Welcome to the website of the academic program, Venezuela: Building Economic and Social Justice
Venezuela is spearheading a movement to create alternatives to the neo-liberal model of development and representative democracy championed by the U.S. Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, has called for “socialism for the 21st century.” This process affects every aspect of Venezuelan life, including health care, media, education, housing, governance, land ownership and agriculture. Venezuela is exploring alternative economic structures, including worker-owned factories, cooperatives, nationalized industries, and regional economic planning and trade. Calling for a “multi-polar world” Venezuela is also creating new alliances to redistribute global power and influence.
Our program will learn from and about Venezuela’s political and economic transformation. Working with perspectives from political economy, community studies and popular education, we will study and document both national policies and the experiences of ordinary people participating in a popular movement to redistribute power and wealth. We will develop in-depth understanding of efforts to construct a system that meets peoples’ needs for food, health, shelter, education, employment and political participation. We will learn about struggles for indigenous rights and racial and gender equality, and consider advantages and contradictions of Venezuela’s reliance on oil. Finally, we will study the colonization and neo-colonization of Latin America, and anti-colonial struggles, historically and today.
In fall we will study Advanced Beginning or Intermediate Spanish, political economy of Latin America (international political economy, comparative social systems), and Venezuelan history and politics. We will learn about popular education and collaborative approaches to community work. We will study Venezuela’s struggle for political and economic independence, culminating in the election of Hugo Chávez. We will also develop documentation skills using writing, video and audio recording.
Students will choose a research focus–Venezuelan agriculture, education, the economy, culture, cooperatives, media, gender, youth and health are possible areas. Students will practice video and audio skills by documenting a local organization; this work will be shared with our Venezuelan partners.
In winter most of us will go to Venezuela for 8-9 weeks. We’ll travel to the states of Lara or Merida to visit organizations and communities, work with cooperatives, community centers and schools, and live with families. There may be opportunities for language exchange or Spanish instruction. Students who don’t travel to Venezuela can rejoin the program in spring.
In spring we will return to Evergreen to continue our studies of Venezuela and Spanish and develop educational presentations for the community.One project we hope to produce is a documentary video about our experiences.