« « 5 Hours In Aruba
Angel Falls: The Lost World » »

 

We landed in Caracas where, thanks to mutual friends, we got ushered to the front of the line and had our passport stamps processed for us fairly quickly in the Diplomats section.

 

 

We then took a car into the city where we hung out for a few hours before getting on our overnight bus to Ciudad Bolivar to reunite with the rest of the group, who already have explored Caracas the last 3 days. Thanks to guest contributor Lei Zhao, we have his firsthand account of Caracas below. . . .


 

Prior to departing for this trip, I had gotten all sorts of warnings about Venezuela and how dangerous Caracas was. I also came with my preconceived notions of what this country would be like. I wasn’t all that excited about the Caracas leg of the trip, to be honest, but three days in the city gave me a small glimpse onto Venezuelan society that I wouldn’t have experienced had I bypassed this city of 8 million.

One of many public murals in Caracas - the symbolic link between Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez is made everywhere

One of many public murals in Caracas – the symbolic link between Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez is made everywhere

One of the first things that struck me about Caracas was the abundance of public murals that are scattered throughout the city. The majority of these unsurprisingly extolled the virtues of the Chavez regime, or were attacks against the United States and other “imperialist” influences.

Fracking - part of the reason behind the glut in global oil supply that's led to a harsh economic consequences for Venezuela

Fracking – part of the reason behind the glut in global oil supply that’s led to a harsh economic consequences for Venezuela
In solidarity with Palestine

In solidarity with Palestine
17265656555_66767f8c42_o

Fascinating imagery with what appears to be a native woman on the left next to Chavez
17265649525_55a1fb26fa_o

Hugo Chavez, Jose Marti, Simon Bolivar, and Fidel Castro playing dominoes while Che Guevara shakes up some maracas
17079440309_c8a2a92dc2_o

They’re not fans of the US right now

 

A common phrase was “Obama, deroga el decreto!” – Obama, repeal the decree! – in reference to the recent executive order from the White House that labeled Venezuela as a national security threat. This is a procedural step to implementing a raft of economic sanctions. 

Other common phrases: “Obama/Yankee Venzuela, se respeta!” – Obama/Yankee respect Venezuela!

Plaza Bolivar in the heart of El Silencio, one of the main downtown areas of Caracas. You can see Maduro addressing a conference of leaders from the Americas - this was being broadcast live to an audience in the square

Plaza Bolivar in the heart of El Silencio, one of the main downtown areas of Caracas. You can see Maduro addressing a conference of leaders from the Americas – this was being broadcast live to an audience in the square

Our guide, the affable “Yesman”, and a self-avowed “critical Chavista”, informed us that there was a fairly sharp divide in Caracas between western and eastern districts. The western parts of the city are predominated by impoverished barrios, where houses are constructed on top of each other in defiance of the local geography. This is revolutionary, “Chavista territory,” as Yesman explained it.

17088387006_35a712a5f4_o

Some of the barrios around Caracas
16926514708_76a4d82818_o

A colorful barrio with a water tower bearing Chavez’s image – standing vigil over the community. "Chavez eyes", literally stencils of his eyes can be found painted on high standing objects across Venezuela, creepy, just a bit?
16927193940_3f776810bd_o

Caracas is flanked on the north by a chain of coastal mountains, which have been preserved as a park

 

In fact, Chavez’s final resting place lies in the heart of one of these barrios, atop the Cuartel del Montaña, a fortress from which Chaveze attempted an abortive coup in the early 1990s that led to his arrest and imprisonment. His legacy runs strong in these parts. 

Yesman explained that for these barrio dwellers, Chavez was a god-send, pouring money into improving basic infrastructure and housing. According to him, before Chavez, entire poorly constructed neighborhoods could be washed away by mudslides each rainy season.

17114111881_ddebfcc4b5_o

The tomb of the late Comandante Chavez
16926502658_69a7528cf8_o

The outside of the Cuartel del Montana
17124877611_1c94ba155d_o

An actual roadside shrine to Chavez near the Cuartel

 

The eastern district of Altamira stands in contrast to these rolling hills of colorful brick barrios. You can see office towers branded with Xerox, HP, and the like in and around Plaza Altamira. It was here that the administration predating Chavez had aspired to build a new vision of Caracas for the 21st century. It is this neighborhood that also saw the bloodiest protests against the Chavez regime in 2012. My understanding is that these are the people whose wealth was redistributed by Chavez, or as Yesman calls them, “rich kids who want to start trouble”. 

A makeshift memorial still stands in honor of those who perished in the violence of the protests.

17265701635_4aaa95bae5_o

A slightly blurry image of a new-age office park that gives you an idea what Altamira was supposed to look like
17077935348_dfb38642a0_o

Makeshift memorials to the victims of anti-government protests that turned violent in 2012
17265171721_cc3bf8f9b3_o

These memorials seem to be maintained by friends and family of the deceased
17263919652_d9d9a4c439_o

The Virgin Mary watching over images of the dead


Caracas, as a modern city of 8 million people, shares some commonalities with New York. It has the feel of bustling metropolis, pulsating with the aspirational energy of average citizens hustling to make a living. However, it is noticeably dingier, poorer, and less organized – a high-rise core nestled amidst an agglomeration of unplanned barrios – and in these respects it bears a much closer resemblance with any number of developing world capitals. 

It was an intriguing place to visit, as one wonders if its potential would be better fulfilled with or without the influence of the Chavista socialist experiment.

17239660996_7ed8830414_o

Orange juice, made in socialism. Admittedly a bit watered down…
16924970280_867ab22a87_o

Baseball, the national pastime
17079456069_7bf36ccfb9_o

24 hour arepa spot
17239677836_f7dc574a52_o

The main cathedral
16643211454_ecf67e881c_o

And to end the post, some delicious chorizo arepa

 

– At time of posting in Caracas, Venezuela, it was 69.8 °F
Humidity: 100% | Wind Speed: 6km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy