The death of long-time Venezuelan leader and socialist U.S. adversary Hugo Chávez on Tuesday was felt on Valencia Street in San Francisco, where the owner of Pica Pica Maize Kitchen is from Caracas.
"We are in shock," Monica Varela, 42, told South San Francisco Patch in a phone interview just before 4 p.m. March 5. "I am from Caracas, here in the States for nine years."
Varela indicated she had mixed feelings about Chávez, who was a champion for the poor of Caracas and all Venezuela, but whose policies struck fear and misgivings among many in the middle and upper classes.
"My whole family is still in Caracas," the capital and largest city in Venezuela, Varela said. "I can't say I can celebrate anything today. Our president is dead. I can say it was a dangerous situation for many years.
"We need to see change, but I hope whatever comes it comes in peace," Varela said. "Peaceful elections."
Pica Pica Maize Kitchen is billed as inspired by the areperas of Venezuela, diners that offer arepas, chachapas and batidos, empanadas, yuca fries and plantains, and freshly-squeezed fruit juices.
There is no celebration planned tonight at the establishment, which is located at 401 Valencia St.
"We won't throw a party," Varela said. "It's a sad moment."
Chávez was president of Venezuela from 1999 to 2013. He was born July 28, 1954, and he died Tuesday at the age of 58 of cancer, according to news reports out of Caracas carried by the New York Times, the Guardian and the Associated Press.
In December of the same year Chávez took office, torrential rains unleashed two days of flash floods, landslides and debris flows in and around Caracas. It was one of the 20th century's deadliest disasters. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated 19,000 died. Other death counts ranged up to 50,000.
Days after the disaster, Chávez blamed the carnage on what he called the "criminal irresponsibility" of previous governments that had allowed people to build on such dangerous terrain. Chávez took office in February 1999.