Caligula in Caracas

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

"The General Zapped an Angel" - I can't stop relating this with the Ozymandias colossus. 

"The General Zapped an Angel" - I can't stop relating this with the Ozymandias colossus. 

Not long ago, I found a historical poem of 1818 by the British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley: Ozymandias . The poem deals with the decline of the great civilizations and cultures that become titanic ruins amidst a desolate world. This is expressed through the image that the poet paints: Two colossal legs and a face in the sand, the last vestiges of a colossus, in the middle of the empty desert and a pedestal that hails its great builder - the pharaoh Ozymandias (Ramses II) - but they are now nothing more but ruins and a blurred memory of the greatness of a splendid empire that lies dead. The first idea that I related with this poem was my own city: Caracas.

The beautiful Caracas has become a giant nest full of filth where criminals and corrupt men get drunk and vomit on extravagant feasts; where obscenity reigns over modesty and naked whores participate in euphoric orgies. It is a nest where human decay crawls in fetid mud and dirt like pigs. It is the decadent Rome imagined by romantic painters: A metropolis of dirty splendid buildings where light is scarce and crime and depravity are plenty. It’s the Babylon imagined by St. John in the Book of Revelation.

The Tower of David - The World's tallest slum. An abandoned and never finished business center. (Photo: www.imutc.com

The Tower of David - The World's tallest slum. An abandoned and never finished business center. (Photo: www.imutc.com

Still, this decadent and wounded city cries for help. It asks the barbarians to clean its mess and to rebuild it. It reminds us daily with those "temples to Zeus and Venus", once beautiful, lying like the Ozymandias colossus: The Parque Central Towers, The Children's Museum, the Tower of la Previsor, Paseo Zingg, the East Park, the old houses of El Paraiso, the Humboldt Hotel , the Tower of David and many others.

These remains are the remnants of a better and more beautiful Caracas: the once called “Subsidiary of Heaven”. They are the feet of the Ozymandias colossus that remind us, however impossible it may seem, that we were once some kind of tropical Constantinople: A progressive, modern city whose brightness would make everyone who saw her fall in love with her. A city without street vendors, motorbike taxis, lines of people in the market because of the food shortages, banners celebrating a dead tyrant everywhere, a sea of isual pollution, ruins, citizens terrified by crime, dirt, the grim pyramid of Barreto, the grotesque Bolivar Mausoleum and the apathy and indifference of many people to the neglect.

These splendid neglected buildings full of graffiti, grime and disrepair in all areas make me suffer and think about the decline of my beloved Caracas. Could it be that one day, among the prostitutes and corrupt men socially accepted and the waste of money Versailles style by the vulgar ruling oligarchy, I will find myself under the vertical favela/ruin of the Tower of David and the dirty towers of Parque Central (Neglected and one destroyed by fire) and read a pedestal that says, "My name is Caracas, queen of queens: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair "?

"Romans of the Decadence" - Thomas Couture 

"Romans of the Decadence" - Thomas Couture