Occupy Tower: Living in the world’s tallest slum – the “Tower of David”


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An abandoned skyscraper in Caracas has become a shelter for many people with nowhere else to go.

In less than 20 years, its residents created a fully-functioning ‘state inside the state’, with its own infrastructure, taxes and even an elected president. Despite the difficult living conditions, those moving out into proper apartments are nevertheless nostalgic about their experience of living in the 45-storey skyscraper.

What does the story of the Tower of David tell us about the resilience and resourcefulness of the Venezuelan people in the face of socioeconomic adversity?

Occupy Tower: Living in the world’s tallest slum – the “Tower of David”

The “Tower of David” in Caracas, Venezuela, was once meant to be a symbol of the country’s economic boom. However, due to the country’s political and economic instability in the early 1990s, the construction of this skyscraper was halted, and the building remained incomplete.

Since then, the Tower of David, also known as the “Tower of David Squat,” has become a symbol of poverty and neglect. Occupied by thousands of people, the building has become the tallest slum in the world, with no elevators and no running water. Despite its notorious reputation, the building also reflects the resilience and resourcefulness of the Venezuelan people in the face of socioeconomic adversity.

The story of the Tower of David began in 1990 when a group of businessmen embarked on a project to build a high-end bank and office complex in the center of Caracas. The building was designed to be 52 floors and to feature state-of-the-art facilities such as air conditioning, escalators, and a helipad on the roof. However, the project faced significant financial difficulties, and construction abruptly stopped in 1994.

After the collapse of the project, the Venezuelan government struggled to find a new use for the unfinished tower. Consequently, the building was abandoned and remained unoccupied until the early 2000s when a group of squatters began to move in.

The residents of the Tower of David come from various social backgrounds, including students, artists, and families. Despite the building’s lack of basic amenities, people have found innovative ways to survive. For instance, people collect rainwater in buckets, build communal kitchens using scrap materials, and use electric cables to connect to the grid for electricity.

As a result of its unique architecture, the building has become a tourist attraction, with visitors from all over the world coming to see the slum for themselves. The government has also recognized the Tower of David as an important icon of Venezuelan culture.

However, living in the Tower of David is not without its challenges. The building has seen its fair share of violence and crime, and the lack of elevator service has caused some residents to lose their lives. Despite these challenges, the building remains a symbol of the Venezuelan people’s resilience and resourcefulness.

In conclusion, the Tower of David is a unique symbol of the resilience and resourcefulness of the Venezuelan people. Despite being the tallest slum in the world, the building has become a source of pride for many Venezuelans. While the Tower of David’s future remains uncertain, its unlikely story serves as a testimony to the ingenuity and human spirit in the face of adversity.

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