wad of cash) made me rich and therefore simply irresistible but none of my amores ever wanted anything more from me than maybe a beer and the price of the $0.50 taxi ride back to my posada.
In Merida, I asked a female friend if she could clarify (said friend was married so No we didn’t. But she did actually suggest that I write this article and I believe her exact words were “Why don’t you write about how easy Venezuelan’s are?”). Her take on it was that whilst being foreign (and in particular British) were plus points, it was just that women in Venezuela were more forward. This theory does have some merit. Certainly, even a precursory glance at a Venezuelan dancefloor point to a highly sexualized society (as do most Latin American dancefloors, there is none of the dancing around handbags nonsense we have to suffer!) and I can testify that my sometime directness was far better understood & reciprocated. I and other travelers concurred that sometimes it seemed easier to get girls to come straight to bathrooms with you than it was to get them to come out on actual dates.
Eyes of Beholders
Physical beauty and sexuality are openly celebrated in Venezuelan society, the country famously holds the record for the number of Miss World winners (but did you know that the 2nd most successful country in the history of the competition is the UK!) and the contest is taken very seriously. I was in Venezuela for the contest and looked on bemused as crowds of people huddled around television sets in bars and burger joints like we back in the UK would for a world cup final or the moon landings maybe. In the end Colombia won the contest and despite the post-Bolivar rivalry between these neighbouring countries (which in my experience usually manifested itself by natives of each country telling me how much more dangerous and crime-ridden the other was) Venezuelans seemed satisfied that at least a Latina had won and the rest of the world had acknowledged what they already knew; that South America has the most beautiful women on the planet.
The flip side of this carnal culture is that promiscuity seemed rife if not pretty much quietly tolerated. My native friends thought little of a bit of extracurricular flirting (and more) and I found it commonplace for women to outrageously stare & pout at me behind the backs of the unsuspecting guy who was buying their drinks. It is sometimes hard to reconcile all of this with the countries, at least nominal, strict Roman Catholicism; contraception (whilst available and affordable) is not that widely practiced and abortion is still illegal. The consequence is a high number of young, single Mothers (the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in South America) and STD’s were apparently at a pandemic level in the student, bohemian city of Merida.
So what are the “real” women of Venezuela actually like? Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder but obviously not every Venezuelan woman can be a beauty queen. Personally, though, I strained my neck most days from turning to look twice in the street, Venezuela’s rich racial mix (indigenous, Spanish, Africans and Europeans) making for a tantalizing melting pot. Surgical enhancement is widely popular, comparatively affordable and actively promoted by for example the, eh, “larger than life” shop window manikins I saw on every street.
Home & Alone Again?
So how did I ever readjust to the UK following this sensual battery? Well, it was with a cocktail of relief and surprise that, days after my return, I received the all clear from the sexual health clinic. Upon leaving the clinic I vowed to myself that my days of carefree licentiousness would be firmly left behind me in South America and that from here on in I would strictly adhere to my usual purgatory of awkward Tinder conversations and coy eye contact on crowded trains. However, some travelers habits are harder to shake than others (and after all, acquiring new skills and ways of living is surely one of the great things about travel?) so I would be lying if I said hadn’t even attempted to maintain my nickname of Bathroom Boy since returning. Maybe the lesson here is that despite the stereotypes, despite even a lifetime’s experience to the contrary, women all over the world are deep down exactly the same and given the chance can dance salsa and prove themselves to be red-blooded, black-eyed Latinas at heart just waiting to follow you to the nearest bathroom. Maybe this is just yet another example of how the real value of travel is not what you see on the road but that it then allows you to return home and see your own hometown with new eyes and explore its new possibilities as if discovering it for the very first time.
Anyway, until next time, rubber up.