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Venezuela Is Starving

Venezuela Is Starving | Geography Education |
Once Latin America’s richest country, Venezuela can no longer feed its people, hobbled by the nationalization of farms as well as price and currency controls. The resulting hunger and malnutrition are an unfolding tragedy.
Seth Dixon's insight:

Widespread famines are very rare in democracies and are much more prevalent in authoritarian regimes.  This is because food production is but a small part of a larger picture; the system of food production and distribution in Venezuela has been decimated by the nationalization of private farms.  Individual farmers can’t make a profit in the new political economy and consequently are going to stop producing for the market.  This vicious cycle is political in nature more so than in is agricultural. 


Tags: food, poverty, Venezuela, South America, economic, political, governance, agriculture, food production.

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Cultural commodities and the idea of beauty

"In Venezuela, women are confronted with a culture of increasingly enhanced physiques fueled by beauty pageants and plastic surgery."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Unrealistic mannequins are nothing new...but this happens for some important cultural and economic reasons.  Society produces mannequins and the mannequins are a part of the cultural landscape that has some normative ideals of beauty and gender.  How does the media and society's images of the 'ideal body' influence and shape cultural values and aspirations?  How has this changed over time and space?  

This New York Times article shows some of the connections between cultural norms, mannequin production and plastic surgery in Venezuela, while this NPR podcast tackles similar cultural issues in Brazil.  On the opposite side of the spectrum watch this video about the production of mannequins modeled on people with disabilities.  The tag line for the project was "because who is perfect anyway?"

Tags: Venezuela, South America, gender, popular culture, media, culture.

Alyssa Dorr's curator insight, December 17, 2014 1:36 AM

In Venezuela, women are confronted with a culture of increasingly enhanced physiques fueled by beauty pageants and plastic surgery. The man at the beginning says that inner beauty does not exist and that's something that women who are not pretty invented just to justify themselves. This man happens to be the leader of the Miss Venezuela pageant. Another interesting thing he tells us is that in the rules of this contest, the girls don't have to be completely natural. They just have to be beautiful, but where that beauty comes from doesn't matter. For many people in Venezuela, beauty means perfection. Even though Venezuela's economic struggles mount, the search for an idealized and often inflated figure continues. Mannequins are being pumped up to match their outsized human counterparts. One of the workers at the clothing store says that when they had less developed mannequins, they sold less. So not only were mannequins being portrayed as busty because it was the ideal image, but because it also made them more money.

Kendra King's curator insight, February 8, 2015 4:27 PM

Venezuela added a whole new level to the unrealistic beauty standards that mess with some females minds. Putting these mannequins in numerous stores is just sickening. At least in the United States when we go to the mall, we don’t have a model staring us down (unless you’re in Victoria Secret). Yet, what is even worse is that the sales actually went up in one of the stores that introduced these mannequins according to the cashier. The only heartening bit of this clip was the cashier who actually went against societal norms by holding inner beauty above outer beauty.


A large part of me can’t grasp why more people don’t believe in inner beauty. As the 28 year old who looked like she was about to have surgery aptly stated, it is all due to “social pressure.” Yet, the last women interviewed about her body image caused by “social pressure” said she will never be “fully satisfied.” In fact, she already wants to get another boob job. If one realizes she will never be happy trying to chase the ridiculous standards of beauty, then why do it? The pressure will never get any better if you’re unfilled to begin with and going along the same path again is just nonsense. Yet, none of those women seemed to really ponder the norm. It’s why I wasn’t even remotely amazed that when asked “where this standard of beauty came from,” the male hand an answer and the female didn’t. At the same time though my parents raised me to understand there is more to outer beauty. So it is easy for me to pick apart their logic partly due to my social environment.     

Tanya Townsend's curator insight, October 13, 2015 12:39 AM

I think it is amazing to think how much one person can stand behind the scenes and yet play such a huge role in how a whole country sets its standards for beauty. I feel sorry for the women of Venezuela, they are being sold a lie.

