Paula and Domingo Diaz
Monica Diaz remembers when her mother stood outside the school to sell empanadas and how during recess, she and her sister ate them free. Monica’s mother Paula, always had a leftover empanada to give to someone who could not afford one. With those sales she saved enough to buy some furniture for the house and her generosity won the respect and affection of the people of El Calvario.
Ms. Paula comes from eastern Venezuela, from Guiria (state of Sucre). She married a hardworking man from Caracas, Domingo. By the time Domingo was 13 years old, he had already bought his first small piece in the neighborhood where he had grown up: El Calvario. Paula was 19 and Domingo was 24 when they married in 1965. It took them seven years to build their house with to have a room, a kitchen and bathroom.
They built their house over a concrete slab on top of Domingo’s land. They constructed the living room, the bedrooms and a small kitchen in the hallway. Then they expanded the house to make a larger kitchen and a cellar.
Paula tells us: “My husband went to work at five in the morning to the quarry, I stayed home and received the construction materials. I would carry all the materials from the townsquare on my shoulder, sacs of concrete and sand. I worked plenty to build this ranch. At night we built, we worked until around eleven p.m. attaching blocks and constructing walls. Domingo was not a mason. We did as we could. We have proof: you can see its not very straight. Thank God it came out fine because we did not know much. I learned by watching. The necessity forced me to learn, that’s the word. “
Diaz had four children three of whom stayed to live with them. Monica and Carmen, built two small apartments on the house of his parents. The original little room became the home of Michael, the oldest male in the house. Leonardo lives alone in another part of Caracas. Thus almost all live on the same grounds but each with independent access. In addition to the house they had a small room for rent.
Paula explains: “I rent the small room above to pay for electricity. I need to get paid more because I have no direct income. I have the cellar but I can’t make much profit due to the scarcity.” Everything has been self-construction and self-management. Gradually they got the money to expand the house. They cannot continue building, the municipality does not allow more than three levels and Paula also explains that the bases are not provided for an additional floor.
The house attracts attention. Perhaps due to their many plants or the beauty of the paint. Unlike many neighbors, they plastered and painted from the beggining. In the words of Paula “we want it to look clean and nothing more. Cleanliness is up to oneself, the ranch might be ugly but if its clean it looks nice. Am I right?”
The truth is that between their home and the room they rent on the front, there is a corridor with very a pleasant shade where neighbors can sit to enjoy what they bought at the cellar. The tranquility of El Calvario and knowing her neighbors are Paula’s favorite things.
Domingo passed away 10 years ago due to a badly healed flu. Today Paula enjoys siting outside and watching the people going up and down. She spends hours sitting in tranquility. She acknowledges that the most beautiful part of the house is the front entrance. There, she has an altar of all saints that she is devout to and before we leave she says: “Do not go without taking a photo of my saints!”
1. External view of Casa de Paula. The room to rent is blue and her house is pink.