La ciudad que no fluye / Joaquín Marta Sosa

The City that Doesn’t Flow

Caracas is a difficult city. I don’t know if it seems ugly or beautiful to me, but I do feel her as being enormously complicated. I traverse her as though I were walking on the spine of a great sleeping beast that could wake up at any moment and sink its teeth into me. It's nothing, just an intimate sensation, surely stimulated by news of robberies, murders, along with the filth installed everywhere, the unlivable traffic, the absence of public spaces where one feels at ease. And I’m not simply referring to the central and western parts of Caracas, I also have in mind the areas that are known to be clean and safe. In those areas as well, the feeling I get of passing through hostile territories remains, whether I’m in a restaurant, walking on a sidewalk or sheltered in a mall.

It is as if this city doesn’t flow, as if it has acquired the nature of a thick, muddy, unmoving reservoir, impossible to cut through and unattractive. But above all, a city where everything has a spirit of stagnation, from the heat to the newsstands, from the small buses to the bushes, from the brand name stores to the parking lots.

The oppression of certain invisible but omnipresent, hard and unmovable walls presides over all of it for me. And this is the city where I’ve lived almost my entire life, where I find my best friends, the booksellers I respect, the poets I admire and the mountain that has been fascinating to me ever since I first laid eyes on her. It is the territory of all my remembrances, of my best and worst memories, which is to say, all the ones that live with us until death.

In some way I feel harassed by her or, more precisely, seen with distrust by her thousand eyes, her façades, her broken light posts, her pedestrian zones full of holes like battle trenches, her movie theaters whose carpets exude a sticky mildew smell.

It's nothing, except that only in the refuge of my library, in the homes of a few dear friends or while glancing at new titles in a bookstore do I perceive myself inside the bubbles of that modest quotidian happiness that a city must portion out massively in order for you to feel the breath from which she continues to love you.

Caracas has ended up being a territory where it is difficult to breathe freely not only, and sometimes not fundamentally, because of the assault of crime and other related issues. It is a more profound matter, which has to do with a deteriorated, and at certain moments toxic, spiritual and psychic relationship.

And it is not that the city has suffered this involution in a spontaneous manner. It has been years, very long years, during which few people took interest in her beyond the spot where they placed their feet but had not established roots. I fear the matter already overwhelms the very possibility of urban renovations or of a functional restatement of the problems. I suppose it is an issue of reestablishing the spirit, which does exist, of this city, which governments and citizens have submerged at the bottom of a bottomless pit.

{ Joaquín Marta Sosa, TalCual, 26 February 2007 }

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