Colonia Tovar

In 1843, approximately 391 German men and women from Baden were recruited to settle the down called Golonia Tovar, Venezuela. Colonia Tovar was named after its benefactor, Manuel Felipe Tovar, the Count of Tovar. For nearly 100 years they remained isolated in the mountains of Venezuela with their only outlet through a river to Caracas. During their first hundred years they remained isolated, building town’s architecture, its culture, food and celebrations after their German traditions. During the later half of the 20th century, they have inter-married with native Venezuelans and adopted Spanish as their official language. However, if you visit you will still see the strong imprint of Germany in the mountains of South America. Tourism and agriculture are the main sources of income. According to Wikipedia is one of the richest towns in Venezuela as measured by quality of life.

My wife had the good fortune to visit Venezuela when it was relatively safe for US citizens to travel there. We took a bus through the Caracas and out into the mountains. Along the way we saw the congestion of the city and the poverty surrounding it on the hillside just on the fringes of the city. From that point on we had a beautiful drive into the mountains when we arrived at this oasis of German culture. We hadn’t heard of it before our trip, and certainty didn’t expect to find a pre-World War II settlement of Germans.

The first thing we noticed was the architecture, it was clearly a picture of rural Germany. The second thing we noticed were the surnames of the people and street signs. It was an interesting blend of German and Venezuelan cultures which sometime caught us off guard, for example, seeing German buildings and food and hearing Spanish.

It seemed like a “Garden of Eden.” The flowers were beautiful, the town was spotless, people friendly and the food great.

Picture of German HotelPicture of German Church

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Different Cultures Same Values

Dinner at host's houseI was fortunate to spend an evening with a family on an island in Lake Titicaca, living and eating as they did. We arrived in time for dinner, chicken noodle soup, potatoes and tea. Summer time was still very cool at night so we slept with lots of blankets. It was the first time I slept on a rope bed and a mattress made of straw. It may not have been a Certa Perfect Sleeper, but I was tired and slept well. For entertainment we went to a local gathering place to dance. That was interesting for someone who doesn’t dance. The next morning we had something between a pancake and a tortilla with jam and hot tea; very delicious.

Host's house Being on an island in a remote part of the world, central heat, air conditioning, phones and electricity are a rarity. Our host had two solar panels that provided light in the evening and some sources for electricity. The cost was expensive and my understanding was that it would take him about 14 years to pay off the cost of both panels. Through our interpreter I asked why our host invested in the solar panels. His response was the same as you would expect from a middle class family in most countries. He wanted his son to have a better life. This was one of the common denominators between my host and me despite our differences in culture, belief systems, life style and geographical location.

Hosts

Host's guest bedroom

Stove