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Violence escalates in divided Venezuela

Violence escalates in divided Venezuela | Geography Education |
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan security forces and demonstrators faced off in streets blocked by burning barricades in several cities on Thursday in an escalation of protests against President Nicolas
Seth Dixon's insight:

As the protests and political violence in Venezuela escalate, it is important to understand the economic roots of the widespread discontent within this South American country.   As prominent pop culture figures are among the fatalities and the wounded, outrage grows.  Last month, the government overhauled its currency system that ignores many of the real problems of many Venezuelans; food is increasingly hard to come and that desperation feeds into more criminal behavior and social unrest. Many students have taken to the streets to protest the deteriorating economic situation, the government's economic policies and the social conditions.

Tags: Venezuela, South America, political.

Louis Mazza's curator insight, February 12, 2015 1:36 PM

Violent government protesting is on the rise and its mostly led by students. The citizens of Venezuela are protesting the socialist government, led by president Nicolas Maduro. Since his election in April 2013 he has been blamed for violent crime, high inflation, product shortages and repression of opponents, like a dictatorship.  protesting has escalated causing Venezuelan security forces to create burning barricades in the streets. over the last week there has been 5 recorded deaths.

Chris Costa's curator insight, September 28, 2015 11:15 AM

I remember first reading about the Venezuelan riots while taking a course in Latin American history, and it saddens me to see the violence taking place in Caracas and in other urban areas. However, the demonstrations continuing to be made by students in the face of violence from their government is incredibly inspiring. These educated young men and women are dying for the simple right to be governed fairly and responsibly within the framework of a larger democratic society; I say "simple" in the sense that this is something I take for granted everyday. However, the history of the world has shown that achieving this standard of living is anything but simple, and Venezuela's government crackdown is just the latest on a lengthy list of such conflicts between a government and its own people. My heart goes out to those rebelling against the current system, one where those in power cling to power in any means possible in order to continue the corruption that brings them so much wealth. What these students are fighting for is admirable, and I hope that the government hears their voices and realizes that it is fighting a lost cost. 

Benjamin Jackson's curator insight, December 13, 2015 12:53 PM

if this was going on in the us there would be pretty constant gun battles in every street. it seems to me that if the people in this country are opposed to their government and the government is insistent that nothing be done then the country is going to go even more to hell then Venezuela already has.

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In Venezuela Housing Crisis, Squatters Find 45-Story Walkup

In Venezuela Housing Crisis, Squatters Find 45-Story Walkup | Geography Education |
An unfinished skyscraper occupied by squatters is a symbol of Venezuela’s financial crisis in the 1990s, state control of the economy and a housing shortage.


This skyscraper that was once a symbol of wealth, in an incredible paradigm shift, has now become is occupied by squatters. The lack of a vibrant formal economy and more formal housing leads to a lack of suitable options for many urban residents--especially with problems in the rural countryside. A complex web of geographic factors needs to be explained to understand this most fascinating situation. The video link "Squatters on the Skyline" embedded in the article is a must see.

Maegan Connor's curator insight, December 17, 2013 5:34 PM

The video we watched of the squatters living in an unfinished skyscraper was unlike anything I've ever seen before. In a country with such high population rates and a housing shortage, people have gotten creative and made homes in this 45 story building where they share what would have been office spaces and bathrooms.  Over 2,500 people have moved into the dilapidated skyscraper and made a home out of it for their families. They have rigged electricity that the government does not provide for them and built small stores on almost every floor.  The people have not been evicted because the government of Venezuela knows of the housing shortages, yet does not fix it.  

I feel ashamed that a country with so many oil resources has such high rates of poverty and no one is fixing it.  It shows the corruption in the government through an extreme although innovative example.

Elizabeth Bitgood's curator insight, February 17, 2014 10:46 AM

The problems in Venezuela with housing and the lack of response to the problem by the government has led people to become squatters.  The using of the abandoned buildings was a good idea by the original squatters.  The vacant buildings can house many of the countries it is a shame that the government did not think of this solution to the housing problem and vacant building first, if they had, they could have made sure they were safer for the residence.  The idea of a vertical city springing up in this building is also an interesting one.  Not only are squatters living in these buildings but creating businesses and other services for the residence.

