Venezuela’s largest impoverished district is celebrating its 400th anniversary with a kite festival

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© Reuters. Children hold kites as the Petare neighborhood in Caracas celebrates the 400th anniversary of its founding

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CARACAS (Reuters) – In Venezuela’s sprawling impoverished Petare neighborhood on the east end of Caracas, dozens of children and residents flew kites to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of a former small village outside the capital.

Petare was founded in 1621 by Spanish settlers who used the lush mountain landscape to grow crops such as coffee, cocoa and sugar cane, according to Venezuelan historians.

During the 20th century, the area was settled by migrants who moved to the cities at the beginning of the country’s oil industry. Today more than 1 million people live here, from extremely poor to medium-sized professionals.

The area now suffers from gang violence and chronic problems with electricity and water, but its residents pride themselves on meeting adversity with a smile.

“Given the state of the country, this is the best thing that has ever happened,” said Omaira Montiel, 47, a housewife who has lived half her life in Petare. “I am happy.”

Children and teenagers spent hours flying kites from a hill, with majestic views of Caracas as singers and a symphony orchestra of youth musicians in the background.

The activity helps ensure that “traditions are not lost,” said Marisela Moreno, 55, another Petare resident.

“Petare means a feeling of commitment and devotion,” said opposition leader and former mayor Carlos Ocariz. “Politics is about spending time with the community.”

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