Once upon a time, there was a dog track in Margarita

In the late 80′s, my dad took me and my sister on holiday to Margarita. We drove all the way to Puerto La Cruz and then ferried to the island. One of the highlights of that trip was a night we spent at the Canódromo Internacional de Margarita, then a brand new greyhound racing track.

At the time, I thought it was pretty cool. Even today, I remembered it fondly because the dog I bet on won and I got 29 bolivares out of it, back when that was something. That was the first time I’d gambled (and just about the last). This video is the closer to what it was back then.

Why I’m telling you this story? Days ago, I found out that the location of the Canódromo is to be as the site for a new “Socialist City”. How is it possible that after all this time, there wasn’t any kind of plan for this place? It’s like the story of La Carlota all over again.

What happened between that night in the late eighties and the present? To make a long story short, the track went bust years ago. It wasn’t an isolated case, in fact the whole dog track world has been in decline for years and it’s still facing tough times today.

The land was owned by the national racetrack institute (INH), which was then responsible of all horse-racing activity in the country. Then there was not much progress made at the time and the situation stalled further when Chavez took over: He decided then to liquidate the INH and replace it with a new state agency, the SUNAHIP.

A recent picture of the main stand, an important part of what once was the Canódromo Internacional de Margarita

What was left of the Canódromo has been abandoned for years and years. Skateboarders are probably the few users of the main stand, hanging around and having fun. Sometimes, the area was used on a temporary basis for concerts and karting races.

In 2008, a deal to sell the land was reached between what was left of the INH and some businessmen, but there were irregularities according to the General Comptroller’s Office.

Some communal councils started to ask for the expropiation of the terrains in 2010 and the following year the Supreme Court took over the case. Still, the overall control of the Canódromo indirectly fell back on Chavernment’s hands when they expropiated the insurance company La Previsora, which was involved in the judicial case.

Fast forward to June this year, when La Previsora reached a deal with 22 Communal Councils to build the Ciudad Socialista Manuelita Sáenz, including houses, sports areas and cultural centers. Of course, the opposition-run state government of Nueva Esparta was left aside.

What can be learned of the Canódromo episode? First, the concept of urban planning went MIA in Venezuela a long time ago, giving way to serial short-term improvisation. Second, the current situation of Margarita is problematic: with hotels used as shelters for people who lost their homes in floods, tourists robbed in the beach, electric blackouts that last hours, etc.

One thing is for sure, Margarita is not what it was 25 years ago.

18 thoughts on “Once upon a time, there was a dog track in Margarita

  1. Ok, that’s the canodromo I took some tourist friends to in 1992 and guess what? The lights were still on even though it was closed by then, and I found out that when it was closed down the dogs were left in their cages and they all died from hunger and thirst.

    • Some dogs were left by their owners as strays in Margarita. I had a Cacri while I was studying there, and she ran like the wind :) She looked like a mix of greyhound, a jackson russel terrier, and a garden variety street dog

  2. Our XXIth. century Socialism is one of a kind, a precocious child (or is it progeriac?). Already it skipped the Revolutionary Fervor and Frantic and Misguided Industrialization stages, and has reached Corruption, Personality Cult and Decadence.

    It’s got an ailing leader that cannot be replaced no matter how ill because of personality cult and having brown-noses for lieutenants, incredible and caricaturesque levels of corruption, profiteering and black markets, social decomposition, shameless “Socialist” noveau riche…

    And case in point, it’s producing Abandoned Places and Crumbling Ruins in the best Soviet style, which they did not even get to build in the first place!

    The Punto Fijo era had much greater staying power.

  3. The history of the Canodromo is a tragic story.

    When it was running I knew one of the judges who quit in protest at the fixing of many of the races. Apparently a small group would decide that the favourite wasn’t going to win & would give them a huge meal just before the race. Of course the dog wouldn’t even place running with a full stomach.

    As it’s popularity decreased it was raided TWICE. In both occasions they found dogs dying of hunger & neglect. It was finally closed down & abandoned. It now serves as a parking place for diesel generators which were part of the band-aid solutions to Margarita’s electrical problems.

    • I heard some of the stories related to the demise of the candoromo, but I couldn’t find some of that online. It’s a tragic story indeed.

  4. Last time I visited the Canodromo was circa 1992-1993, and by then it was in obvious decline. Half of the seats were closed to the public, and the prizes for the races were lower than in previous years. The golden age of the Canodromo was, as Mr. Acevedo says, the late 80′s (86-89-ish). I clearly remember that a concert of Kiara was held at the place, as it was a considered one of the in places to visit in the 80′s Margarita.

    And yes, by all accounts today’s Margarita has nothing to do with the Margarita some of us knew back then in the 80′s. For one, I’ve been told that la 4 de Mayo is no longer a place to visit, as it is way too insecure, and all its former glories are all but gone (one friend told me that is the local version of Avenida Baralt).

  5. This abandoned dog track is located right next to Sambil, and smack in the middle of one the most desirable real estate locations on the island. So, with a new “Socialist City” we going to go from Guatamala to Guatapeor. There goes the neighborhood…

  6. To think of the horrors the dogs faced while associated with this place makes one shudder. Thank goodness it is no more.

    Greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane. Greyhounds endure lives of nearly constant confinement, kept in cages barely large enough for them to stand up or turn around. While racing, many dogs suffer and die from injuries including broken legs, paralysis, and cardiac arrest. And many greyhounds are euthanized every year, as the number retired from racing exceeds the number of adoptive homes.

    At racetracks across the country, greyhounds endure lives of confinement. According to industry statements, greyhounds are generally confined in their cages for approximately 20 hours per day. They live inside warehouse-style kennels in stacked cages that are barely large enough to stand up or turn around. Generally, shredded paper or carpet remnants are used as bedding.

    An undercover video recently released by GREY2K USA shows the conditions in which these gentle dogs are forced to live: http://www.grey2kusa.org/azVideo.html

    For more information on injuries these dogs suffer, please view:

    http://www.grey2kusa.org/azInjuries.html

    http://www.grey2kusa.org/eNEWS/G2K-022811Email.html

    Dogs play an important role in our lives and deserve to be protected from industries and individuals that do them harm.

    V Wolf Board Member, GREY2K USA

  7. What to do with it is the question.
    1. Demolish it.
    2. If the structure is not too deteriorated, turn it into a track and field sports complex.

  8. I love perspectives. Back in the day my father said the idea of building a greyhound track in Margarita was not only extravagant but also closely related to the building spree the government of Herrera Campins undertook when oil prices spiked again. “Why isn’t the extra-money directed to repay debts CAP left?” he also said. Nowadays I see those debts having derived into crises that got us where we are and, moreover, there’s not a single person willing to revive the greyhound race business.

    Greyhound races, just like Drive-in theaters, are a fond memory that cannot be brought back to life again. When in better times, no socialist city will have been built and there’ll have to be a plan to use the space to what Margarita should be: a tourist destination competing with the rest of the Caribbean nations, from Aruba to Cuba.

  9. I heard that Perucho Torres (JVR’s testaferro) bought the canodromo real cheap from the government, he then sold it very expensively to his company Seguro la Previsora and then la Previsora was taken over by the government again.

    • Torres didn’t sell it, he bought it through another figurehead. However, he no longer matters in the case since he belongs to the group of boligarchs who fell from grace in the banking scandal of 2009.

Comments are closed.