Jess Deady's curator insight, February 18, 2014 1:02 PM

In life, I constantly find myself comparing situations with what I read and what I know. Imagine this skyscraper is the Prudential in Boston. How could something meant to be so great fall to its death (and to peoples literal deaths)? One day there is a massive financial building occupied with bankers and lavishness. The next day there is a skyscraper in the form of a house. Housing shortages are happening everywhere and Venezuela is being hit hard in this situation. Imagine visiting this country and asking where someone lives? "Oh, I live in the Tower of David, which used to mean a whole lot more."

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There has never been a country that should have been so rich but ended up this poor

There has never been a country that should have been so rich but ended up this poor | Geography Education |

"Venezuela has become a failed state.  According to the International Monetary Fund's latest projections, it has the world's worst economic growth, worst inflation and ninth-worst unemployment rate right now. It also has the second-worst murder rate, and an infant mortality rate that's gotten 100 times worse itself the past four years. And in case all that wasn't bad enough, its currency, going by black market rates, has lost 99 percent of its value since the start of 2012. It's what you call a complete social and economic collapse. And it has happened despite the fact that Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves. Never has a country that should have been so rich been so poor.  There's no mystery here. Venezuela's government is to blame--which is to say that Venezuela is a man-made disaster. It's a gangster state that doesn't know how to do anything other than sell drugs and steal money for itself."


Tags: Venezuela, South America, op-ed, economic, political, governance.

Ken Feltman's curator insight, May 21, 2016 7:44 AM
Gangster government.
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Squatters on the Skyline

"Facing a mounting housing shortage, squatters have transformed an abandoned skyscraper in downtown Caracas into a makeshift home for more than 2,500 people."

Seth Dixon's insight:

This video is one of my favorites in my placed-based geography videos collection.  This skyscraper was once a symbol of wealth, and in an incredible paradigm shift, it has now become is occupied by squatters. The lack of a vibrant formal economy and more formal housing leads to a lack of suitable options for many urban residents--especially with problems in the rural countryside. A complex web of geographic factors needs to be explained to understand this most fascinating situation. This NY Times article from 2011 still shows some great concepts on why informal housing develops and this PRI podcast gives us a 2014 update--that the Venezuelan government plans to clear the Tower of its residents.  

Tags: Venezuela, South America, squatter, urban, planning, density, urbanism, unit 7 cities.

Kristin Mandsager San Bento's curator insight, March 5, 2015 2:13 PM

The squatters have made their own community complete with services and mini marts.  This tells me there is not enough affordable housing if the people of Caracas are willing to live in dangerous conditions.  Caracas government needs to build affordable housing or create better paying jobs so the citizens can spend the money in the community.  Its a cycle that needs everyone's participation to work to build a sustaining economy.  

Gene Gagne's curator insight, October 15, 2015 1:42 PM

I found this article interesting

Gene Gagne's curator insight, November 22, 2015 10:57 AM

we have talked about this in class. These people have learned to adapt and find ways to use electricity, running water. We have seen videos of other cities in countries with electrical cables and sewage water out in the open and people find ways to tap into it. The building reminds me of the abandon mills in R.I. where homeless people frequent to beat the harsh elements and sleep at night. They build small fires and use different areas for bathroom visits. The difference is our brick unoccupied mills find a way to catch fire and the city levels them to the ground. This is definitely unsafe but goes to show when you have no place to live its amazing how people find ways to survive and kind of build their own community. What I found disturbing is the people outside the neighborhood angry because the squatters took over the building. All of a sudden they complained about the safety of the squatters when in all reality they are safer because they are acting as a self community and know they need each other to survive. If the government or city officials or citizens of the neighborhood are that concerned then they can find a way to fix up the building.

