lunes, 12 de febrero de 2007

Our 11 according to my eyes (Part II)

When we finally came back home, the maid gave us a welcome with tears in her eyes. Earlier that day, the rest of my family didn’t wanted to go to that political demonstration; so only my mom and me went at the end.But when they saw on TV that the demonstration was walking without being planned to the president palace: Miraflores; they wanted to be a part of it and they went there without letting us know. One by one, they started to come back home or at least called to say they were ok. And was from them, that I heard the worse stories of that day.
First, one of my brothers was at his girlfriend house when the manifestation started heading to Caracas downtown; and his girlfriend lived near to the freeway; so when they meet the political demonstration they were suddenly, almost part of the first line of people walking. Lets say they were like the 5th line; so they walked straight to the goal: Miraflores. First, a few blocks away; some tear gas bombs. Some people run back, mostly didn't (the tear gas doesn't scare Venezuelans at all anymore, it only make them stop for a while and then keep walking).
Then they heard some gun shots and my brother told us: "The first line of people just fall like domino". Then my brother and his girlfriend hided behind a small press point. They saw a death man, with a shoot in his head, laid just a few Cm. away where they were hiding. They also saw an acquaintance that they have meet at bars or something like that and they knew he was with the government, shooting and that impressed my brother the most: seeing some he knew doing that. My brother had many nightmares the days after.
My other brother called us, and you could hear gun shoots in the background of that call and he said "Don’t worry, I’m ok, I could hide inside a building, can't talk right now but I'm ok". We were worried as hell, no matter how many times he said "Don't worry". When he finally came back, he also brought a lot of stories. Don’t remember much of them now, except one: he saw how some people trying to carry a wounded man, or maybe he was already death; to a motorcycle, to take him somewhere else. But they didn’t realize that his foot was brushing past the paving of the street. So my brother saw how the motorcycle continue their road, and he couldn’t stop wondering about the foot of that mean; besides all his wounds.
My dad was the last to come back home. I run and hug him with tears, cause we haven’t heard from him in a few hours and we still heard about more people death on the radio (no TV yet). He’s deaf so he was on the streets but couldn’t hear the gun shoots. For a bit of luck, a guy notice and make him signs of a gun with his hands and help him hide.
At night, we suddenly saw something weird on TV: some military gave an announcement. In front of them was Lucas Rincon (later he become a minister of Chávez regime) and he said "A Chávez se le pidió su renuncia, la cual, aceptó" ("We asked Chávez to resign and he accepted"). "What does that mean?" - We asked to each other. My dad, my mom, and I got ready for go to the highway outside the military airport called La Carlota. The opposition was getting together there.
Why did we do something as crazy as going out in such a dangerous day? I guess, you would have to be in that situation to understand it. Certain things happens when you are not a spectator but part of the history (or the news, in modern terms) and some of those things the rational, logic, protective reason cannot understand and because of that, I wont try to explain it either.
I will never forget the scenes we saw in the highway "Francisco Fajardo" the night of April, 11, 2002. First, people with their cars parked in the middle of the highway; drinking, smiling and celebrating because Chávez was not our president anymore and second, in one corner, right in the entrance of "La Carlota" (air force airport); a tiny roof was the refugee of many angry and sad feelings. Could read what they wrote: "Asesinos!" (Killers). Some people insisted on giving me a marker to write something on that wall but I didn’t remember what I wrote. Wish I could remember. Then they lighted some candles and put them on some sides of the roof. That was the candle I lighted for those people who were killed that day.
I won't tell, for now, a thing about what happened later. If it was a coup or not. If those people from the manifestation were killed for who and under what circumstances. There’s many versions, many theories, many twists, many sides. Even "competitions" about the number of deaths from the government and from the opposition. Like it counts. For me in terms of deaths only one thing matters: many Venezuelans died that day and people forgot that.
In terms of violence: my brother saw people from the government shooting and I rather trust in my own brother than many government and international agencies, I have learned that from experience. And only one side was interested on avoiding the demonstration from the opposition get to their destiny: the Miraflores palace, the president palace. And the people from the opposition who get to be closer to that place, were only one block away and nothing more cause their lives ended right there for many.
On April 15, 2002; I think, we came back to school after many turbulent and confusing days. I was on my last year of a girls school back then; my classmates had many stories and the teachers couldn't focus on giving class. I still remember the face of the History Teacher telling us: "These are hard times for all of us. If this continues and you girls, have to leave the country, don't do it without studying first. No matter what happens, keep studying". And I kept studying. I'm still doing it no matter what.

domingo, 11 de febrero de 2007

Our 11 according to my eyes (Part I)

