A while ago I set out to write a love letter to Ciudad Guayana, my home town. Something about how awesome this place is, with its good people and the super future proof city planning and stuff, but the same day I decided to start writing my masterpiece (actually it was kind of lame) I had to take a “bus” that looked like this.
— Watcher (@Watcher_Ven) February 25, 2016
The metaphor about Venezuela being the abusive husband and its citizens being the abused wife never rang so true. While I was there hanging in the back of a “perrera” (yes, as in “dogcatcher truck”) trying to think about the good things this place has to offer, the now omnipresent lines for food dotted the landscape. Now that the Abasto Bicentenario has closed following yet another corruption scandal and the bachaqueros migrated to the smaller stores, those lines, unlike basic goods, are freaking everywhere.
The wonderful people you can stumble upon from time to time, makes me want to know every inch of this place, but to think I was going to be able to write a moving, inspired poem about my love for Ciudad Guayana was a fool’s errand.
Sure, we have waterfalls inside the city, those are great (and by great I mean motherfuckin’ majestic), but while you’re checking them out there’s always a chance you’ll be held up by natives in a canoe, which kind of gets in the way of the whole connecting-with-nature thing.
We also have that being-the-only planned-city-of-Venezuela thing, but that’s just an wife’s tale die hard Leopoldo Sucre Figarella fans tell. The truth is that from time to time I have to carry buckets of water if I want to take a bath (and that started way before the dry spell, by the way). And don’t get me started on public transport, which is so bad I’m sure it’s breaking some kind of record.
The basic industries you say? Oh yeah, the economic pillar of Ciudad Guayana, made to ensure the developm… wait, wrong year. Those are pretty much paralyzed, and their workers get paid only because the BCV prints money like there’s no tomorrow. If the government is aiming for hyperinflation, Ciudad Guayana has them covered.
I could go on, but I think my point is clear. Every time I came up with a good thing for my love letter, reality showed up and slapped me in the face:
– Look at all those fun events this weekend
– You are the 12th most violent city in the world don’t be crazy, and also, you have no money.
-I want to go for a jog around the city.
-Remember the guy who got stabbed to dead doing exactly that?
– Ok I want a mango, there is no way that gets ruined, the whole city is filled with mango trees.
– Fenómeno del niño, you can have this mango-raisin looking thing.
So, if everything is so bad, why did I even consider writing a love letter to this place?
Because for all that’s wrong with it, it’s still great. Gathering for a truco game with the neighbors, or going to the rooftop of the building for a talk (don’t tell my parents we do that) with the badass view of the city as a background really gets you thought the week. And since the true value of this city remains in its future, in its potential, we’ll keep helping each other until we get there.
One conversation with some random person in a line is enough to convince you that people, informed only with the mainstream media, really have no clue of what’s going on. Some people really do believe there’s an economic war just because the TV says so, or that the new Assembly is gonna fix everything just because they won.
Yes, I would prefer that people were more aware of the whole political disaster, but if you just make economic policies that make sense to this city, you’re good to go. Hard working people + lots of resources + sane economic policies + some years, it’s not a complicated recipe. And it’s all it would take to make this a pretty livable place.
I still love this city, but I know that’s a job that’s getting harder to do every single day. Hope can only get you so far, and maybe enduring one more day-long line for food, or having a really scary experience with violent crime is all it would take to push me over the edge of “love” and right into straight up “hate”.
That day hasn’t come yet. And I’m determined to keep loving this place as long as I’m able.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.