Sunday, September 16, 2007

Gone shopping 

Despite the recent debates over the constitution and the drama of PODEMOS I have to admit something that I probably shouldn't admit - Venezuela has become rather dull. Really it has. In fact, I've noticed that a good number of blogs on Venezuela, escpecially those opposed to Chavez, can't seem to find anything to blog about and have become rather quiet.

Gone are the days when it was actually exiciting to blog about Venezuela and show nice pictures of city mayors cheering on rock throwers.

Just looking at these pictures gets my blogger blood flowing. Yes, those were the days!

Gone too are the exiting days of opposition mass political rallies. Now they are nothing more than memories and pictures carried around by a handful of old women.

So what happened? Where did everyone go? To the shopping malls as it turns out.

According to todays El Universal sales in Venezuelan shopping malls are up 30% already this year and the shopping mall association is hoping they will be up 45% by year end. If you can't beat 'em you can at least go shopping with them I suppose.

Of course, to the casual observer this makes complete sense. Travelling around Venezuela you can't help but notice all the jam packed new shopping malls.

There is nice little one in Maracay with a spiffy new attrium:

Why to tropical places where you see palm trees everywhere put them in their malls too? Shouldn't it be malls in the tundra of Canada that do stuff like that to try to perserve some sanity amongst their residents?

And in Barquisimeto the malls are packed as we can see in this picture of Las Trinitarias mall:

Even though they just added a second level to that mall it is still overcrowded. So they had to build a another big mall on the other side of town:

Yet that is still not sufficient to hold all the people who want to go around shopping for new appliances, flat screen TVs, or the latest fashion. So now they are having to bring in the heavy weights - the Sambil which is now going up on the east side of Barquisimeto:

These construction cranes are only on the Sambil site. But driving around eastern Barquisimeto I counted more than a dozen. Being a crane operator would seem to be a good job these days in Venezuela.

But even this gigantic guitar shaped shopping mall isn't expected to be enough. They are already clearing space to build yet more malls right next to it!!

What is creating this shopping frenzy that risks undermining Chavez's goal of a new socialist Venezuelan and instead create a country full of Valley Girls? Two things.

First, a lot more Venezuelans have jobs. In fact, in the past year alone a stunning 416,000 new jobs (even though some idiots are upset it didn't create even more jobs?!?!?!?). More jobs means more people with money to spend - that is pretty simple.

Second, Venezuelans have been getting BIG raises. Much bigger than most people in fact. With double digit growth in purchasing power not only are more Venezuelans working, but all of those workers have much more disposable income. That in turn drives them to the mall - in their spiffy new cars no less.

Where this huge consumer binge will ultimately lead and whether it is even such a good thing is a whole other discussion. But the point remains - it is making Venezuela pretty damn boring. I mean really, would anyone go out to a big shopping mall in the U.S. and blog about that?

Put simply, this prosperity might be great for real Venezuelans, but for bloggers it sucks. I swear to god, if consumption goes up another 10% next year I don't think I'll be able to even get out of bed in the morning, much less blog.


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