Today, for a myriad of reasons I ended way uptown after a busy day of work.
With little cash to ride a taxi, I decided to take a stroll down from Guanábano bridge to Capitolio to catch the bus route taking me home.
What I saw while taking that walk downtown was terrifying.
One of the most important and recognised avenues of the Venezuelan capital that runs across the city is the perfect reflection of the torn down state of things in my country.
I began at the Guanábano bridge, looking at the cobbled flooring that stretches all the way down the avenue. What was once a beautiful checkered, now lies in ruins, pretty much like everything else in Venezuela.
The white and black cobbles were now grey and missing, irregular and the ones that got loose were replaced with poor cementing.
Inflation and economic crisis every-fucking-where.
I stopped to buy a couple of matchboxes for the price of two for one hundred, a grim reminder of inflation: the highest legal tender bill in venezuela gets you two matchboxes.
As I kept on walking, I passed empty bars with loud music blaring, the typical tasca, a place where the working class can make a quick stop to get an arepa were only inhabited by bored employees reading the government propaganda diaries Últimas Noticias and Ciudad Caracas. It didn’t amaze me that for an early friday night, places like that, where there were once people crammed chugging down bottles of juices, beer, malta and eating areas, the stools were empty.
A couple of meters down the road I stumbled upon a great amount of people selling all sorts of doodads:
- 2002 movies on DVD (Black Hawk Down, Ice Age and Blade II were on sale)
- Matchboxes, razors, chinese rubbing menthol and toothbrushes, etc.
But what really caught my eye were the merchants that displayed upon broken and dirty cardboard boxes rotting pieces of yucca, avocado and tiny, non ripe onions that seemed they were pulled either too early from the orchard or grown in one of those urban agriculture projects that the government boasts about despite expropriating thousands of hectares of farms from landowners and them turning into socialist wastelands.
I tried to take pictures of this but at the time it went through my mind that trying to pull out an iPhone in a place like avenida Baralt is for lack of a better word, reckless.
And given the fact that taking pictures of the crisis for this blog almost landed me in jail, I refrained from doing it so, so I pulled out a piece of paper from my bag and started to take notes of what I saw.
Bachaqueros: Angry & Racist
The amount of people that do lines in this country for food has been widely reported by countless people. Just google “colas en Venezuela”.
The good people at BBC World Have Your Say have interviewed me several times on issues like food shortage and medicine crisis.
The nice folks at Caracas Chronicles have a lot of stories on that mode of reselling regulated products at a ridiculous higher price called bachaqueo.
As I walked down Baralt Avenue the bachaqueros were everywhere:
Little girls holding out tampons and sanitary towels and selling them in the sidewalk, a couple of meters away from the food shop by the unit. Not the package, but the single unit.
When I stopped to ask, in my endless curiosity how much were the little girls selling a tampon, a man with a PSUV shirt yelled at me.
“Go home, you bakery-cockroach-blanquito, you can buy that stuff in el este, this is for the revolutionary people”.
You know, I am used to being called a racist for pointing out the statistical obviousnesses and relations between race and crime, and I have pointed out in the past that race discrimination in Venezuela is against the ever shrinking ethnic minority of white people, but being told to go a part of town to buy a tampon based upon the color of my skin because that’s where my kith and kin are supposed to live, well that’s a new landmark for me.
As I strolled down and walked under that glorified chavista holy place Puente Llaguno, the overpass from where armed men killed dozens of innocent and peaceful protesters on april 11th, 2002, my ears were the sound of speakers blaring propaganda, and the endless, relentless, worn out, torn posters and graffiti of Hugo Chavez’s eyes and the glories of the revolution reminded me that Big Brother is watching, that nineteen-eighty four became an instruction manual when it was written as a warning.
Standin’ on the front stoop hangin’ out the window
Watchin’ all the cars go by, roarin’ as the breezes blow
Crazy lady, livin’ in a bag
Eatin’ outta garbage pails, used to be a fag hag – Grandmaster Flash “The Message”
As I approached Plaza Caracas, one of General Marcos Perez Jimenez’s greatest public works: A group of buildings that house the offices of the gargantuan monstrosity of Venezuelan bureaucracy.
I noticed that the beautiful red granite flooring of Plaza Caracas was sticky and the stench of old fish penetrated the air like a toxic cloud.
I learned from a lady selling bootleg Chinese cigarettes on the sidewalks that a government fish market was deployed in the morning on the square. After the market closed, the employees emptied all the ice used to refrigerate the fish on the sewer, the sewer was backed up with garbage and the overfilled water flooded the square.
Add a little evaporation and the nauseating fumes of rotten fish kick you in the nostrils like a National Guard’s boot.
Further down the road was an entire family tearing apart a big garbage bag they just pulled out of a dumpster and eating amongst the filth and stench, a terrible sight now all too common thanks to Chavismo’s tropical Holodomor.
Right across Plaza Caracas is the recently remodelled Plaza Miranda, Jorge Rodriguez´s latest publicity stunt to say that he’s actually done something for the city.
It was in that place that I boarded the bus that drove me a couple of blocks to my house. And in the journey I wondered about a lot of things: what to make of the ideas I wrote down and turn them into this post.
I came to the conclusion that if we fix our country, Baralt Avenue could have the greatness and coolness of a big avenue of any other big city metropolis, all we need is the political will to do so, the hard working labor and big fat stacks of cash that entrepreneurs wishing to make a killing can provide, we mix those and we could make Baralt Avenue great again! – pun intended: In your face, Trump haters!.