La Perla del Caribe / La Caraqueña

The “Good Neighbor Policy” was a US foreign policy doctrine put in place by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 designed as a campaign to win the hearts and minds of Latin Americans while warming North Americans to the no- tion of Pan-American friendship. The aesthetic developed through the films promoted under this policy, the most popular of which starred Carmen Miranda, helped to create an idealized image of Latin America as a lush, exotic paradise and its inhabitants as eccentric, accented, erotic subjects.

In the same time period abstract art was emerging in Latin America. Many of the artists mixed European concepts and aesthetics with Latin sensibilities and issues while in Europe many artists were taking inspiration from pre-colonial indigenous art (for example, the collection of Josef and Annie Albers). Modernism in Latin America, specifically constructivism, rose to prominence during this period through artists like Joaquín Torres-García.

Once the economic benefits of Pan American friendship were overshadowed by the threat of communism in Latin America following the second World War, the United States quickly discarded all intentions of being 'good neigh- bors', and the CIA embarked on numerous infamous classified initiatives to overthrow democratically elected Latin leaders. The exotic Latin image of aloof, fun-loving, banana-wielding salsa dancers was again used to represent the latest innocent victims of the Soviet communist hand. Nevertheless, even Latin Americans themselves have long since internalized this image imposed on them.

Still today we retain the “Caribbean Paradise” image amid great economic interest in the region's oil and tourism industries. “La Perla del Caribe” (The Pearl of the Caribbean), which could sound like a restaurant name, also loosely references the indigenous slavery that went on with the pearl trade during the conquistadors. Recreations of pre-Columbian sculptures are made with arepa dough, a traditional Venezuelan bread recently politicized by late president Hugo Chavez. The television murmurs with novelas, Torres-García's dreams of Constructive Universalism and the aesthetics of Latin Modernism have become kitsch and passé as the colorful fabric of tablecloths, seat cushions, and restaurant decoration while the aesthetic and stereotype of laziness, piña coladas and fiestas has lived on despite the realities of poverty, high crime rates and civil war.