CARACAS (Reuters) – In Venezuela’s sprawling impoverished Petare neighborhood on the east end of Caracas, dozens of children and residents flew kites to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of what was once a small village outside the capital.
Petare was founded in 1621 by Spanish settlers who took advantage of the lush mountain surroundings to grow crops including coffee, cocoa and sugar cane, according to Venezuelan historians.
During the 20th century, the area was settled by migrants who moved to cities as the country’s oil industry took off and is now home to more than 1 million people who range from the extremely poor to middle class professionals.
The area now suffers from gang violence and chronic problems with power and water, but its residents have cultivated a sense of pride at facing adversity with a smile.
“Given the situation of the country, this is the best thing that has happened” in Petare, said Omaira Montiel, 47, a homemaker who has lived half her life in Petare. “I’m happy.”
Children and adolescents spent hours flying kites from a hilltop with majestic views of Caracas as a singers performed and a symphonic orchestra of youth musicians played in the background.
The activity helps ensure that “traditions are not lost,” said Marisela Moreno, 55, another Petare resident.
“Petare means a feeling of commitment and dedication”, said opposition leader and former mayor, Carlos Ocariz. “Politics is about spending time with the community.”
Reporting by Efrain Otero, writing by Mayela Armas and Vivian Sequera; Editing by Marguerita Choy