by María L. Trigos S. Gilbert

Caracas is a very crowed city which is full of energy wherever one stands. There are people walking and driving at all corners. All things in the city are bathed in motor fumes, giving a particular smell everywhere. The sun’s light shines in mirrored buildings, starting from East to West. Everyone is always busy: working, studying, or socializing, nothings seems to stop even at the red lights. Caracas is very tropical which means it has two seasons: rainy and dry.

People are like bull fighting: the seasons, the cars, or the citizens. The Caraqueños, people from Caracas, have this fine saying, “God helps those who wake up early.” Yet they are also aware Caracas never sleeps, in or out of season all moves by the speed of light — fast and faster. But as John Donne says in one of his poems, “…And makes end where I begun,” for as fast as the Caraqueños move, they understand routine makes them end where they begin with their co-workers, friends, family, or at worse alone.

The kind of life of the Caraqueños is not always desirable, yet it remains with them, a matter of living and surviving both comparing and contrasting. All these facts without any numbers and percentages is Caracas, and perhaps a bit more is there to say. Yet I won’t try so in this article; I want you to fall in love with this fascinating city located in Venezuela, right there in South America.

Now, let me share with you a bit of Monroe, Louisiana in comparison to Caracas. Hum, I have been living in Monroe for about three years and a half. At first I thought that people knew me. I was wrong; everyone here says “Hi” and smiles as a matter of courtesy whether they know you or not. Isn’t it tasty? Yes, it is at least for me, but to tell you the truth; I was having a cultural shock over this fact because in Caracas people don’t say “Hi” or smile unless they know you. No wonder, I got confused.

While Caracas has two seasons and pretty much determined when they start or end, here in Monroe, it’s not the case. Caracas has a constant moving of things and people, but in Monroe people and things seem to be more than settled. It is not a problem if one likes country life in an uncertain city.

I know that you may be asking yourself, “What does she mean by an uncertain city?”

Monroe is an uncertain city because you have to carry an umbrella, a rain coat, a T-shirt, and some shorts simply because here you never know what is the weather going to be like from morning to afternoon or from evening to night. Although it may be funny, many Monroians curse about it, but in a way the weather’s changes are attractive.

The Mix
The mixture of a tiny France, Spain, and North America is here pretty much sensed by those who are from here, and by those who like me have been in Monroe for a relatively short time. Monroe has green trees, vivid flowers, and marvelous people who go to church every Sunday. Once again, I experienced a cultural shock because Caracas has a constant moving, but the moving is not toward the churches.

There are some Caraqueños who go to church, but the numbers are not that great or visible. So Sundays for the Caraqueños mean going, “moving,” to Panaderias, bakeries, and to the kiosks: one for some bread and the other one for some newspapers which are pretty costly for most of the Caraqueños.

The prices of the newspapers in Monroe are not that costly, although they have raised the prices since I got here. At first they cost 35 cents; nowadays they cost 50 cents. Where is the money going?

The streets in Monroe are in a precarious condition. I guess this is a matter of laughter, though we at that laugh none. The streets somehow make me feel at home; I must watch all the potholes in them before I decide which lane to take for the sake of my car and kidneys.