Aquí vive el presidente pero el que manda vive enfrente

“Aquí vive el presidente, pero el que manda vive enfrente” is a Spanish expression used in the 1930s during the presidency of one of Venezuela’s strongest dictatorships, Juan Vicente Gómez. During his almost 30 years of government, Gómez surrounded himself with a series of advisers who, in several occasions, exchanged power with him in order to take off the public attention’s eye from his political decisions. The phrase, translated as “The president lives here, but the actual boss lives across the street”, was used by the media as a sarcastic way of taking off credibility from his collaborators and pointing out the constant presence of the dictator in the country’s politics. In 1914, during Juan Vicente Gómez’s government, the first Venezuelan oil field was discovered near Lake Maracaibo. It opened the door to a century filled with abundance, modernity and corruption, finally taking the country into its current economic and political crisis lead by Hugo Chávez. In the past 5 years, the Venezuelan exodus has reached more than 3M. For years I kept looking for my country in the places I visited, finding my deepest memories in cities I’ve never even traveled to or lived in before. A sense of intimacy that I eventually decided to catalog, as an attempt to build a new life far from Venezuela. But, as the president, my mind kept finding its home across the street.