In the city center of Caracas, Venezuela stands an unfinished, 45-story building that easily commands the attention of passersby. Called Torre David, it’s one of the tallest skyscrapers in Latin America – and at one time symbolized the country’s booming wealth and development. But in actuality it came to represent the banking crisis that hit Venezuela in the 90s.
The skyscraper, named after investor,David Brillembourg, was abandoned in 1994, after his death from cancer. The building sat vacant and uncompleted for nearly 13 years, until 2007 when over 800 homeless families decided to take it over and become part of the first vertical slum and the highest occupancy in the world. Instead of wealthy businessmen, 4,000 of Caracas’ poorest residents call this their home.
Looking to dispel the Tower of David’s bad reputation, Ramón Iriarte of Vocativ explored inside the Tower with a camera crew to tell the story of everyday life there for a short documentary released earlier this month. Instead of being a hotbed of crime and drugs as had been rumored, the residents led far more normal lives than suspected. Though living conditions are far from idyllic, squatters regularly pool their resources to fix basic things around the building. Though outsiders describe the Tower of David as lawless, its residents insist that crime levels are no worse than anywhere else in Caracas.