Photo: El Estimulo retrieved

About 17 million people around the world watched the premiere of Game of Thrones’ last season on April 14th. Although there are no official figures, in Maracaibo, where the show’s fairly popular, people managed to watch it by visiting friends or relatives with power at home, by getting emergency generators or simply by praying for no outages.

Elvis doesn’t have power by day, but it returns at night, due to Corpoelec’s rationing schedule. That Sunday, he was ready to watch the premiere regardless of any contingencies that might arise, including an unexpected off-schedule power cut.

He owns an emergency power generator bought in 2018, when Zulia, unlike other regions, suffered blackouts for months. “These are the only 60 minutes where I can forget that I live in communism.”

Having fun in Maracaibo got increasingly harder since the blackouts started on March 7th. Not so long ago, it was the preferred destination for citizens who lived in close municipalities like San Francisco, Cabimas or La Concepción, thanks to its famous nightclubs and malls. Now, most nightclubs are closed, and those that do open don’t have air conditioning in a region known for high temperatures. Recently, Galerías Mall, whose main attraction was the movie theatre, announced they were closing until further notice.

Having fun in Maracaibo got increasingly harder since the blackouts started on March 7th.

In this context, some have chosen to dust off board games, and they even dare to play in the dark using their phones’ flashlights. Meanwhile, Carlos tells me he downloaded Candy Crush the other day. “It’s crazy because I never played it when it was all the rage three years ago and now, when there’s a power cut, I play nonstop. But I have to make sure my battery stays charged.”

Others have chosen to take greater risks.

A couple of weeks ago, 23-year-old Graciela went with four friends to “the last ringbell” in the Rafael Bello Chacín University, another of the city’s longtime attractions affected by the country’s situation: then end-of-term party used to be held at night in a crowded university with performances from important regional bands like Guaco or Caibo. In this last edition, it was held in the afternoon with a sharp drop in attendance, while entertainment was left to unknown bands and contests about the noise a power plant makes when switched on.

The adrenaline rush came when Graciela and her friends left because there was a blackout and she had to walk several blocks in utter darkness “We should’ve taken a taxi, but we didn’t have money,” she says.

We can’t even drink at home. Such a simple thing, and yet they took that from us as well.

One of her friends hitched for a ride; when a driver accepted to take them, “I didn’t want to get in because, by the way we were dressed, he was going to think we were hookers or something.” The guy had no shirt, increasing their fear, but then he explained that his wife had kicked him out and didn’t even allow him to take his clothes.

Nothing happened. “He looked liked a madman, but he took us home and treated us very well,” says Graciela. “God must have sent him.”

Power was back when they got to the house, at around 9:30 p.m.; they kept partying until there was another outage, at 1:00 a.m. “[My friends] stayed up playing dominoes with a phone’s flashlight and I went to bed angry. We can’t even drink at home. Such a simple thing, and yet they took that from us as well.”

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