By Sarai Coscojuela
Caracas, Oct 14 (EFE).- Some 40 people dance and sing karaoke on board a colorful party bus in Venezuela’s capital, where a drop in crime, improved public lighting and an economic recovery are sparking a return to public spaces after nightfall.
The so-called “chiva rumbera,” which calls to mind other similar vehicles used in Colombia and some Caribbean islands, began operating in late July, although that same concept has existed in the Venezuelan insular state of Nueva Esparta since 1970, Carlos Abreu, manager of the company that launched that initiative, told Efe.
“I decided this year to bring the project to Caracas because of all the innovation that’s happening in the city, the restaurants and the nightspots, and I said we’re going to bring it here and see if it takes off. And the truth is the results have been good,” said Abreu, who pointed to lower crime as one of the key factors.
The bus leaves from three points of the city and can be rented for a minimum of four hours, providing a space for dancing and karaoke and also offering services such as a tour guide or waiter.
Over the past two years, the non-governmental organization Ciudad Laboratorio has observed changes in Caracas that have encouraged more people to leave their homes after 7 pm, its director, Jose Carvajal, explained.
“During these two and a half years, besides observing a lot of public spaces and seeing the situation of some public services like lighting, public transport and the presence of people on the street, we’ve seen a significant change,” he told Efe.
Caracas had been deserted at night for different reasons, according to Carvajal, who mentioned crime, an almost complete lack of public transport, insufficient lighting and scant entertainment options.
“A terrible cocktail. Then some of those elements started to change. There started to be a bit more public transport … a combination of more retail offerings that stayed open a little later in the afternoon and into the evening. You started to see a city with better lighting … and that creates more favorable conditions for nightlife,” he said.
Those changes in Caracas are not exclusive to any area in particular, but rather are being seen in more affluent sectors and in downtown areas where people gather in plazas to listen to music and have fun.
Improvements also have been noticeable in low-income areas, where non-governmental and international organizations organize free cultural activities such as film, dance and music festivals.
Carvajal said, however, that most of the nighttime options are commercial establishments and that not everyone has sufficient disposable income to frequent those places.
He said there is a need to offer other alternatives, so people feel “the mere fact of going out and walking, visiting public spaces, is a net gain.”
Activities should be promoted in every area of Caracas, and efforts should be made to encourage residents to go to other parts of the city as a means of enriching urban life, he said. EFE