Legend has it that there was a time when Venezuela’s people and every aspect of daily life didn’t have a political background. As a child, I faintly recall a world without politics, but nearly 25 years under the same regime has colored everything in politics; mainly a fight between yellow, blue and red (our flag colors) and the red of Chavez’s Socialist party. Every aspect of daily life has become about the government and our fate as a nation, so much so, that even the birdlife that inhabits the city has become an important symbol of the folklore of the people of Caracas. Macaws or “guacamayas” aren’t just flying feathered things but for many, they’ve become a sign of hope and freedom.
When I used to live here (over 10 years ago) I remember seeing the “loros” or green macaws every now and then; today there’s not a morning I wake up without hearing their calls as they fly from house to house, from restaurant to restaurant, in search of food.
The Caraqueñan macaws are broadly part of the genus Aras, which is derived from the Tupi word ará, an onomatopoeia of the sound a macaw makes.
If you look at Caracas’ skies you will likely see 3 different types of macaws flying about. The blue & yellow macaw (Ara araurana), the rarer red macaw (Ara chloroptera) and the much smaller green macaw (often always confused with a parrot). Nowadays, there are reports also of hybrids in the form of the “orange” macaw and of macaws with poor genetics in the form of albino or leucistic macaws (conditions which start presenting themselves due to inbreeding amongst other things).
There have been plenty of public fights amongst conservationists, ornithologists, naturalists and celebrities for keeping and feeding macaws the wrong things, or too many sunflower seeds. Many scientists fear that good intentions will not go unpunished and that there might be an imbalance looming on the horizon where the invading macaws will take over, and the one that remains will be half tame and chubby due to so many humans feeding them.
According to the bird guides and historic records of Caracas’ birdlife, the different species of Macaws that are now adored and thoroughly fed by the masses weren’t historically found in this valley. The only records of Macaws in Caracas are in the late ’60s and these records refer only to the smaller Green Macaw or Maracaná (Ara severa), the rest of them are invaders who have slowly crept their way into the city from the central region of the country or the Amazon itself. It is believed that the all-too-common blue and yellow macaw we see everywhere in Caracas were actually introduced and are not supposed to be here.
Escapists kept as pets found each other and started a romance that resulted in them multiplying – and taking over, over time. They are bigger than the Maracanás and everyone in this city either went through or is going through a trend of feeding the macaws in their house; it’s become a well-intentioned city-wide frenzie. After all, having a dozen or so of these magnificent birds choosing to descend in your yard and allow you to be near and admire them is quite hypnotic. They stink, as all birds do, but their utter beauty and cleverness allow many Venezuelans to dream of the skies and land beyond what we can see.
Unlike many Venezuelans, the Guacamayas are free to fly, free to travel, free to choose; they are quite simply free. So – how can you not want to lure and admire those who are free to leave when you feel trapped in your reality?