Forget gasoline subsidies — the Venezuelan government is handing out free Hugo Chávez tattoos now.
In a July 30 event to commemorate the former president’s birthday, supporters gathered near a plaza in the historic center of Caracas, where two tattoo artists offered their services to anyone who wished to ink the former president’s signature on his or her body. The free event was organized by the Ministry of University Education and funded by the Venezuelan government.
The line began to form even before the event opened at 9 a.m. Some eager participants were getting inked for the first time and many were significantly older than the typical tattoo client. The signature tattoo, which took just 10 minutes to complete, would cost up to 1,000 bolivares, equal to about $160, in a Caracas studio.
When asked by a local reporter if the tattoo hurt, Pilar Rodríguez, 76, answered, “No. What hurts me is that Chávez isn’t here.”
The socialist leader’s signature is a hot commodity in Venezuela, appearing on hats, t-shirts, key chains and other Chávez memorabilia sold throughout the country.
The birthday event, called “Commander Chávez’s Eternal Legacy,” was part of a week-long celebration in remembrance of Chávez, a beloved and almost deified figure in some parts of Venezuelan society. Visitors who didn’t want to go under the needle could also enjoy musical performances, living statues and other cultural events in honor of the former leader.
Chávez, who died on March 5, 2013, following a long battle with cancer, would have been 60 years old on July 28.
The Chávez tattoo party comes just a few days after it was announced that the comandante would be getting his own font. The typeface, designed to mimic his distinctive left-handed writing, can be added to most word processing programs. According to one of the designers behind the project, the creators hope the new font will encourage other designers to create more work featuring the former president’s handwriting.