Caracas - Modernism Adrift

Villa Monzeglio, Bello Monte, Caracas

Villa Monzeglio, Bello Monte, Caracas

On many occasions, the citizens of Caracas fail to notice the architectural gems that build up our metropolis. Our eyes, focused on insecurity and food shortages are not aware that, behind the shantytowns and layers of grime and visual pollution, Caracas has a spectrum of splendid buildings stalked by decay.

A few days ago, I went to a wedding at the Church of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the neighborhood of Las Mercedes. To the horror of my eyes, across the street, a picturesque house of neo-Basque style was being demolished to make way for "progress." Las Mercedes is one of the few flat areas of Caracas and therefore it is doomed to become a commercial area. That is why the vast majority of suburban homes in the area have disappeared to make way for all types of businesses. Unfortunately, there is no law or any regulation on aesthetics and the area grows disorganized, smothered in tacky kitsch and vulgar architecture (the so-called novelty architecture): signs, architectural modifications, and aesthetic abnormalities. Las Mercedes has become a great visual dump.

Humboldt Building, Altamira, Caracas

Humboldt Building, Altamira, Caracas

Las Mercedes requires an architectural law urgently. Not only to control the panorama and prevent the further proliferation of kitsch, but also to protect the latest architectural gems in the area. That neo-Basque house was demolished and removed without any trace beyond memory and many other buildings in the area could end up with the same fate. Las Mercedes has other beautiful buildings worthy of protection such as various neo-Basque houses, dazzling buildings guarded by trees full of lush tropical vines and even the Polyclinic of Las Mercedes with its abstract bronze relief in the front area.

Canaima Building, Chacao, Caracas

Canaima Building, Chacao, Caracas

Throughout Caracas, there are unprotected architectural gems: The plethora of styles of Bello Monte, the buildings of Altamira and Los Palos Grandes, the houses of San Román, the futuristic Villa Monzeglio, the buildings in Los Chaguaramos and Santa Monica, the Altolar and Canaima building, the Jirajara house in Santa Paula, the Zena building, the old houses of Valle Arriba, the Art Deco of El Paraiso, the nostalgic buildings of San Bernardino and many others. All these gems live in the constant threat of the future, of destruction. Architecture not only has the highest aesthetic, historical, and cultural value of our country but it has the memories of all the people in Caracas. These memory boxes fiercely scream the country's history in their exquisite facades and urgently need a national law on architectural protection; something like a native National Register of Historic Places that would not only protect the buildings but would raise them culturally and would increase their monetary value. Thus, a culture of preservation and cultural admiration in the Venezuelans would be created. One of the largest samples of modern architecture of the twentieth century, my dear Caracas, could quickly disappear to give way to an unrecognizable city. Caracas is a living museum of architecture and its preservation is needed with urgency.

Altolar Building, Bello Monte, Caracas

Altolar Building, Bello Monte, Caracas

Altolar Building's tropical hallways. 

Altolar Building's tropical hallways. 

 

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 

When a Continent Turns its Back on You

Original post published on 3-22-14

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Yesterday, oppression and despotism prevailed once again. During the last OAS meeting, the useless Organization of American States, the ethical state of Panama gave up its seat to Venezuelan opposition congresswoman Maria Corina Machado (Venezuela gave up its seat to the opposition of that country during its dictatorship a few decades ago). Unfortunately, 22 puppet and mediocre states voted for the meeting to be private, beating 11 states with moral and trampling Venezuelan sovereignty once again. 

The tragic news filled me with rage. Then, I watched a touching video of the protesting students. As something unusual to me, I exploded in tears. With goosebumps, I started to scream my frustration with the "15 Years of Slavery " of this government. "Damn! They destroyed my country," I shouted, “They took everything away. " Everything except hope.

40 years before the tyrant Comandante rise to power; the country ousted a military dictatorship. During the period 1958-1998, we were acclaimed and observed with admiration for our democracy not because it was exceptional, but because it was a rarity in the region. If there is something that the Fourth Republic did well, was supporting and funding governments and democratic movements across the continent. A continent that has forgotten it. 

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A hypocritical continent that has also forgotten the oppression they lived and that now we live. Presidents, have you forgotten how you were trampled and tortured? Dilma, do you remember how you were electrocuted and hung from the ceiling naked? Remember Garrastazu Medici, Geisel, Figueiredo and Castelo Branco? Cristina, have you forgotten the military juntas treading on you? What about Videla, Galtieri? Guyana, did you forgot Burnham? Peoples of Central America, have you forgotten Somoza, civil wars and many other despots? Haiti, have you forgotten the Duvalier, Cedras and Magloire? Dominican Republic, do you remember Trujillo? Pepe, don’t you remember the oppression of Conrado Alvarez? Evo, what about Barrientos, Banzer Suárez and Tejada? What happened to the Spanish oppression of your people, the indigenous peoples? Correa, did you forget Velasco, Rodriguez Lara and Poveda Burbano?

