Revolutionary Urbanism: The Struggle for the Streets of Caracas
Doctor of Philosophy in City and Regional Planning
University of California, Berkeley
Professor Ananya Roy, Chair
In 1998, Venezuelans elected a radical to be the country's seventy-third president. Elected through the promise of reform and redistribution, Hugo Chavez crafted a new era of Latin American populist discourse, which called for socializing wealth, leading inline with the needs of the nation's poorest people, creating meaningful labor opportunities, and humanizing the country's capital city. His so-called Bolivarian Revolution has been the focus of Latin Americanists, political skeptics, and local radicals around the world. Starting nearly eight years after his first election, this research uses the streets of the city and the stories of street vendors to understand the material impact of this turn in Venezuela.
Through interviews, data collection, and ethnography focused on two neighborhoods in the historic center of the city - Cazco Historico and Sabana Grande- of Caracas, I am able to demonstrate how the Chavez regime is failing in its promise to transform the lives of the urban poor. This research identifies the techniques used by the state to organize people with similar class interests against each other, control the movement of vendors, and most importantly maintain its hold on power.
This study sheds light on the limits of the revolutionary discourse of the regime. By introducing the concept of Revolutionary Urbanism, this research takes the Bolivarian Revolution to the streets and people of the city to show how the primary interest of the regime is to consolidate power, not redistribute wealth. Using the tropes of people's power, dignified work, and humanizing the street, the regime has been successful in its goal.