Coffee in Colombia and the black legend of oil

Coffee in Colombia and the black legend of oil

Coffee in Colombia and the black legend of oil

One afternoon, soon to be 40 years old, on a beach in Golfo Triste, I closed a book by Bogota’s Marco Palacios and asked myself, “Why the hell hasn’t anyone in Venezuela written a book like El café en Colombia?” ? A book of fundamental and canonical vocation that can rightly and without concession be called Oil in Venezuela?

I revisited this Editorial Presencia book until it fell apart, full of underlines and stickers. Palacios’ book made me see clearly that, contrary to what the patriotic Bolivarian ruse has plagued us since 1870, we were not a nation destined to be great, and that vulgarity and fraternal discord after gaining independence were nullified, but two contiguous tropical countries Map of the nascent Hispanic American Republics.

How a country makes its living doesn’t fully explain its meanness, mythologies, and occasional greatness. Palacios’ book helped me understand that oil need not have been a curse in itself.

However, it is one thing to celebrate the first century of independence by auctioning off the geological register of 700,000 square miles of oil sediment basins in London and New York, and another to try to give us a place on the planet counting from the second Half of the 19th century as only with coffee, an impassable orography, a large river that can only be navigated in parts and the poisonous cycle of the trade winds.

We Venezuelans haven’t done much to write anything even remotely comparable to El café en Colombia, but we’ve done our best to denigrate oil and blame it for all or almost all of our mishaps.

One of our founding myths is that long before World War I, Venezuela was the world’s top coffee exporter, ahead of Brazil. And that the overwhelming oil industry ended with this primacy in a short time. Where did it come from, I always wondered, that this monstrosity was blatantly repeated in every history handbook in the country for a century?

The answer came from Marco Palacios’ book and a work on retrospective econometrics silly titled The Mickey Mouse numbers in world history, written by DCM Platt, a great historian of British foreign trade in the 19th century. The Mickey Mouse etc… is a study of the miscalculations of historians who misuse statistics.

When the first British general asphalt geologists arrived in Venezuela in 1911, the country had long since failed to develop an agricultural economy, especially coffee, that was geared towards so-called “outward growth”, a very important goal. typical of the liberal project of the nineteenth century in our America.

A Swiss botanist, Henri Pittier, an expert at the United States Department of Agriculture and himself a coffee farmer in Costa Rica, commissioned by the Venezuelan government to evaluate our agricultural activities, decided in 1913 that “phytogenetic degeneration and low productivity of Venezuelan coffee plantations are the result of more than 60 years of negligence”.

He spoke unwittingly about the near-perpetual civil war and massive property destruction that defined Venezuela’s nineteenth century.

The coffee produced in the region of Colombia’s Santanderes in the second half of the 19th century, after paying a transit tax by the border state of Táchira, went from the port of Maracaibo in Venezuela to the Caribbean and then to Europe. It was of course recorded in the London and Hamburg import accounts as coffee from Venezuela.

As Colombia’s coffee activities took hold in the Colombian Western Cordillera as early as the 1870s, the economic series painstakingly crafted by the late Venezuelan economist Asdrúbal Baptista ceased to chronicle the colossal export of this merely illusory Venezuelan coffee.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

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