On April, 11, 2002; I was 17 and my mom asked me to join her for the political demonstration that end up in that horrible massacre. I didn’t doubt it for a second, and went with her.
Originally, the demonstration consisted only on a walk from one park (the place where I saw the "Group 11 Vive" tonight) to the, now, old offices of the state oil company PDVSA. We called that place "La plaza de la meritocracia" (Meritocracy square, as a request for the merits to be consider inside the State Oil Company instead of the political affiliations).
So we were there, hanging with some flags, watching the people and hearing the speeches but no quite clearly. Then we heard the people talking about going to the government palace: Miraflores. You could feel such an strange mood in the air that day. Someone screamed: "Lets go to Miraflores", then the crowd screamed a little more and then instead of an usual speech we heard: "Ok, lets go to Miraflores and ask the president to resign; we are going to do it in a organized way........" and he explained witch streets and highways we should take.
The government has constantly accused the opposition of “sending the people to Miraflores”, I’m not sure who really had the idea of going there, if the leader or the masses. All I can tell is that we all were a “mass” that day, leaders included, the people decided with their stomachs not with their heads. But if our decision was conscious or not, right or wrong, still doesn’t make it a excuse for the government to justify the deaths, because the government is responsible for the safety of any citizen despite if he’s a government supporter or not.
Back to the story, on the next second(it all seems to me that happens in a few seconds), the people started walking to Miraflores with a huge smile and at the same time, an uncertainly expression on their faces. My mom looked at me like saying "So... what the hell are we going to do now?" and then she said "Should we go now?". I looked at those faces again, the first faces that decided to walk to the presidential palace and felt a little bit of fear, probably most of them were spending the last hours of their lives. "No mom, lets not be "carne de cañón" (Spanish expression for something like "meat for the cannon", the first ones to be shoot or something), lets wait a little and go in the middle". So we waited, and then we walked. We walked, screamed, dance, meet with old friends, acquaintances here and there and then, like 9 Km later; we reached Caracas downtown, we were almost at the doors of Miraflores.

We started hearing a few people talking about tear gas, and troubles. But no one was sure of anything. Then we passed just by my sister in law's office and decided to make a quick stop and have lunch with her on a crappy chicken restaurant nearby. I don’t even remember if we ordered, I just remember that everyone were watching, without moving a finger, a tiny TV screen placed in one corner.
The president Chávez was giving a speech on TV and when he does that all channels must interrupt their programs and pass the speech. But suddenly there’s a line in the middle of the TV screen and some “rebels” TV Channels shows on the right side Chávez speaking and on the left side, a familiar street of Caracas downtown, some smoke and confusion and some letters that says "1 muerto..................................2 muertos" (1 death.......................2 death.................) And then no TV at all, no Chavez, no streets, like the TV were damaged or something.
My mom and I left the restaurant and then, my mom still wanted to continue walking to Miraflores. I wasn’t thinking like part of mass anymore. I took my mom's hand and made her walk down the subway stairs, I don’t remember what I told her, or how I convinced her to follow me.
A few hours later we got to the parking place somewhere close to where the demonstration started that morning, to pick up our car and go back home. The parking place man received us with tears in his eyes and he didn’t even knew us... "Oh... Mrs... you don’t know what just happened... there’s many people death, no TV signs, no one knows, no one knows.....". We came back home a little bit confused. Uncertainly, that’s definitely the worse feeling in the world and you will realize why I say so when you read what’s next on this story.

The ones Venezuela forgot

About 7 Pm, I was walking with a group of friends through the very few "safe" streets of Caracas. Then, from another street, I saw like 50 people, quiet; with candles and signs and I asked my friends for a few minutes, to come closer and see what they were doing. Call it curiosity if you want. They were mostly old women, and all the signs had different names; with a common logo in one corner "Grupo 11 vive" (11 group lives). I quickly read and recognize some of them; then I looked at them in a friendly sad way and left. Then I told to one of my friends who wanted to come with me just in case:
- I think Venezuela has completely forgot about them -
Then he said:
- Sometimes it is better not to remember those things.
- But- I insisted - If one person close to you, friend or family, were killed there; would you want it to be forgotten by your country?
- I don’t think so - He answered immediately, and gave me a regretted look back.
Yes, we, the Venezuelans have our own 11; maybe not as big as the United States or the Chile one. Was in April, 2002. Many people were killed in circumstances we quite don’t understand yet and we even less understand the events that happen later that day. Too many sides, too many versions, too many stories that sometimes I doubt they are even talking of my country. And almost 5 years later, and is not even a part of history, is part of nothing cause no one but that group (probably family from the ones who were death that day) remember; by going religiously, every 11 of every month, to that place (this is just a supposition, I will go on March 11 to see if it’s true), to light a candle for the ones who are not here anymore and that for Venezuela, were never here in the first place.
I also lighted a candle for them once. After all, I was there, in Caracas, in the manifestation and later events of April 11, 2002 (what some call "Military Coup" but this is not the place for discuss it). And after so many years of thinking and thinking back; I still don’t have a version of what happened that day. I only know what I saw, and that’s the only truth I hardly hold when everything, even documentaries made by foreigners, tells the opposite. I can choose between two slang’s. One "You cant believe on everything you see" or two: "You can only give credit to your own eyes". In this case, I’m stocked with the second.

sábado, 10 de febrero de 2007

Thinking on leaving

A few days ago, I went to the computer lab of my university to finish a paper and I meet an old friend at the computer next to mine. She was trying to finish the first chapter of her thesis with tears in her eyes... "Its just so hard to study in this conditions.... look... only 8 pages and it supposed to be a whole chapter".... "So you are thinking on leaving too - I said... "There is no room for us in this country now, I feel like there is no room for us"- She answered me back...
I probably had like ten talks like those in the past few days, with tears or almost tears included; with broken voices. Here we are: we once were the most bright students, the political thinkers; and even when things got rough, we were always planning a demonstration, a speech, we could always found a hope, a way to get out.

