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  HOME | Society (Click here for more)

Russ Dallen: 60 years of Venezuelan history
An Introduction to the 60th Anniversary of The Daily Journal

From Daily Journal Editor-in-Chief Russ Dallen:

60 years!! What can one say about an institution that has grown up with this country, reflected and reveled in the nation’s achievements and chronicled and cried over its failures.

The world that forged The Daily Journal 60 years ago seems so different in so many ways from the world we find ourselves living in today.

In 1945, when The Daily Journal was first rolling off the presses, we had a world at war, a world seeing its first use of nuclear weapons, followed with great hope by peace and the birth of the United Nations. We saw the birth of democracy in Venezuela, its rescindance, and its re-ascendance.

Meanwhile, the worldwide peace that seemed so promising in the wake of WWII morphed into a Cold War, as the world divided into spheres of influence between capitalism and communism. Although communism sought to take root throughout Latin America as it did in Cuba, it never really did gain a foothold in Venezuela, insulated as the country was with its seeming vast oil wealth. But it did not stop the country from stagnating.

At the same time as political ideas were changing, societal ideas were also changing. The societal reformation and transition of the post-war years – and especially the sixties -- swept away the country’s stringent social mores. Venezuela’s population today of 26,353,000 is more than 5 times the 4,267,000 of 1945, and therein lie the seeds of how we got to where we are today.

In 1945, Venezuela ranked third among the nations of the world in petroleum production – it was by any standard a rich country. By 1956 Venezuela and West Germany had the same Gross National Product per person of around $650 each. By 1960, West Germany’s per capita GNP increased to $1,300, and Venezuela’s was not far behind, rising to $1,043 by 1960. And then the real divergence began to occur. In 1970, West Germany was at $53,034 per person. Venezuela had stagnated and actually declined to $979 per person by 1970. Venezuela’s population during that time roughly doubled and doubled again over the next twenty years. The Daily Journal chronicled all these changes.

At the same time as the social and economic fabric of Venezuela was changing, so was our way of seeing each other. Up until the 1960s, we could all be relied upon to have access to an ancient common culture that included the classics and the Bible. But as education faltered and multi-culturalism and cultural relativism became the political zeitgeist and flourished worldwide, we lost our common bond of knowledge – our core curriculum, if you will.

The news took its place. The news of the day became our common knowledge and common bond – something we all shared. From a core curriculum, we moved to the idea that there was a base of information that we all ought to share and that with that, there was the possibility of communication and mutual understanding. For Venezuela and its English-speaking community, The Daily Journal came to serve that purpose.

A look through the pages of 60 years of Daily Journals will enlighten us on the things that were important to us each day of each week of each month of each year. But, all together -- seen from a broader perspective -- they tell us the history of Venezuela and its people – our dreams, our disappointments and our defeats.

Jules Waldman, who founded this paper in 1945, is gone. Hans Neumann, who shepherded The Daily Journal from 1980 to 2001, has also passed on. Truly, I stand here today on the shoulders of giants. So many great journalists and great minds from all over the world have come through The Daily Journal’s newsroom, left the depth of their intelligence on these pages, and learned from these giants (an internet search will turn up The Daily Journal on resumes of great reporters from North Dakota to South Africa, from Cabot Prize winners to New York Times reporters). But the ideas that Waldman and Neumann left behind and the times they chronicled on these pages will live forever. And perhaps that is the real magic of The Daily Journal. For there have been great civilizations that did not have the wheel, but there have been no great societies that did not chronicle their times and leave a record for future generations.

Read on, dear reader,
Russell M. Dallen Jr.


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