Monday, September 3, 2012

Caracas’ quiet renaissance

Hundreds of plastic bags filled with mock seaweed and fake fish lined nearly half a city block, lit up by Christmas lights beneath them, with an ambient sound backdrop of croaking frogs and echoing drops of water. The soothing effect of it had people crowding around in the warm evening air to take pictures and gawk. Incoherent performance art that sheds its veneer of intellectual seriousness actually turns out to be a lot of fun.

Four blocks away a woman stood on a balcony in garish curlers and exaggerated costume of an Italian housewife, surrounded by costume clothes proverbially hanging up to dry.

She would lower a plastic bag on a rope down to the street level, where people would put in things for her to hang up (a bag of chips, for example) while taking pieces of paper out of the bag that had messages written on them in Italian.

(Photos by my better half, by the way)

The streets were packed to the nines. Kids on skateboards or riding bikes, teenagers drinking, old codgers chatting.

People in cool looking costumes made out of paper water-cooler cups wandered around, getting compliments as they checked their Blackberries.


On one corner they did flashmobs in the street when traffic stopped, they gathered around these strong-looking photo booths and danced to a really cool DJ remix of AC/DC.

The environment creates a spontaneity that makes you want to talk to the person standing next to you for no apparent reason. It’s like carnaval in Rio -- only fun.

I ended the night half-listening to a trio that does a combination of Dixie-land jazz and Venezuelan folk music, while I chatted with friends and played my first game of hackey sack in what must be 10 years.

This was the sixth and final weekend of Por el medio de la Calle, a set a street festivals put on by the Caracas municipality of Chacao. The first involved German levitation artist Johan Lorbeer spending an hour and a half standing fifteen feet off the ground, his left hand leaning against a wall, in another fine example of fun performance art. I  unfortunately missed the other four weekends of fun in Chacao, against my better judgment.

Caracas’ historic center now has the similar events each month, similar to a festival I went to last year, with DJs and live bands converging to bring thousands of partiers to what has traditionally been a no-man’s-land after sunset.

Nobody believes me when I say Caracas is making a comeback. Sure, it’s got a bad reputation for a lot of reasons – the high crime rate is the most frequently cited of these. There’s all sorts of yelling and screaming about whether or not Venezuela’s government is doing what it should to address it (I studiously avoid commenting on that in this blog). I still believe that getting people into the streets is the best thing local authorities can do to make streets safer. 

1 comment:

  1. You want my theory on why CCS is making a comeback: you guys are back there now - best thing that city has going for it.