It’s 3:45 and the nearest goddamn CORPOELEC office closes at four. You’re crossing your fingers that you made the left at the right corner off of Av. Casanova, because otherwise you’ll be stuck in hostile, urine-scented traffic till you make it around the block again. You’ve never been to this Corpolec office because, as part of the self-delusional 1% living in communism, you actually believe in modern technology as a means of saving time, so you pay your electricity bill online.
That anyone still believes in saving time in Venezuela is preposterous, yes, but this goes way beyond that: your electricity was cut off this morning, even though you paid, and you have no choice but to rush in person to a local branch of the state-run power company and beg, nay, plead the hateful lady at the counter to let you pay again. A pilgrimage of shamelessness.
You dread the hateful lady at the counter. A soviet harpy. A broken soul with stale indifference to your problems in her eyes. She will be texting on her phone the whole time, while you adopt the requisite submissive attitude, swallow your pride, apologize for existing, and thank her profusely for doing her job. If you do this, maybe you’ll get lucky and they’ll turn the power back on before your freezer floods the apartment. But you have to get there by four.
It’s 3:52. The CORPOELEC sign hovers above the tinted glass doors across the street. You can see it from your car window, which is five cars behind the stoplight, which just turned yellow, then red, right before you get to cross. No matter. You’re first in line now. Traffic is slow and heavy and foul, but you just need to make it across this light and all will be well. In a few seconds this will all be over.
With your intense stare and sheer determination, you will the red stoplight into turning green. For a brief moment, accomplishing this most trivial of feats becomes a heroic affair. As the light turns green for you, and the path towards glory is cleared, you feel everything hinges on the next 10 meters.
Then, in slow motion, like a rotten eclipse, a massive pickup truck with a Maná sticker on the side window rolls in front of you, and promptly blocks the way forward. He is far from oblivious to your plight, or to the traffic laws and decency he is violating, but his obstruction is as effortless as it is effective. Your clear line of sight to the CORPOELEC gloryland that will close in 2 minutes is replaced by the view of a… you can’t help it…it’s bubbling up inside like lava…the swelling of car horns all around you thrusts the word out of your mouth…you’re stuck with no power or internet or hot water for the next 24 hours all because of a..a..fucker won’t cut it…asshole’s too tame…it’s all because of this…this….. alto, maldito, grandísimo
You scream it with virulent anger as you slam the steering wheel and wish unspeakable evil upon him. You throw in a lewd gesture for good measure. There. Much better. All good. Your vulgar fit changes nothing. Except you still feel like you’ve won….
…because the word is magical. It’s objectively better than any other curse. Four syllables and a diphthong that well up and pour out from a space other cultures don’t have. They should be so lucky. Mamagüebo is all ours. It is our patrimony, our collective heritage, our legacy. I love that my country produced this word, and cherish the moments when I get to use it right.
Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported.
We’ve been able to hang on for 21 years in one of the craziest media landscapes in the world. We’ve seen different media outlets in Venezuela (and abroad) closing shop, something we’re looking to avoid at all costs. Your collaboration goes a long way in helping us weather the storm.Donate