Dearest Caracas Chroniclers,
It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to write to you weekly for these many months, to put you up to speed with what’s going on in this insane country of ours. Today, as what’s been coined “The Worst Year” by, well, everyone, nears its end, we thought it’d be fair to do a summary of the happenings of 2016 in Caracas Chronicles.
I’ve picked two articles per month. One of them is the most read that month, and the other is a personal pick, something I found important, particularly well-written, or just thought I’d share with you.
As this will already be long, I’ll keep my usual comment short. In terms of our country, this probably has been the worst year of my lifetime. And next year actually promises to be worse. So what to do?
Well, some of us have been planting seeds for a while. I include our team here at CC and I’m sure many of our readers as well. I’m not saying all the fruit will come out today, tomorrow, or anytime 2017. What I am saying is that planting them is worthwhile, and that’s one of the main reasons that keep me going. I’ll take a holiday license to be cheesier than usual here, but I want to quote a new Jason Mraz song my business partner showed me the other day: “the future’s made by dreamers, and the men who plant the trees”.
And with that, here are the year’s highlights:
Ah, good times. The day when everybody was watching. Still hopeful, still high off 6D. Remember the drunk guy’s speech? And “Aquí el tiempo lo llevo yo”? When, at least for a day, we all loved Ramos Allup. Those were the days.
A very murky deal in which Venezuela was supposed to buy an enormous amount of food from Uruguay at an overprice, and even sent the check… Or so they said.
Quico speculates about how PDVSA could be forced to file for bankruptcy in 2016. It made perfect sense. Then again, maybe that was the problem.
Hell, this looks sweet in retrospect. Amanda studies the economic factors that should have destroyed Chavismo as a whole by now. How right or wrong was she?
Premonitory. Well ha ha, it did come to the worst. And now the US has to answer those questions.
Lisette takes a look at the evolution of our Metro -subtly criticizing NYT’s Nick Casey while doing it. It’s beautifully symbolic.
This is one of our all-time favourites. Remember, how you helped us pick the faces of the still-desperately-needed new bills, how we made the designs, and how a whole bunch of media bought it as real? That was a laugh. This one feature Tío Simón and the Guri.
This is from the blackout, electrical crisis era. Maduro had the gall to give public workers the day off, “except those who have fundamental and necessary tasks”. Well… Shouldn’t that be all of them?
On this lovely collaboration, The Bipolar Capybara tells us why, with all the beards (no razors), vintage technology (no new ones available) and more, crisis-stricken Caracas really is paradise for hipsters.
Our resident Daily Briefer takes some time to tell us a story about hunger, when it was already real but not yet as widespread. It’s heartbreaking.
Back when the Recall seemed like almost an inevitable reality, Emi and Quico tell us about what seemed like a desperate move from PSUV then: offering to free Leopoldo López and renew the TSJ in exchange for killing the RR. HCR and LL rejected it. Should they have taken it?
I personally loved this one. A crónica imaginaria of what it must feel like to walk in the shoes of our President. Just read it, for fun.
An in-depth, number-based, historical look at how one oil field (and, indeed, the whole industry), was decimated by horrible public management. A highly educational piece.
A downright scary story of how a buhonero steps into the wrong metro mafia zone… And pays the price.
On the last day of August, Emi gets us ready for the great march of September 1st. I remember the excitement and emotion clearly. It’s a fond memory, albeit a sad one.
Well, at least one thing that got better with time. But never forget this period of widespread SEBIN kidnappings which the government would later try to justify as proper arrests, the most high-profile of which was Yon’s. Scary times indeed.
I wrote this in a panic, as my teacher’s son was being looked for by SEBIN with an arrest warrant from a military court. None of it makes sense, but it was crackdown against those who denounced crackdown. May the irony not be lost.
Take a moment to congratulate the most important party in our political history. Love them or hate them, there is no Venezuelan Democracy without AD.
Probably the most important happening this year. The day when we all realized and decided that it’s time to call this what it is; a dictatorship.
It’s a vivid memory. The day when people on the Francisco Fajardo highway shouted at their leaders to go to Miraflores, to do something. They called them out, threatened them, booed them. I’m not sure MUD has recovered.
When MUD gave all of its political leverage. Its legal claims, its street power, everything. In exchange for…
A very necessary clarificatory point on Fidel Castro. He’s dead, and death calls for respect. But Fidel doesn’t. He calls for the seventh circle of hell.
First of all, we knew they would take back the measure, and they have. Twice. But it nevertheless calls for a review of why they did this monumentally absurd thing. And that’s what Quico does here.
Imagine the ending of Into The Wild, but without the wilderness. Just poverty. The title has it right.
So that’s our crazy year. So many crises I can’t even keep track. And there’s a lot, I mean a lot, that got left out. Like, you remember Luis Salas, the tattooed moron who was Minister for like 20 minutes? Or all the electrical crisis stories? This year has had literally countless episodes of cra.
But here’s the crazier part. I kinda like it. Not the excessive peladera de bola, nobody likes that. Nor the watching people looking for food in the garbage, or the constant fear. But what I do like is the effort. The work. The feeling that you’re in there, in the warzone. The feeling that what I’m doing counts, that it’s important, that it helps.
See, there are countless opportunities to help here. There’s so little, everything remains to be built. I’m just a teacher and a writer. But somehow, in this mess, I’m necessary. I make a difference, and however small, it counts. I’m sure the same is true for a lot of you.
And the craziest bit? I don’t even see it as an investment. I’m not even waiting for it to pay off. I hope to God it does, because I need to eat and live, but that’s not my main reason to still be here. I’m planting seeds for the sake of planting seeds. I enjoy it. The digging, the watering, the sweltering sun. The run-ins with SEBIN, the late-night meetings, the depressed, rebellious teenagers in the classroom, the ever-changing deadlines, the quick-reaction posts, the clients who can’t pay, the absurd amount of social demands. Everything.
That’s my life here in Venezuela. And hell, I love it. I could die tomorrow (and statistically, I very well might), and I wouldn’t consider it a life wasted. Even if I never get to see the payoff. Even if the toil is all there is. I enjoy it. Maybe I’m crazy. But I’m sure a lot of you are too.
The future’s made by dreamers, and the men who plant the trees.
Have a magnificent weekend, and a glorious new year.
Eddy the Editorial Assistant
(Carlos M. Egaña)Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.