Social Housing as Monument and Image
The Eyes of Chávez

3 septembre 2021

Date de parution : 2021

Éditeur : ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America
David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies

Collection : Monuments and Counter-Monuments

Volume : Volume XVIII, Number 1

Référence HAL-SHS :

Abstract :

To understand better the context and scale of the housing project—and its political dimensions—some historical points and statistics will allow us to create a common framework. In 1999, Hugo Chávez came to power. He resolved to create an emancipating, revolutionary and anti-capitalist society, which years later he would call the creation of 21st-century socialism embodied by the New Man. Now, 22 years later, the country is immersed in a multifaceted and extremely serious crisis—it has been profoundly transformed. Hyperinflation exploded after the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was shaved in half between 2013 and 2018. The country, with a population of 30 million people, has seen about five million people emigrate since 2015, according to the United Nations.

This construction mission, like a variety of social missions created in these two decades, forms part of the governmental action plans designed to deal with—theoretically and practically—the inefficiency of Venezuelan public administration. According to the political discourse, the missions undercut the bureaucracies that stand in the way of quick, efficient and urgent response on the part of the state. To achieve these ends, citizen participation ought to be the principal player and motor in all actions in the public interest. The project GMVV, spearheaded by President Hugo Chávez en 2010, proposes to pay a social debt to millions of Venezuelans through the massive construction of three million housing units throughout the country. After heavy rains that year, quite common in Venezuela, thousands of people lost their homes and this situation has repeated itself over the years, increasing the housing deficit. In this context of chaos, no type of planning was possible, and the atmosphere of emergency required the expedited construction of millions of housing units, without taking into account the context of the projects or even technical and aesthetic concerns. And although I received my doctorate in 2020, it’s clear to me that the situation is ongoing in 2021. If indeed it is true that the program resolved a problem of substance, we can question the efficiency and consequences of this public action. At what material and human price, do we maintain these public policies ?


Finally, in the majority of the responses received about the analyzed images, we could determine the ambivalence of sentiments expressed by citizens, for some, a reaction of admiration, protection and satisfaction and from others, a type of disturbance, domination and distaste.

If we return to the initial metaphor of the city as a sponge, we can conclude that these political actions are like the rain. A rain we cannot stop or keep ourselves from getting wet, and that some appreciate and others do not. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the landscape is in R Evolución, yes, in evolution, and at one moment, looking to the image of the house and warm fireplace, it will receive us with warmth and offer us solace. Our Caracas, filled with old and new memories and monuments, will be the city all of us have always wanted to return to.

Social Housing as Monument and Image
Social Housing as Monument and Image

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