Philosophical Summit of the Poor Draws Hundreds of Participants in Caracas, Venezuela
By CORY FISCHER-HOFFMAN
Caracas, October 6th, 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Philosophical Summit of the Poor held its fourth gathering in Caracas on Friday. Hundreds of people participated in open discussions about a range of issues exploring the culture and politics of the poor, and came to view the exhibit of paintings that had been birthed through collective creation and discussion.
The gathering was a prelude to the Bolivarian government’s Third Congress of Communal Culture, held over the weekend. During the closing events on Sunday evening, President Maduro announced that “Culture is a battlefield; it is the most important revolution.”
The Philosophical Summit of the Poor was organized by the Cayapo Collective but they refused to take ownership of the event and one organizer noted that “where there are two people discussing the anguish of the system that we inhabit in this moment, there is a philosophical summit of the poor.”
In the room that housed the Summit, people of all ages sat in a circle and shared ideas. Gruesome and powerful paintings hung next to prose written on canvas, and video images of the collective work and celebration of everyday life were projected on to the wall.
Young children ran through the space, with art projects in their hands, and people came and went all day long with the conversation remaining steady throughout the day.
The Philosophical Summit of the Poor had the goal of broadening the definitions of culture beyond painting and music. Juan Manuel Mendoza of the Cayapo Collective told VA.com that culture is “health, our homes, sex, food, how we raise our children, how we eat.” This concept of culture came across through the projections of images on the wall; children and adults singing and dancing on a bus, people preparing a meal together, elders dancing in a field, people of all age painting and discussing together.
The paintings surrounded the gathering were a result of dozens of people collaborating to give visual form to the countless conversations that they have been having about their collective struggles. Next to a painting depicting workers, making bricks and doing labor, hung a simple canvas with black painted lettering that stated “The original class, neither hope, nor utopia. We, the poor, are the horizon.”
People from many neighborhoods in Caracas and several of Venezuela’s regions participated in the Summit, whose first gathering took place in January this year.
In the circle of one discussion, a young woman picked up the microphone and said, “I have always been told that philosophy was reserved for those who had power and were in the academy, but I have learned more today than in my years in school, and it is so important that we come together to think.” Her statement echoed the slogan of the gathering, “We are going to think together.”
In an interview with VA.com Juan Manuel Mendoza said, “Building another society will not be possible to do in a hurry, it is capitalism that tells us that we need to hurry; we need to give ourselves time to think, to discuss, to experiment, to discuss the concepts that we produce as a consequence of our experiences.”
These experiences were shared throughout the day, in the many ways that people utilized the space that the gathering provided. One at a time, people took the microphone and commented on issues such as art, prisons, sexuality, genetically modified seeds, violence, food, organizing strategy, housing, sadness, and identity.
One participant called on herself and others to discontinue the use of homophobic language and an elder shared his life story, how he had grown up poor, working from a young age, the advances that he perceived from the Bolivarian revolution, and the long list of work still to be done. People also used the space to share rhymes, through hip hop and poetry, and the event concluded with folk songs played on the emblematic Venezuelan cuatro (string instrument) just as the sun was setting.