Shipwrecked

The devil must be behind it. The contortions. The sweat and the salt and the sex. Tambores in La Sabana was not like anything I’d ever experienced before.

It’s one of the most remote towns on the Vargas coast. Not as popular as Caruao or Todasana, but perhaps the one with the most interesting character of the three.

Its people are not the most welcoming, but they do sugarcoat their distrusting glances with a mean guarapita and thorny sense of humor. “Catire, ¿te perdiste?” I’d hear as I walked through the town’s basketball court, the place where the weekly tambores parties take place. You know, right beside the Plaza Bolivar, in front of the dispensario, across the street from the Esco-Bar, Kelvin Escobar’s ramshackle nightclub.

It has what may be the most beautiful beach of Venezuela’s central coast, and to add insult to injury, one of the least crowded. See, it’s a secluded, hard to get to beach. The main road to get there goes through private property, so your best bet would be to park in town (if you have the gonads) and walk about a mile, or by water, if you have a boat… like the good governor of Vargas, General Jorge Luis García Carneiro.

This enchanted little hotspot of magical realism is far from La Guaira, the state’s capital. And these days, the people of La Sabana have found themselves driving the sinuous roads of Vargas for over an hour just to be able to queue in line to get their basic staples.

Not, of course, that el gobernador knows anything about that…

These comments enraged the people of Vargas who have been suffering the same hardships as the rest of the country:

The queues form everywhere, it seems Carneiro doesn’t leave his house and drive around La Guaira on Thursdays, which is when the lines are longest because it is when they stock the supermarkets. I’d like him to tell us where there’s no shortage so we can go buy our stuff in peace.

Two days after pissing off his constituents, the governor decided to pay a most unusual visit to La Sabana.

Witnesses say he was drunk as a fish, as he abandoned ship to almost drown and then stand on the beach to watch the flashy boat get washed on the shore. The scene was ridiculous, as some townsfolk approached the governor to shake his hand and offer him a very Venezuelan “qué cagada”. Most people stood around making fun of the drunken captain who wouldn’t go down with his ship.

It’s more than just a funny episode; a day in the life of yet another character who cannot imaginably justify his lifestyle on a public official’s salary.

It’s a peek, a rare glimpse into that other world our ruling class has carved out for itself. A place where there are no blackouts, or crime, where supermarkets in Vargas are fully stocked, and no one stands in a queue for hours to take a kilo or two of pasta or Harina PAN back to a hungry kid in La Sabana. A place where García Carneiro can talk the “there is no crisis” talk and walk the walk, take his luxury boat for a spin. Como si nada.

They keep acting like there’s nothing to see here. As if life (the other one, the one outside of their perfect little world) was just by the by. Normal. Confident that people have been effectively domesticated. Or worse, not even taking a moment to think about it, because the status quo has made them numb to the country’s situation. The taking’s too good, the party’s too crazy to stop and take a real look around them. They’re just too far gone to sense the tectonic plates shifting beneath them.

I understand García Carneiro. I know what it’s like in La Sabana. I know you can lose yourself, and you can’t quite imagine that there’s anything else beyond that Dionysian ritual. I know. The thing is, there will come a time when the jokes and the fog settle. When the driving beat of the party drums dies down, and the effects of the guarapita and 18 year old Scotch wear off. And then, then the drunken captain will stand on the beach, with a chiseling headache, to admire the shipwreck and mutter: qué cagada.

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