Urban Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela
University of California Press 2015
In the mid-1950s, Venezuela’s military government razed a massive slum settlement in the heart of Caracas and replaced it with what was at the time one of Latin America’s largest public housing projects. When the dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez was overthrown on January 23, 1958, however, thousands of people rushed to occupy the uninhabited portions of the project, taking it over and renaming the resulting neighborhood for the date of the fall of the regime: the 23 de Enero.
The neighborhood that emerged stood at the geographic and in some cases political center of Venezuela’s transition to democracy over the decades that followed. This unruly, often contradictory transition is detailed the newly released Barrio Rising: Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela (University of California Press, 2015) by Alejandro Velasco, Assistant Professor at the Gallatin School at New York University. The book traces how the residents of the 23 de Enero came to fashion an expansive understanding of democracy–both radical and electoral–from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, and examines how that understanding still resonates today.