Adventurer’s niece saddened by renaming of Venezuela’s Angel Falls

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Adventurer’s niece sad over Angel Falls renaming

ARCATA, Calif. — The niece of adventurer Jimmie Angel says she is saddened that Venezuela President Hugo Chavez wants to go back to using the indigenous name for the world’s tallest waterfall.

The waterfall, known as Angel Falls, was named after the American pilot who saw the natural wonder from his plane in 1933.

But Chavez said Sunday he wants the falls to be called by its Pemon Indian name: Kerepakupai-Meru.

Karen Angel, Angel’s niece who runs the Arcata-based Jimmie Angel Historical Project, says the name should remain because he was the one who made the falls known to the world.

“Jimmie Angel loved Venezuela and its people. He flew missions of mercy for the indigenous Pemon of the Kamarata Valley,” she said in an e-mail. “My position has always been that Jimmie Angel made the waterfall known to the world, and thus he ‘discovered’ it in that context.”

The waterfall, one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, is 3,212 feet (979 meters) high.

Chavez said Angel may have been the first to eye the waterfall from the air. “But how many millions of indigenous eyes saw it, and prayed to it,” Chavez said.

Karen Angel says the Pemon who live next to the site don’t even use the name Chavez has selected. She says current research works use the Angel Falls name or another indigenous name, Churun-Vena.

“(Chavez) should want people from the ‘outside’ to come to see the waterfall,” she wrote. “Tourism to the waterfall is the Pemon’s primary source of money.”

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