CARACAS, VENEZUELA: FIRST IMPRESSION

I posted this as my Facebook status today and people seemed appreciative of the story, so I wanted to share it here with a few images: “is about to go brave the streets of Caracas. Try to catch a taxi to Plaza Bolivar and take it from there. Impressions thus far: Feels like Cuba in many ways. They speak Spanish faster than anything I’ve ever heard, so I say, “Ba hale dos, por favor,” and they laugh and get more comfortable around me (they tend to stay away because they don’t speak much English.) — there’s a feeling of lawlessness, no obeyance of street signs, opportunistic eyes scoping for a ‘take…’ Walking with a new friend yesterday, I said, “They say Venezuela is the most dangerous country in the world and that Caracas is the most dangerous city in the world…?” He replied, “Oh, yes.” And I went on, “They say there’s like 20 murders a weekend and most go unsolved?” And he says, “Oh, more than that, and the average is 1 in 60 murders get solved. The police don’t get paid enough and their weapons can’t compare to the criminals’ weapons. The police are afraid of the criminals.” And the way the people I’ve spoken to are opening up about Chavez…wow. They have a lot of thoughts on pre- and post-Chavez and then this week, what could happen in Caracas on the 10th…I’m really stoked to be here at this time. I’m not afraid. I take ALL proper precautions and just blend in. One thing I’ve noticed, and as a photographer, I use this to judge people’s personalities: every single person walked around me yesterday or waited patiently as I photographed graffiti…bad people walk in front of the camera without so much as a nod. That’s a fact. Every time I noticed someone waiting, I stopped and said “No! No! Please go in front of me. I’ll wait. Thank you! And they smiled.” One guy gave a revolutionary fist up and big smile with a positive comment when he saw me photographing opposition graffiti. Oh, and one more thing: I forget that I have Che Guevara things that I wear…they’re just a part of me. The necklace for my Grandmother and my Great Aunt’s memories I just got in Mexico…has Che on it as well…here, they don’t seem to accept it as flippant and want to talk about why…some interesting conversations about him yesterday…almost as though, well, they gave me the sense that if I dress the way I do, don’t show off glitz or glamor (no problem with dressing down, thank you!) and that if I’m wearing Che stuff, I’m kind of safe…I don’t know, I can’t explain it and I have to go out now and try to make more sense of this place and these people.”

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4JAN13. Caracas, Venezuela.

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