New Year’s Eve is a deeply important night in Venezuela – and the more than 100,000 Venezuelans living in South Florida will be thinking hard about family back home tonight. That's because Venezuela is having one of the saddest New Year’s celebrations in the country’s history.
Venezuela is living through the worst economic collapse in the world right now. So even the little New Year’s traditions seem out of reach to most Venezuelans for the first time ever.
One of the most meaningful is grapes: At midnight, Venezuelans eat twelve grapes and make wishes for the new year. But Venezuela’s annual inflation rate is running at more than a million percent right now. And just a couple pounds of grapes cost almost three times the country’s monthly minimum wage.
Many Venezuelans are dropping another tradition: walking around with a suitcase wishing for travel in the New Year. That’s because the crisis has forced more than a tenth of Venezuela’s population to leave the country in the past few years. The suitcase ritual is now just a reminder of that tragic exodus.
But one tradition, especially in western Venezuelan cities like San Cristóbal, remains intact: the burning of bad things from the old year. This year the most popular object to torch is a statue called “Miss Inflación” – Miss Inflation. It’s a sardonic comment not only on the economic catastrophe but on Venezuela’s reputation for beauty pageant queens.