touring the bush (12) : caracas carcass

a carcass might look dead, but it’s not. i mean, it’s dead, but not dead-dead. did you know after you die your hair and fingernails keep growing? o.k., that’s not exactly true, it’s just an illusory effect of skin retraction due to body dehydration. but still... how about the chicken running after having its head cut-off? headless poultry can still run and its heart still beat as active reflexes stemming from the intact spinal chord for several seconds after decapitation. there are even accounts of miraculous .beheaded birds that went on living for months.

anyway, what I’m really talking about is living corpses, not the living dead : the dead body as a life locus, a breading field for bacteria and maggots and all that icky stuff. well, it happens to cities. cities die, layer after layer. but the dead layers aren’t dead-dead. dead city-layers aren’t as meaningful and functional and obviously active as when they are alive. but usually it takes time before the traces of a dead layer are lost, and in the meantime they prove to be excellent sites for parasitic developments. call it whatever you want: informality, appropriation, temporal use of spaces… it’s the icky stuff in our cities we don’t necessarily like or understand or find “healthy” or “normal.” but in the underdeveloping cities of latinoamérica (and elsewhere), this animate rankness is thriving.

caracas might just be the crown jewel of our sub-continental modern-city carcass collection. after the chavista revolution, the dead modernist layer of the venezuelan capital is host to the most intense and exquisite necrotrophic urban phenomena in the region.

caracas was a teen casualty, caught in the failure and fall of local modernismos almost still in bloom. celeste olalquiaga tells it like the plot of an urban telenovela:

"between the 1940s and the 1970s, the placid city of santiago de león de caracas inhaled the air of modernization, developing into a full-blown metropolis. its daring architecture and raging urbanism left many of its inhabitants breathless, amazed by the ongoing transformation of their hometown into a burgeoning center of international commerce and foreign pop culture. skyscrapers and highways were the signs of a blossoming adolescence that turned caracas into a world capital (paris-new york-caracas, an affluent gallery boasted under its name), which the rest of the americas looked to with envy or greed. perhaps it was the venezuelans' passion for melodrama, but so much abundance just couldn't last. doomed by the same black gold that had given it such vibrant energy, the country that had cheerfully danced in oil-money suddenly found itself catching up with all it had ignored; unfinished projects, overwhelming misery and an enormous national debt adding up to a huge bill for a party that was definitely over. like an orchid left in the sun, the modern caracas withered, its remarkable structures buried under the weight of forgetfulness and disrepair, its vitality sinking into a benign apathy."

pobre niña rica (y moderna)

this is were the story starts and ends at the same time, and starts again, and everything gets fabulously gross. i wish blogger came with odorama.

next : caracas chavista y revolucionaria

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