Or so it seemed last Thursday. I had the opportunity of walking through through Sabana Grande, one of Caracas’ main commercial districts, on my return from Curacao. The place was mostly closed up shops and the few remaining stores had their colorful signs ripped out from their façade by order of one of Our El Presidento’s most loyal minions some time ago.
You can hardly figure out who’s selling what and, to make things worse, there were no Christmas ornaments nor colored strings of lights laid out this late in the season.
The city I grew up into is now as dull and as dreary as any town in the Soviet Block at the height of the cold war. It was quite a contrast against my cherished memories; the Sabana Grande Boulevard of my childhood was a three-mile long stretch of bustling stores, pharmacies, cafeterias and pizza parlors. My favorite place was the Chocolate Savoy’s store, which had all the company’s wide array catalog of candies in display at three massive exhibit windowpanes. I remember spending many hours standing there, as I was a very, very poor kid who couldn’t afford to buy a chocolate bar, but at least I was able to catch a glimpse of the colorful and shiny candy wrappings (along with a healthy whiff of the aroma if I took a deep breath). Now the place is a sport shoes’ store, which is sort of an anathema to me.
But what remains with me is the fact that they haven’t set up this year’s Christmas tree at the Chacaito Shopping Mall… and they’re not even playing the music typical of this season.
I managed to go past by one the few surviving toy stores around, and though I was greeted by the sight of a Dad and his Son standing in front of the display window, there were a few disturbing details that I wished I wasn’t able to see. But I have a writer’s mind… and it took detail of everything.
It must be a familiar sight all over the world: Dad standing with his young Son of about six, looking at all the motley arrangements of toys, holding hands while the boy gushes at the playthings, incessantly babbling “Daddy, look! I want that! Ohhh, and that!”
But there was a look of focused anxiety in the father’s face. The father’s expression was soul-crushing; I suppose he was calculating with extreme despair if he’d be able to satisfy his son’s even littlest whim this year.
I must remind you that due to Black Market’s distortions, even a humble $50 toy can become an expesive trinkey with an outrageous price tag in the $500-$700 range… and the natives barely earn $100 each month.
You do the math.
I shook my head sadly as Father and Son walked away.
I guess there will be many sad Christmas in many, many local homes this year.