After two days without sleep, I landed at Simón Bolívar international airport. Geo picked up me and my friend Jeff, an incredible photographer whose images will soon grace this page, with a Taxista in a cab painted with Chávez slogans. We took the ‘old highway’ over the mountains into Caracas proper, as the main highway linking the airport (right on the coast) to the main city has been out of order since the bridge which it is known for collapsed a few years ago. The bridge, it should be noted, will most likely be up and running again by the time I return to the states, making a record for such a construction project.
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.)
Anyway, these houses were built on stilts, up inconceivable inclines, and 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.
The route took us through Catia, a section of Caracas, and the barrio ’23 de enero’ which is a massive archipelago of around 40 residential towers (maybe 12-13 stories or more each) that is one of the centers of Chávez’s support. During the 2002 coup, when the ‘democratic’ opposition was hunting Chavez’s cabinet ministers and Chavista legislators, many holed up in the barrio, where the pueblo has a long history of armed resistance to police incursion.
Tomorrow we head back into the area for an underground hiphop show and some communal council meetings, so I’ll post more about it then, but it appears the ethic of 21st century socialism is running strong:
I’m going to stop short for the moment, as I’m not sure the internet connection I’m working through is going to last much longer. Apparently highspeed wireless didn't make it on the checklist for 21st century socialism...nor did readily available apartments, for that matter...but more on that later.