Every metropolis has an iconic street. Buenos Aires has 9 de Julio Avenue, New York has 5th Avenue, Caracas has La Casanova… and Maracaibo has 77th Street, best known as 5 de Julio Boulevard, a roadway with an illustrious past, formerly the main stage for the “Feria de la Chinita” opening, now looking straight out of The Walking Dead.

Built in 1923 to connect Eastern and Western Maracaibo, the 5 de Julio Bvd. was modernized under Marcos Pérez Jiménez, becoming the city’s most important hub, harboring headquarters of national banks, numerous malls, cafes, bakeries, bars and nightclubs. It was also the street leading to the city’s first airport, Grano de Oro.

But after two decades of revolution, the 5 de Julio has had all the color drained from its cheeks. Iconic sights like the Pin Zulia bowling alley, which opened back when the oil industry first settled in, shut down this year due to exorbitant maintenance costs. Book Shop, a book store in the intersection between the 5 de Julio and Bella Vista Avenue, where people could find a variety of international newspapers (as well as national publications), was forced out of business after the monetary reconversion of August 20, unable to pay their employees or acquiring foreign currency to keep international subscriptions.

Along 77th Street, many stores continue to exhibit their signage, but it’s been a while since they opened: people just assume they’re gone for good. One of these places is the Altamira shoe store, with four decades of history, closed for a few years now.

In the intersection of the 5 de Julio with 12th Avenue, Dorsay, a clothing store for men and children, remains closed and covered in graffiti.

Some regional governments made a few attempts to restore the 5 de Julio’s past glory, with a Las Vegas-style casino, but the 2008 resolution prohibited these venues in the territory. Meanwhile, smaller places like El Almendro and the 5 de Julio restaurants refuse to yield.

“This is what socialism brings,” are the words you hear when people notice you’re a reporter. Desperate and defeated, they start half-hearted conversations under the scorching sun, while waiting for buses and shuttles, scarcer by the day.

Maracuchos yearn for this Boulevard, once a symbol of the modern, post-oil boom Maracaibo. Today, it’s more akin to old Havana: a few buildings stand as memories of better times, while others crumble in disrepair. When night falls, 77th Street becomes the ghostly abode of whores, beggars and gangsters, prowling in the dark for anyone walking a boulevard of lost hope.

Subway in La República Square. Closed for some time.
Joyería Cupello, an old business formerly located in the Baralt Square, downtown Maracaibo. Now, only the store in the Costa Verde mall remains.
Headquarters of Enelven, the local electric company that was absorbed into Corpoelec. The building is currently abandoned.
Garbage abounds in every corner. People scavenge for food or items they might trade.
Improvised transport like this can be seen picking up passengers, in the absence of buses.
The “Gran Hotel” ruins. It used to offer cheap accommodations for tourists before turning into a motel, finally shutting down.
“Altamira” shoe shop. Once the most iconic in a franchise with a 40-year history. The place isn’t for rent and remains closed.
77th Street has offices for most of the banks in the city within a relatively short distance. It’s common to see senior citizens standing in line here, or sitting alone in benches, waiting for their pensions.
The few bus stops on 77th Street are always filled with people waiting for scarce transport.
A dizzy old man before the gates of the Labor Ministry.
Over 30 years ago, this building used to house Sears, then became a Maxy’s and later a Super Maxy’s. It was a Cada before the regime expropriated the franchise and turned it into “Abastos Bicentenario.”
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28 COMMENTS

  1. Mi barrio…

    I lived quite close to that Bicentenario for more than 30 years. The level of decay is something out of this world. Notice the red light in the first picture? That is definitely the exception to the rule. You can even see how that is the only street light working all along the avenue. Hell, the green light may not be working.

    Hopefully, future generations will be able to see that which should never happen again. Please take tons and tons of pictures.

    • We went to a wedding in Maracaibo in the early 1990’s. It wasn’t a bad place. I remember the main street ran all the way out to a baseball stadium which was built next to the old airport? The airport was long gone, but you could tell where the runways were. The stadium was nice. What a shame what has happened to Maracaibo.

        • That’s it. The name was of a shortstop who played for the Red Sox. We watched some young up and coming MLB players play winter ball. (I doubt they do that still)

          It had a small amusement/water park nearby, on the old airstrip.

