The body of Hugo Chavez may not have been embalmed and put on display for eternity but on the arms, legs and breasts of devoted Venezuelans, “el Comandante” will live on forever.
As Venezuela prepares to elect Chavez’s successor on Sunday, the booming personality cult surrounding the late former president is best reflected in the roaring trade of the country’s tattoo parlors.
Tattoo artists throughout Caracas are reporting a surge in requests for Chavez-related body-art, ranging from copies of the former president’s signature to more detailed portraits of his face.
One group of artists set up stalls throughout the Venezuelan capital shortly after Chavez’s death on March 5, offering free tattoos for those wanting a permanent reminder of “el Comandante.”
Montilla’s group offers free tattoos of Chavez’s signature, a symbol that can be seen adorning the facades of public buildings throughout Caracas.
The offer of a free tattoo honoring the charismatic Venezuelan strongman was too good to pass up for one student.
Yusdeigris Mercado, a petite 21-year-old, opted to have Chavez’s autograph inked above her left breast, where it runs up to her shoulder.
Housewife Yereth Zunigo had never been tattooed before but was similarly determined to opt for Chavez body art.
Zunigo’s husband, 26-year-old musician Kleyver Escobar, already had the names of his children stamped on his forearms and has now added Chavez.
Would he consider getting a tattoo of Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s anointed successor, who is running against opposition leader Henrique Capriles, in Sunday’s election?
The craze for Chavez tattoos has left veterans of the Venezuelan body art industry shaking their heads in disbelief.
John Etnico, 30, who works at the upmarket Mythos Tattoos shop in the commercial heart of Caracas, reported a surge in demand.
Many potential customers are deterred by the higher prices of tattoos at shops like Mythos — averaging between 2,000 and 3,000 bolivars ($317 and $476) — and simply choose the cheaper option of a roadside tattoo artist, Etnico said.
But Gabriela Tejo refused to be put off by the price tag. In the Mythos workshop, Tejo, a 31-year-old who works in advertising, proudly displayed a left thigh bearing a large picture of Chavez.