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Venezuela finds socialist pride in the arepa

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Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

(Read caption) Stuffed arepas at the Arepa Factory in Caracas

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Nearly every morning locals line up alongside a street kiosk for arepas, corn flatbread stuffed with a jumble of meats, vegetables, and cheeses. The Venezuelan specialty has been a source of pride here since the Spanish tried to usurp native corn centuries ago with European wheat. “Arepas are part of our culture,” says Miguel Segovia, clutching a greasy paper sack filled with a warm arepa.

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President Hugo Chávez furthered arepa national pride last year by opening up “Socialist Arepera” outlets, whose walls carry posters decrying the evils of the mass-marketed capitalist arepa. Mr. Chávez claims capitalist food producers drive up inflation.

But whatever the political bent of the arepa, Venezuelans will remain loyal.

“The arepa will never be lost,” says Adriana Vilar, a librarian at the Center for Gastronomic Studies in Caracas.