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Talking cars animate street parties in Venezuela

Autos con parlantes animan fiestas callejeras en Venezuela

Dozens of people dance close together in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Caracas. It’s almost midnight and when “Do It To It”, popularized by TikTok, begins to play, there are so many young people, adults and children who block the street, ignoring the bad smell coming from an abandoned garbage truck not far away.

The deafening music comes from speakers installed in the trunks of cars and trucks, which compete to see which has the most powerful sound system.

These street parties, in which electronic music, vallenato, bachata and other rhythms are played, allow young and old to enjoy dancing in neighborhoods where there are no discos or their price is prohibitive.

“You have to feel it, you have to live it… With the ‘car audio’ you close your eyes and get high,” said Luis Daniel “El León” Castro, owner of one of the cars. “It’s something indescribable.”

The trunk of Castro’s four-door Hyundai Getz has four speakers, amps, bass and headroom to impress: You can throw your shirt in there and the fabric will bounce to the beat of the music. The trunk lid is so heavy that five people had to push up to open it.

The cars begin to arrive at nightfall in Petare, one of the largest slums in Latin America. For a while, cars, motorcycles and some buses manage to pass, causing people to run. But as midnight approaches and more people arrive, traffic grinds to a halt.

This phenomenon, as expensive as it is, is gaining strength again in Venezuela as its economy suffers. Millions of people fell into poverty in the context of a deep political, social and economic crisis, but the dollar circulates more freely than before the coronavirus pandemic. And it takes a lot of dollars to turn cars into music boxes.

In the prelude to carnival, employees of Carlos Arocha’s business measure, sand, cut and paint custom-made pieces for the vans that will fill the beaches with music. Outfitting a car can take a month and easily cost $10,000, more than the vehicle itself.

“In Venezuela there has always been that hobby of spending money on vehicles. I do not know why. It is something that has been implanted in us for years,” Arocha said. “People see how to put the sound on it. There are people who don’t even have a home.”

Arocha, who has been in this business for 13 years, said that some businesses in the industry closed during the crisis.

The same night that Castro and his friends were celebrating in Petare, a group of university students were celebrating their graduation in a neighboring neighborhood with several cars parked under a pedestrian crossing. About 50 people danced in the sector.

Some young people approached the speakers, smiled and with wide eyes pointed to some speakers.

The people of this neighborhood know of hardship, they have several jobs and depend on the money that relatives send them from abroad. But he also knows how to dance to forget about his problems, at least for a few hours.

“I see it as a party, something very good, that we all like despite the situation,” said Luis Mediavilla, an 18-year-old student. “Here one enjoys, lives and enjoys as they say. Everything they do is very good… There is fun, madness, competition. It’s a very good thing.”

He pointed out that the battles between the cars make people have fun without having to go to the city, to a nightclub, or having to spend 30 dollars on a bottle of rum that costs 10 dollars in the neighborhood.

In the past, car owners and authorities ended up in a game of cat and mouse, but no one interfered with the battle that Mediavilla was enjoying.

The noise sometimes bothers the neighbors, but the merchants sell more drinks, food and cigarettes.

Erly Ruiz, a sociology professor at the Central University of Venezuela, said the cars and street dancing give attendees a sense of belonging.

The signs on the doors of the clubs may exclude some, but the street parties are open to everyone.

“I put on the music and all of a sudden I can take off my shirt, my jacket,” Ruiz said. “On the street, all these rules that normally don’t let me have the fun I want” disappear completely.

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