I judge a country by the beauty of its women. Even after thirty years of travel, there’s still a lump in my throat, still a lump in my pants at the thrill and fear of landing in a country for the first time. Unfortunately, Venezuela and the Caribbean don’t seem to have the lithe blithe femmes carrying a tray of fruit on their heads like you’d want them to, all smiles and sex and shortness of breath. In actuality, the only women I’ve ever seen with fruit on their heads are the Hindu Balinese ladies on their way to temple with offerings, legs strapped together with tube skirts for virgins, sex the last thing on their minds. Venezuela is part of the Caribbean segment of Latino culture, hot, kinky-haired, and thick of speech, akin to Panama and the Spanish Antilles, and Central America to a lesser extent, not surprising since it shares the same tub with them. In Panama, salesmen line the streets in front of their stores, clapping their hands in short staccato bursts, as if that sense or urgency will inspire increased sales. In Venezuela stores have long surrendered their fronts to the throngs of ambulatory vendors appropriating the public right-of-way for their private benefit to the point where the sidewalks are almost impossibly impassable. This seems to be a growing trend, even in countries like Venezuela and Thailand that have technically left the Third World, as least in terms of GNP. Unfortunately the flight of the filthy rich obscures the plight of the filthy poor. The rich get richer and the poor get babies.