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Protests in Venezuela

Seth Dixon's insight:

This video shows the student activist perspective as to the reasons and causes of behind the political protests in Venezuela in the last few days (as will many YouTube videos, remember that this source isn't trying to be 'fair and balanced,' but to spread the strength of their movement).  The Venezuelan government has expelled U.S. consular officials, accusing them of helping to organize the student movement.  This is an issue worth following in the coming week.   

Tags: Venezuela, South America, political.

Felix Ramos Jr.'s curator insight, February 26, 2015 1:48 PM

A modern-day Nazi-Venezuela seems to be forming right in front of our eyes.  It's crazy to think that governments in 2015 are still committing horrific crimes against humanity.  These protesters are some of the bravest people in the world, in my opinion.

Tanya Townsend's curator insight, October 13, 2015 12:51 AM

Alot of the things in this video reminded me of the Arab spring, were the internet was shut down, and the military was sent out to abuse and arrest peaceful protesters. I hope that the people of Venezuela never give up. It is after all the majority, the population, that fuels the country!

Gene Gagne's curator insight, November 22, 2015 11:33 AM

Wow!  I understand there are two sides to every story and we are just seeing one side here in this video. But its amazing how when a population of people have had enough of political corruption, being treated unfairly by peace keepers, living in poverty while others are living extravagant life styles, some by no fault of their own and want to vent and have exhausted their means of peaceful communications with no one that wants to listen then its captivating how citizens who are on the outside think these people are irrational. This is happening more and more globally even in our own country. People have had enough of being treated unfairly, countries becoming a military state or a police state, corruption by the very government officials who are elected by the people to represent the people. I am not an expert or even know what is happening to cause this protest except for this video but I do know that when people of this magnitude and the people of Syria and the people of the U.S.  including civil rights movement protesters of the 1960s ( oh yeah that's right that was a no cause protest those were people who didn't know what they were talking about they were irrational people because they took to the streets because no one would listen peacefully) then people on the outside should listen. Its sad that protest get out of hand because it takes billions in reparations, it causes unstable governments, causes deaths, and most importantly lack of trust among the citizens and government officials, as well as local officials. This prevents growth via jobs, tourism, etc... so sad...

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NYTimes: In Venezuela Housing Crisis, Squatters Find Skyrise

NYTimes: In Venezuela Housing Crisis, Squatters Find Skyrise | Geography Education |
An unfinished skyscraper occupied by squatters is a symbol of Venezuela’s financial crisis in the 1990s, state control of the economy and a housing shortage.

Seth Dixon's insight:

 Incredible paradigm shift as a skyscraper is converted from a symbol of wealth to a building that is occupied by squatters.  The lack of a vibrant formal economy and more formal housing leads to a lack of suitable options for many urban residents--especially with problems in the rural countryside.  A complex web of geographic factors need to be explained to understand this most fascinating situation.  The video link "Squatters on the Skyline" embedded in the article is a must see.

Stacey Jackson's curator insight, February 22, 2013 12:35 AM
The fact that one resident featured in the video said she has "nothing to complain about" says a lot about the housing situation in Caracas. She didn't seem to think she deserved to live in a better environment- instead she accepts the unfinished skyscraper with rudimentary services and no sewage removal. It is a shame that Caracas hasn't been able to meet the housing demands of their growing population. I'm sure the issue is more complex, but it seems like this oil-rich nation should be able to build proper housing for its citizens. Also, 2,500 squatters is an astounding figure. Just to put it into perspective, my neighborhood (in Providence) has a total population of 2,669. I can't imagine all of us being crammed into one building without electricity, air conditioning, or proper plumbing.
Lauren Stahowiak's curator insight, February 11, 2014 12:23 PM

Squatters occupy a building that was constructed to symbolize great wealth in Venezuela including a landing pad on the roof and floors to occupy office buildings. Due to a financial crisis, the building was never finished and squatters have taken advantage of this empty building. There is no windows, plumbing or an elevator to reach the higher levels of this skyscraper. Because of this, many safety issues have risen, including deaths. There is no other place for these squatters to live, it has become their home and they are temporarily making the best of it.