CARACAS, Venezuela — Dozens of people dance in rhythm, almost side by side, in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the Venezuelan capital, turning a narrow street into a mini dance festival. It’s nearly midnight, and when TikTok fame’s “Do It To It” starts playing, growing louder, teenagers, adults and a few children crowd the sloping street, blocking it to traffic. and ignoring the stench of an abandoned dump truck nearby.
“You have to feel it, you have to experience it… With car audio, you close your eyes and stand up,” said car owner Luis Daniel “El Leon” Castro. “It’s something indescribable.”
The trunk of Castro’s four-door Hyundai Getz has speakers, amplifiers, bass boxes and a space just for showing off: he can throw his shirt in there and bounce the fabric to the beat. The lid is so heavy that five people had to push together to open it.
Cars began to gather after dark in Petare, one of the largest slums in Latin America. For a time, cars, motorbikes and even some public buses managed to squeeze through, forcing revelers to move down and out of the street. But people crowded the road as the clock approached midnight.
Car audio culture, expensive as it is, is gaining strength in Venezuela as the country’s economy continues to transform. Millions of people have fallen into poverty during the country’s deep political, social and economic crisis, but US dollars are circulating more freely than before the pandemic, and those – many of them – are needed to turn a vehicle into a music center.
Ahead of Venezuela’s annual carnivals filled with pre-Ash Wednesday parties, workers at Carlos Arocha’s workshop were busy measuring, sanding, cutting and painting custom parts for SUVs to get them ready for rave ups on the beaches. of the Caribbean. Work on a vehicle can take a month and easily exceed $10,000, more than the car itself.
“In Venezuela, there’s always been this hobby of spending money on vehicles. I don’t know why it’s something that’s been instilled in us for years,” Arocha said. what to do to place the sound (system) There are people who don’t even own a house.
Arocha, who has been in the business for 13 years, said some stores went bankrupt during the crisis.
The same night that Castro and his friends were partying in Petare, a group of students were celebrating their graduation in a nearby neighborhood with a few other cars full of speakers parked under an overpass. About 50 people danced between the cars next to the road’s median barrier.
Some boys approached the vehicle speakers, laughed and, as their eyes widened, pointed to a few features.
Residents of this Caracas neighborhood know well the day-to-day struggle of working multiple jobs while depending on money sent by relatives abroad to make ends meet. But they also know how to dance to drive away their worries, if only for a few hours.
“I see it as a party, something very good, and not only that, but something that everyone likes despite the situation,” said Luis Mediavilla, an 18-year-old student, as the salsa performed. “Here we savour, we live and we savour, as they say. Everything they do is very good… It’s fun, madness, competition. It’s something really good.
He said car audio battles allow people to have fun without having to venture into town to a club or spend $30 on a bottle of rum that costs $10 in the neighborhood.
In the past, car owners and authorities have found themselves in a cat-and-mouse dynamic, but no one has interrupted the battle that Mediavilla was enjoying. While the noise bothers some neighbors, business owners are seeing more customers for malt drinks, liquor, food and cigarettes.
Erly Ruiz, professor of sociology at the Central University of Venezuela, said car audio culture gives attendees a sense of belonging. Signs on nightclub doors may exclude some, but moveable parties are open to everyone.
Parties let people claim territory, Ruiz said. “I stop my car in a street and the only thing that’s going to bother it is going to be the surrounding buildings, the surrounding houses… So I put on my music and suddenly I can be without a shirt… without a jacket, it’s that is, without all those rules that usually don’t allow me to party the way I want, completely on the streets.