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The Venezuelan Cuatro Made in China

The Government of Nicolás Maduro gave China the large-scale manufacture of the Venezuelan cuatro (four in English, as it has four strings). The policy of mass production of the instrument, with the purpose of adding it to the well-known National System of Children and Youth Orchestras, created by José Antonio Abreu, has prevailed over the quality entailed in its handcrafted frame. It is not, as it seems, just a cultural resignation or a contradiction with the nationalist discourse of the historical comrades of the self-styled Bolivarian revolution. Each unit manufactured in the Far East is a business for importers and ends up costing almost the same as the guitar manufactured in the country.

18/12/2016 15:18:02

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Yo nací en esta ribera del Arauca vibrador… (I was born on this bank of the vibrating Arauca River)

The Venezuelan cuatro sounds different. Extolled by the qualification of "National Cultural Heritage" by the government of President Nicolás Maduro in 2013, it suffered in parallel the contempt of the authorities, who chose to have this four-stringed small guitar for the children of the Alma Llanera project of Venezuela’s National System of Children and Youth Orchestras (Fesnojiv) built in China.

For three years, it has been an open secret, but even today, one reacts with astonishment and some embarrassment in the corridors of the "system"—as the project founded in 1975 by maestro José Antonio Abreu is commonly known—when you ask about the cuatros manufactured in China. "I have seen few, the ones in the center for children," replies with fear a luthier in one of the 440 seats of Fesnojiv.

The figures rather confirm that there are thousands of cuatros imported from China by the Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation (Fundamusical), an entity created in 2011 and attached from its birth to the Ministry for Presidential Affairs and Administration to govern Fesnojiv.