  2. Nostalgia at its best (pictorially, even better). Bulevard De Sabana Grande in Caracas (much more iconic than the Casanova) is well on its way to equal the 5 de Julio, and all are halfway/more to Old Havana….

  3. I love seeing photos like this. Very powerful.

    Like NET., I’d like to see shots of Sabana Grande, as well as Margarita, which is now a ghost town.

  4. Were you better off under the cold, hard, dispassionate, uncaring, greedy, 1% R-I-C-H, free market capitalism … or now? Capitalists don’t allow really poor people scrounging around in the garbage for food because, it “looks distasteful”. Rich people don’t want to see poor people, you know. It hurts the eyes. So they come up with some kind of solution, like hiring low-wage people so they can at least feed themselves, for goodness’ sake! And if they do well, they can sell them stuff!

    The part in the article about senior citizens sitting on benches waiting for their pensions brought to mind the famous play, “Waiting for Godot”. It’s a play in which two senior citizens sit and talk, waiting for Godot … who Godot is, is never really established, and Godot never shows up.

    I have seen main streets with closed shops here in the U.S.. There have been abandoned factories and warehouses, entire districts kind of “moved-out-of” leaving a ghost-town feeling. Even entire towns have been abandoned (not just “gold rush” towns that closed up shop when the gold veins were exhausted). But either times improved, and in a few years the main street shops reopened, or in some cases, the “lawyers” finally got the [___] off everyone’s backs, bankruptcies settled, debt discounted, “haircuts” endured. Dilapidated districts became apartments and condos in “chic” arbitrage (and turned into million-dollar condos). It takes a bit longer to change back to recovered or new state, but it does happen.

    I think the differences are obvious: an economic downturn or regional collapse are not the same as the chronic endemic slide in Venezuela. But under free markets, there is no oppression to prevent people from selling their warehouses to “avaricious, opportunistic, capitalist, vultures”. In Venezuela, any free market is the enemy in the economic war. And no one is willing to risk their capital to buy or build something the “government” will “expropriate” as soon as it’s up and running.

    • Well, Godot is waiting for most of us, except for the occasional soul-less commenter on CC, and the Chavista elite, who will eventually join El Galactico in a very warm southern clime….

    • Well said.

      I look at Detroit as an American example. For the last 70 years, Detroit has been run by a mafia of Democrats who have sucked every last bit of life out of the city. Homes that in any other place would be selling at a premium at abandoned… not because of the house, but because of where the house is located. IN DETROIT.

      Now, some people with vision are trying to reinvent Detroit, with SOME success. But the problem remains in city government. They are parasites who want more blood without giving their hosts anything. When you have Marxists in position of authority, you are taking a HUGE risk. And until the Marxists are voted out of office in Detroit, the downward trajectory cannot be stopped. No matter how much lipstick is painted on that pig.

      http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1882089,00.html

    • Have you ever lived in Venezuela? If not, please keep your comments to yourself.

      Venezuela is fading not because of capitalists leaving due to fear of losing everything, Venezuela is fading due to poor management of the country: corruption and the greed of those who govern the country – the same people that destroyed one of the most important oil companies in the world…

      • Venezuela is fading not because of capitalists leaving due to fear of losing everything, Venezuela is fading due to poor management of the country:

        Woot!

        “Better Chavismo” is the answer!

        (insert polite golf clap here)

        FWIW, you don’t have to live, or have lived in a place to have an opinion. Though it certainly gives a better perspective. I haven’t lived in Canada, but I have visited it often enough to have a formed an opinion about various aspects of Canada and some Canadians.

          • Everyone has a name for their neighbors! My Canadian friends call us state-siders “Gretzky-nappers”. (They still haven’t forgotten what the LA Kings did to the Oilers). I call them Northern Nebraskans.

      • Nona – I get your frustration and anger. You certainly hit on one of the sets of reasons that set the country-wide stage for the bad times present. But there are many reasons. Read what Poeta Criollo has to say about Cuba’s infiltration and influence. I wonder if you would make some comment about how it came to be that the population ended up voting for Chavez, or how what you describe came to be dominant?

