Caracas welcomes you before you reach it; the ranchos that climb the mountains which brace it spill over the moutains like warnings of what is to come. The houses which make up the ranchos are built on the cheap and quick, using what Victor, the taxista, called ‘architectura de la cuarta republica’ – architecture of the fourth republic.
(editorial note: when Chávez was elected in 1998, he promised a constitutional assembly to get rid of the old system and establish what is now the fifth republic of Venezuela, his party, which has just recently dissolved into the umbrella ‘United Socialist Party of Venezuela’ was known, in fact, as the movement of the fifth republic.)
These houses were built on stilts, taller stilts made of cheaper material the higher you go up inconceivable inclines. They have this nasty tendency to collapse on a semi annual basis during the rainy seasons, often to the tune of thousands of deaths.
I’ll be writing about the context which produced the massive boom in ranchos later, as they are extremely important in understanding the politics effecting the region as a whole.