An inescapable part of life in a third world country is seeing slums just across the road that grow everyday. Petare, Mariche and La Pastora are among the slums that can be found in Caracas (the capital city of Venezuela). Daniel, a teenager who lives in Petare and whose name has been changed for this interview, answered some questions about what it’s like to live in a slum in Caracas.
He said that most people have no idea what life is like there. His answers were extremely revealing and would be painful to anyone who lives, as he puts it, “in the other part of the city”.
Let’s start with an easy question, what is a normal day in your home like?
Easy is not the right word for a normal day in my house. I have to wake up everyday at 4:30 a.m. to take my little brother to his school and then go to my high school before 7 a.m. Then I go to class until 12, which is when my brother gets out of school. I return him to our house and, on the days where I also have classes in the afternoon, I go back to my high school. When I get home, I usually try to do all my homework and afterwards I carry water to my house for myself, my brother, and my mom, so that we can shower; our bathroom doesn’t have water and my mother can’t carry a lot of weight.
My usual days are boring; sometimes I go to the basketball court that is kind of close to where I live.
You said that your bathroom doesn’t have water – is it like that throughout your house?
Yes, we only have water in a tap in our backyard, with which we fill a water tank. It is necessary to have one because it is quite common for the government to cut water and electricity.
People say that living in a slum is hard because of the lack of security, is that true?
It’s hard because of many things; we don’t have water, most of the people don’t have Internet, our houses are not safe, and it is also very hard to find food that we can pay for… But yes, the lack of security is a problem.
Though I don’t own an expensive cell phone, I don’t go out with my phone. A few guys that live near here stole my old one.
Have they robbed you of other things besides your phone?
Not exactly those specific guys, but robbers have even stolen food from my mom, like corn flour and other regulated products.
You talked about food, is it hard to find it or is it just too expensive?
Everyone has problems finding basic products here in Venezuela…so people have to pay the “bachaqueros” [smugglers] for it. For my mom it is very hard to pay large amounts of money for food since she has a small salary, so she spends hours waiting in a line outside the supermarket.
Do you think that you receive enough nutrients?
We eat what we can, I cannot tell you… But at least we eat meat and milk when we have it. Some nights we only have arepas with butter for our dinner.
Can you tell me how the worst day at your house has been?
Well… I can tell you one hard day: a few weeks ago, there was gunfire that lasted for so long that I can’t remember how long. Here this is not that uncommon, but that time one of my mom’s friends died, and seven other people too I think. My brother was so scared; we had to sleep under our dinner table because we were so scared of what could happen. Our house still has bullet marks.
It sounds hard to live where you do. What do you think is the worst part of living in Petare?
Everything. Most people don’t know how awful it is here. The people that live in the other part of the city, the east, have no idea. Even people here don’t realize that there is something better outside of here. I have a fear of dying accidentally in a gunfire while walking to my house. I have a fear of dying in an earthquake. I have these fears because I study in a good college, since I have a scholarship, but I fear that my little brother won’t be as lucky. I have a fear that I won’t be able to move, with my mom and my brother, to a better place.
The worst part is that most of the people here deserve this and I don’t want to be like those people.
How do you plan to move out of Petare?
I’m studying in a private high school and I will go to university so I can have a good job and pay for a better house here or in another country. I’ve had luck and I’m studying hard so I hope that I can get out of this hell because it’s like being in a prison.
Daniel, fearful of revealing his name, is only one of the nearly half a million people that live in Petare. His life, as he says, could be worse and he feels lucky to have more than some of his other neighbors. It makes an observer wonder how the government has allowed slums like Petare to grow and reach a density of more than 10,000 people per square kilometre, without showing that they care about the people of Venezuela.