La Mancha Negra


15 years ago on the way back from an assignment in Caracas, Venezuela, I asked my taxi driver to take me to the airport “the long way”, so that I could get a tour of the city and surroundings before heading home.  As we went up one mountain road adjacent to acres of tumble-down slum, he slowed and then swerved to avoid a black stretch of road.  La Mancha Negra, he called it.  The Black Blob.

Years later that blob has grown eight miles long and killed 1800 people in car accidents.  It’s straight out of some horror movie. Parts of it looked sticky, like tar, while other parts were obviously oily/shiny and very recent.

Although they aren’t positive, Venezuelan scientists say the blob appears to be a seep from poorly-made asphalt or something below the road surface (like sewage, perhaps) that oozes out in the intense heat of the day.  Road repair crews clean up the mess yet it quickly returns.  More than once, vehicles on the busy airport highway have careened out of control, creating multi-vehicle pileups and carnage everywhere.

It has since spread to various parts of Caracas highways.  And of course, at least one band now shares its name.


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