But, the pueblos of Venezuela tell a different story.
Especially now, after 20 years of a revolution that has prioritized culture and afro-indigenous roots ... during a crisis where few can afford to pretend to anything even resembling Miami ... people are going back to their roots, finding joy and community in celebrations like San Juan, Carnaval, Entierro de las Sardinas and many others that have their origin in afro drumming, catholicism and Caribbean magic.
Many areas that are known for these traditions - from El Valle, a rough neighborhood in West Caracas to Naiguata, a small coastal town about an hour outside of the capital - are low-income areas. Regardless of the economic difficulties, though, people come from all over to celebrate together and carry on tradition. Perhaps 5 or 10 years ago, Carnaval caravans were more decked out...but it is still the talk of the town in March. Perhaps costumes are now hand-made or left over from years' past, but the sparkle and paint still mark the festive feel of every parade and gathering.
It is to say that these traditions, these celebrations, are a breath of fresh air for struggling communities. And, in fact, are vital in defining and continuing on the Venezuelan culture during a time of unrest.
So these images are a collection that pay homage to the beauty, simplicity and resilience that these communities represent - and a thank you to them for showing me the beauty of my culture in a time where so many think Venezuela is lost. This is proof it can never be.