ANGEL FALLS was named for American bush pilot Jimmie Angel, who did a fly-over in the ‘30s. It’s considered the highest single drop falls in the world at almost 1,000 meters, pouring from the Ayantepui mountain in Parque Nacional Canaima, in the Venezuelan state of Bolivar.
In later accounts Chávez appeared to take a step back, and now says that anyone who wants to use the name Angel Falls can continue to do so, but that Kerepakupai-Merú — which means “waterfall of the deepest place” in Pemón, a local indigenous language — is the correct nomenclature.
He goes on to say, in usual Chávez style, that those who claim he wanted to officially change the name are part of an opposition strategy to paint him as a lunatic, in order to justify removing him from power.
Chávez does not deny wanting to remove American cultural influence from Venezuela.
Among other actions, the government has threatened to fine television stations that broadcast the American cartoon The Family Guy, and has recently come out against Sony’s PlayStation, saying it promotes violence so that capitalist countries can sell more weapons.
Certainly, changing the name of a historic or natural monument is within a country’s rights. While I lived in Washington, DC, the names of National Airport and the nearby metro stop were changed to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. There was an outcry from Democrats, and we all kept calling it National.
In Chile, we call everything by both its new name and ex name. Which leads to some real mouthfuls, like “Parque Padre Hurtado ex Intercomunal de La Reina.”
But what’s in a name, really? Next June to December (when the falls are at their most powerful), enjoy your trip to Kerepakupai-Merú ex Salto Ángel. Just leave your iPod with downloaded imperialist television programs and video games at home. It’d just get wet anyway.