        I grew up in Venezuela, an American never pretending to be Venezuelan, never meddling in Venezuelan politics, but I saw the emergence of a true middle class and how that was stopped. I don’t know exactly who did it, but my guess is that socialists felt they absolutely had to economically kill off any middle class, as that middle class would have stopped socialism from taking hold. Many native Venezuelans warned about the growth of the “Chavistas”, the socialist mindset, the “nationalization” of oil, warned about the inflation, and that was way back in the 1980’s. Still, the seeds of “free stuff” and “punish the rich” had been planted and continued to grow.

        Sometimes a view from the outside can be useful, so I make comments, and generally seem to fit the mainstream of thought. The comment I made above was more a generic contrast of free markets v. command economies. The current regime is certainly socialist, not just in name, but in action. If money and power had been the only objective, they sure the heck blew it by destroying the sources of all the money and power; the proverbial killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. Had they maintained all the many workings of PDVSA, and of the country in general, there was much more money there to be had.

        (I had an impulse this morning to write something about “Waiting for Godot” … it was, I believe, an “existentialist” play, the idea of mere existence. The two men waiting for something, or someone, undefined that might show up, but doesn’t. Still, they wait. Some kind of connection there, watching the denouement of Venezuela that so many – decades ago – knew would happen, and talked about and warned about in various ways, men like Perez Alfonso, and others. The eeriness of those closed shops and empty streets.)

        • Nena – Sorry, I got your name wrong. Everything has one typos, it’s a rule of nature. Also, Ulamog has written a lot about Cuban communists’ hands in infiltration and ruining Venezuela, and others, too, Poeta mostly blaming the culture of the uneducated. It seems to fit events, that they have had a hand in wrecking a lot of South America. The U.S. has probably tried to counter that, but the shining success was Pinochet and the native Chilean “Chicago Boys” who studied free markets under Milton Friedman.

      • Nena, it’s both:

        But that “poor management” you quote is/was responsible for threatening, cursing and stealing everything from those evil Capitalists.

        So you’re kind of contradicting yourself.

  5. Excellent report, a true pictorial of the complete Cubanization of Venezuela. What happens next:

    A couple more million of the best, young people will get the hell out, to complete a 5 million exodus. The country will then be even more submissive and ignorant than it already is. As planned in Cuba. The old will get older and weaker, as planned, totally dependent on whatever crumbs the criminal regime throws at them. The young will have been born under Chavismo, knowing no other way of life. Just like Cubans have been for decades. As planned. Lacking education, and with washed brains with words like “revolucion”, “imperialismo”, “socialismo”. Isolated from the civilized world, young, clueless zombies. Also completely dependent, when not complicit and corrupt themselves. And the years will go by, as the world slowly starts accepting Cubazuela as another China of sorts, another Cuba. By 2030, the vestiges of Maracaibo and Caracas’ carcass will look more and more like Havana: old, decrepit cars, fearful people in the streets, all dependent and/or complicit with the narco-dictatorship.

    Mission accomplished, according to plan.

  6. If this is what a socialist revolution brings, who needs an enemy? The idea that anyone in Chavismo could claim to have improved the lives of Venezuelans, or that all would be good save for the Economic Blockade, is a hard one to sell at this point. Waiting for Godot is a good analogy because by the looks of the last 19 years, waiting has become the national MO, save for those still looting and pillaging. Of course there’s many silent heroes doing good work, but if there’s a clearer, more tragic picture of permanent defeat in 2018, one wonders where it might be found.

  7. I was missionary of the Church of Jesuschrist of latter-day saints from 1993-1995 in Maracaibo, I walked those streets every day and I remember how modern and prosperous this city was at that time, especially Bella Vista and its surroundings. Seeing this pictures is so sad, no doubt this its totally different than that city I have so many beautiful memories.

  8. Aquí todos son maracuchos Gringo, valga que no tengo nada en contra de los Estado unidenses… Pero por favor, supongo que estas crónicas son en ingles para q tengan impacto fuera de nuestras froneras , peroooooo bueno solo es mi opinion . que maaaaallll ingleeeeesss

    5 de julio esta en modo walking dead de desde hacer un par de años atrás, especialmente en las noches por cierto.

    Saludos y gracias por todas las crónicas nos permiten mantenernos al día con la situación del país.

  9. John, si tiene una idea de la situación, la leeré en español o inglés. Todavía tengo familia en Caracas y cualquier palabra de cualquiera es bienvenida. No importa lo malo que sea tu inglés. Let it rip.

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