And now, each and everyone of them are looking at the world map to see where they can go. In the mean time, our parents are pressuring us like hell to graduate fast and like that friend, you end up making the first chapter of your thesis of eight pages only. At the same time, our professors are making a silent request for us not to leave: "There is still something left to do here".

And you end up sitting at some computer again, with a document opened that should turn into that paper you must finish for class; but stays empty for a while because you got distracted thinking about how your life is going to be next year or even next month; if you are actually able to leave your salsa dance steps and that delightful arepa (is like a corn bread filled with everything) at 5 am after a night partying.

You wonder If you are able to leave this bless weather always between spring and summer and only thing you regret is that you haven’t got the chance to meet the snow. And then you turn your head, and see the newest propaganda of the regime on the streets: a black figure of the president with a high red background and then you realize that at least for a while you are looking forward to take that plane.

martes, 6 de febrero de 2007

No more blackbeans*

So the big news today: shortage of "caraotas" (black beans). The "caraotas" are a main part of any Venezuelan diet, something a lunch or a dinner must contain along with the plantain... Is not the fact that there is a shortage of "caraotas", is that we are starting to get used to this way of life. Right now you are lucky if you go to some supermarket and find something as basic as "caraotas" and sugar. We actually started to like brown sugar at home but sometimes it's a trouble because it doesn’t taste good with some things. Other days it’s about power milk or some brands of some products we like.

*Modified from its original version, that it was titled "Venezuelan sweets with brown sugar"
**Don't click on the "Click here to read the rest" link, there is no rest

jueves, 1 de febrero de 2007

Why am I against?

Why am I against Chavez? Kind of a long story but I’m going to try to make it short

I can take it back to 1992. Chavez leaded one military coup that year, I was 8 years old back then and we lived near by the air force airport in Caracas (its called "La Carlota"), somehow a few soldiers managed to get inside my front yard and hide there... so I had like a war in my own house and those were incredible hard days, shoots and planes all the time, couldn’t sleep for quite a while after all that was over.

We saw Chavez on TV for the first time, and my mom told me something that I'm not ever going to forget; "Once a man attempt against the democracy, he will do it over and a over again". She was right. I don’t think we live in democracy anymore, we have restrictions everywhere. Obviously, this is not Cuba or North Korea yet but Chavez do the changes slowly so people can't realize of them.

Everyday is more hard for me to see how my country collapsed, and how I lose my freedom.

Of course, I have to talk about so many things, like the mistakes others made before Chavez... I'm just telling here my reasons, maybe not entirely rational, but my reasons anyways.

How this does affect my life... where to start? Before I turn 18, I was already went to several manifestations, run from the military, smell the tear gas (we are not sure that was always the tear gas), seen people die not only because of political violence but also for poverty, hungry and common delinquency. We don't have the same life we had before Chavez. We are living with some family because we cannot afford something else. And I’m supposed to be part of the middle high class... imagine the rest of it...

And there’s a hate between people stronger than ever, or at least, I don’t remember feeling such hate between Venezuelans when I was younger. We don't have a common identity anymore. I'm not only blaming Chavez for all this... the conditions were there, and he lighted the fire making it bigger.

So do we

I wish it didn't but this is hard: seeing my country like this, now more than ever, seeing this things that I cannot stand and I don't have other choice but shut up about it, and pray that I can finish my major and I can get out of here... cause I cannot live, I cannot breathe in such a situation. It kills me inside in a way I never thought possible.

And it’s killing everyone inside.... Sometimes we are having dinner and there's like two seconds of silence... like a funeral or something and you feel so empty and you know the table where you are eating, the people who's eating with you and that you love and you will give your life for them, are not going to be forever, maybe, they are not going to be there tomorrow or not in the same way.How can I put all that aside and keep studying? Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t, sometimes I stay in this space of nothing, this black hole that only make you wish that this nightmare ends soon.

A few days ago in class.... Democracy and Society.... what a name for a class in this days.... the professor entered the class and said: "I'm not going to wish you guys a Happy New Year, I'm only going to wish that the things you guys are learning here be usual for the times to come".

Then he told us things like the societies don’t just survive.... react... and I wonder how long are we going to survive... and then he told us about Hannah Arendt, a political thinker, she was a German Jewish during the Nazi regime and managed to get out of that hell....according to my professor, without the existence of Hitler, she was meant for be an outstanding philosopher of the German intellectuality of the 30's, but she had to live her years with more urgent things to solve.. like politics, and became a representation of her time. She just had to live that... and then he said... "So do we"... I felt a deep cold inside. So do we.