Foreign Policy Blogs

Seeking Tranquility in Life and Death

A random story, but the NYT recently covered grave-robbing in Caracas, which is apparently on the rise, and as are many negative social indicators there these days. The bones are sold for use in a religion called Palo, originating with Cubans who migrated to Venezuela decades ago.

Some of those interviewed for the story wonder if this is a further example of societal breakdown in the country’s capital. It does make one wonder what norms now exist within the city. Having lived for a year in Caracas, there appears to be aggressive undertone to many social interactions.

On the other hand, there exist moments and places of tranquility in the Venezuelan capital. For example, each Tuesday and Thursday evening hundreds gather to practice yoga at a government-owned park, Centro de Arte La Estancia, in the Floresta neighborhood. With each passing month the number of people grows as the word gets out about this hour of stretching and meditation. The park – meticulously maintained with gardens and a fresh-trimmed lawn – is a tranquil refuge within the city, only a stone wall away from the traffic and commotion on Avenida Francisco de Miranda. Unlike numerous country clubs accessible only to the political and economic elite, La Estancia is completely open to the public. Each month it hosts numerous cultural opportunities in dance and music.

There is room for criticism of the Venezuelan government, but La Estancia, restored and supported by PDVSA, should serve as alternative evidence of a more complex narrative. And it provides a peace that is hard to come by for those buried at local cemeteries.



David D. Sussman

David D. Sussman is currently a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), in Boston, Massachusetts. Serving as a fellow at the Feinstein International Center, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the lives of Colombian refugees and economic migrants in Caracas, Venezuela. David has worked on a variety of migrant issues that include the health of displaced persons, domestic resettlement of refugees, and structured labor-migration programs. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School, where he studied the integration of Somali and Salvadoran immigrants. David has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and is fluent in Spanish. He has lived in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, and also traveled throughout Latin America. In his free time David enjoys reading up on international news, playing soccer, cooking arepas, and dancing salsa casino. Areas of Focus: Latin America; Migration; Venezuela.