A branch of heaven

Back in the 1970s, people used to refer to Caracas as “a branch of heaven” (“la sucursal del cielo“). As a maracucho, I never really got why people said that. It seemed like typical caraqueño BS to me, unnecessary chutzpah for celebrating a city that, even back then, was merely … OK. As an occasional visitor, still in my teenage years, my impression of Caracas was basically: nice weather, lovely vegetation, traffic spawned by Satan himself, populated with people who weren’t all that nice.

I don’t need to worry about the saying anymore. As the Argentine blog Infobae confirms, Caracas is now the world’s deadliest city. It’s a branch of heaven alright … if you understand that as being the doorstep of the Great Beyond.

Sucursal del cielo

The data they used to come up with this comparison comes from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. And while the comparison is not quite apples-to-apples (the data from Caracas comes from 2009, while other cities’ data comes from more recent years), we know it’s all true.

I was thinking about these figures coming on the heels of a report from América Economía saying that Caracas was the worst city in the continent to do business in. It seems as though there is nowhere to hide the shame – every new day brings with it a brand new reason to be apalled at what’s going on in our coutry. Why not say it … the feeling of embarassment has simply become inescapable.

For example, the other day I went to listen to Niall Ferguson speak. The talk was about his own particular theories on historical events – about hierarchies, networks, and revolutions and what not. It was all very intellectual, having nothing to do with the pesky banality of day-to-day events.

The questions began, and at about the fourth question, the issue of Venezuela snuck up unexpectedly.

I cringed.

As I thought he would, he said Venezuela was a basket case. He talked about going to Venezuela and witnessing a shooting in a barrio – right there, in front of him. He said that the people who were with him told him the police are part of the problem. He ended his answer by saying “let’s not talk about Venezuela because we’ll all just leave here in a state of depression.”

Too late, Niall. Too late, I thought.

I don’t know about you, but cringing when I read something about Venezuela, when someone asks me about Venezuela, when I overhear a conversation about Venezuela, when I bump into someone who says “yeah, I´ve been to Caracas” … it’s become a daily ritual for me.

“La sucursal del cielo” … let’s see what this week has in store for us.