Earlier today, an article on the National Public Radio website about a food common in Venezuela, called arepas, launched my exploration of the dish. Several recipes later, my interest grew beyond food as I became increasingly intrigued about the current state of affairs in the deeply divided country. I tried to find reliable, unbiased information about the recent plebiscite and the Maduro government’s response to it. Regardless where I looked, I questioned the legitimacy or the veracity of the news. from BBC to NPR to a couple of English language “news” websites dedicated to Venezuelan politics, nothing was sufficiently comprehensive, nor sufficiently absent judgmental language, for me to feel I was learning what’s really going on in the country.
Much of what the major international news organizations write about the country seems to be fed to them by the governments of the countries within which they operate. BBC reports on what the British government says. NPR (one of the news outlets I’ve come to trust almost completely) reports on what the U.S. government says. I have absolutely no confidence in a word that comes from the present U.S. administration; it is steeped in blatant lies. And when I read Venezuelan media, the claims that effectively say “we report only facts and do not allow bias to enter our reporting” are immediately crushed by blatantly biased reporting, both pro-Maduro and anti-Maduro. Despite my inability to find news I can trust (or my inability to trust news I can find), I think the days of Nicholás Maduro as President of Venezuela are numbered. Of course, I’ve thought the days of Donald Trump’s presidency were numbered in the low single digits since his inauguration and I was wrong about that.
The upshot of all this is that I wish I knew more about Venezuela and its immediate future. And I wish I had more confidence in the news media. I am not about to start calling every media outlet “fake news,” but I think many media outlets are allowing themselves to be manipulated into becoming just that. Part of the reason can be traced to people like me, people who choose to get their news “free” online, as opposed to paying the very reasonable (and very expensive) prices of newspapers. And, for that matter, television news. We ask advertisers to pay for news; we feel they should pay for our access to information.
This little side-show has gone in an altogether different direction that I envisioned when I started. I’d really like to find a source for the pre-cooked white corn flour necessary to make arepas. I suspect that won’t be hard. And I’d like to assemble a collection of recipes for several fillings I can use for arepas. I suspect that, too, won’t be hard. And I wish I could share some of the arepas I make with the hungry people of Venezuela. Because I think they are in far greater need of arepas than I.