In red, countries that voted for the session to be private. In blue, countries that voted for the session to be public. 

In red, countries that voted for the session to be private. In blue, countries that voted for the session to be public. 

Obviously they don’t remember. Money and filthy oil filled their mouths and brains and now they cannot think or talk. If Nicolas Maduro spilled oil in the ground right now, you would all come running to lick it. Don’t worry, you now rejoice in your sadism to see my country made into ashes. You rejoice in your resentment of the times when we were the role models, when we were your most tireless dreams. Don’t worry; everything is paid in this universe. The truth is one: Your indiscreet attempts to imitate Cuba, your pathetic little governments and all your shit is kept with the oil from my country. You make feel disgusted, disgusted and more disgusted. But still, I repeat, when this is over and the oil stop flowing to you, you’ll fall in batch.

Liberty in the Socialism of the XXI Century

Armored cars in El Marques, Caracas. 

Armored cars in El Marques, Caracas. 

In the middle of the chaos that is happening in the country, art once again brings us an answer. Like the famous musical “Evita” says in one of its songs: “There is evil ever around, fundamental system of government.”

The night of February 19th was a tense and nervous one for most Venezuelans. A little before midnight, the social networks agitated by the news that the populous gangs of armed paramilitary men were roaming the city, shooting against protests and even at buildings where people were banging pots (A native way of protesting). The situation got worse: The armed forces were also part of the violent crackdown.

The city looked like a battlefield. There were dead people, injured people, detained people and destroyed vehicles. Many protesters received shelter in the buildings’ apartments, although in some cases the antidemocratic soldiers and “tuparamo” paramilitary stormed into the apartments and took the demonstrators away by force. In the western state of Tachira the Internet was eliminated by the government and later that state and the capital were militarized with armored cars. Many citizens ran to their windows to insult the soldiers and even throw Molotov cocktails at them. A rain of videos poured into Twitter.

Had the government established a curfew? Was there a war? No. Those were the “democratic” and “peaceful” measures by the dictator Nicolás Maduro. Venezuela is no longer the democratic country it used to be fifteen years ago. Venezuela now shows its true totalitarian and oppressive face to the world. It’s a country where abusive and murderous soldiers stepping on people instead of defending them. Soldiers that fight for Machiavellian Cuban and Venezuelan satraps. Soldiers that think they have the right to torture, beat or kill only because they have a rifle. Soldiers who turn a blind eye to the shouting of mothers crying for their dead sons. Soldiers who even raped detained students with rifles. These armed forces are not only puppets of the parasitic Cuba, but they are also the lively image of the sadist oppression that my country is living.

In Venezuela, oppression goes beyond these barbarians. The liberty of expression that the socialism of the XXI century has provided to us is very clear: the same Fidel provided in Cuba and Stalin in Russia. Like many of you know, in Venezuela the TV channels are irresponsible puppets of the government that silent the reality of the nation. International channels that dared to say the truth, like in the case of NTN24 and El Tiempo, were taken out of the air by the loving government of Maduro. Now, setting apart social networks, the last free audiovisual media that we have is CNN En Español. But our sweet leader threatened to wipe CNN like he did with the other ones.

Janiot leaving the country. 

Janiot leaving the country. 

Today, the journalists of the mentioned channel lost their credentials for reporting in Venezuela and so they were expelled. The journalist Patricia Janiot abandoned the country this morning. The journalist reported that she was going to conduct an interview with Maduro, but the coward leader took their credentials before this was possible. The Colombian journalist reported that they were accused of drug trafficking in the airport and they were detained. Her shoes were inspected because a “drug” was seen in the x-ray machines although, ironically, the “wise” soldiers didn’t note that she had a bottle of water: something that is prohibited while travelling. The fraud was right in front of their noses, but despite that her team was detained and their phones were searched. In addition, they were followed everywhere until they left. Janiot and her producer where even accused of a lesbian relationship by the soldiers.

The president calls us fascists for asking for liberty. But we’re not fascists. We’re people that suffer for the land that bore us; a land that is now chained. CNN will probably disappear from our TV soon… The few liberties in Venezuela, severed and mutilated, are in a train that goes quickly toward a mountain to die.

VIDEOS OF THE EVENTS OF FEBRUARY 19th: