martes, 5 de junio de 2007

(Part III) The non lucky ones: episodes from the White Hands movement

Another student demonstration, this time finally with government’s permission, is going to start in less than an hour. But after that fight and further reconciliation, my best friend and I are not exactly in the mood for going so we take the subway instead.Her subway stop is before mine. She came down the subway and went straight home. I was planning to do the same but then I decided to buy some oil pastels I needed at the same place where the student demonstration was supposed to start. In that way, I could watch the demonstration start, buy my pastels and keep on my way home.
After I bought the pastels, I met loads of friends there and they convinced me to join them at least a few blocks away – “Okay” – I finally said – “But I’ll leave you guys on the next subway station that we find along”… They painted my hands with white wall painting and wrote with a black marker the name of my university and my career (major) in my arms. The damage was pretty much done.
Turns out that we didn’t find a single subway station along the route because of avoiding Chavez supporter’s protests, the demonstration took a very long distance at least from the subway line route. It was also risky to leave the demonstration and walk alone a few blocks away till the station with my hands painted with white. After a few streets walking I understood that I was there for a reason and that I should stop looking for subway stations to turn my way back home. Ironic, it's June, 4, same day of the Massacre at Tiananmen Square (China), 18 years ago. We just hope to have better luck than them. And we made the terrible mistake of not mention it during the demonstration, I think.
It was just one of the most amazing demonstrations I have ever attended. Along our way, the people throw pieces of white paper and showed white handkerchiefs or more likely peaces of cloth on the windows and balconies. Executives came out of their offices and with huge hope smiles on their faces; clapped their hands and screamed “valientes” (“braves”) or “estudiantes” (“students”). Housewives, poor people, rich people; everyone ran to the sidewalk to do the same. Others just looked from one side to another like they were asking to the air if they should join or not for suddenly joining the demonstration like they were just another student screaming “¡Viva la Universidad!” (“Long live University!”).
An old man came out of his house and stood in one corner showing a handwriting banner on which you could read this: “Los estudiantes del 28 no han muerto, estaban dormidos. Ahora despiertan. Estudiantes, revivan glorias de ayer, revivan a Venezuela” (translation: “The students of 28 (referring to the Generation of 1928, a famous generation of Venezuelan students who fight against the dictatorship of Gómez, one of the last dictators of the XX century in Venezuela) are not dead, they were asleep. Now they wake up. Students, bring back the glories of yesterday, bring Venezuela back to life”).
Each one of us had a flower, a carnation to be exact. We were supposed to give the flowers to the policemen but since the students leaders said that flowers were for “the people doesn’t respect our right to protest”, I slightly changed my plans. At some point of the demonstration, on the opposite sidewalk, outside a government’s local office; there was a group of like ten Chavez supporters, showing their red flags and screaming. The people at the student's demonstration screamed back things like “Yo vine porque quise, a mí no me pagaron” (“I came here because I wanted to, not because someone pay me for it”) and “Pueblo! Madura! Esto es dictadura!” (“People! Grow up! This is a dictatorship!”).
I quickly took the hand of a friend and asked her to join me. Crossed the street and stretched my arm a little to offer to one of the Chavez supporters my carnation; thinking from one side “What the hell am I doing?” and from another “I hope I’m doing the right thing”. I just felt tired about all that hate accumulated over the years and I knew that a flower couldn’t end it, but at least it was better than just scream back at them and continue the vicious circle. He took it, with an ironic laugh while I was telling him: “Todos somos venezolanos” (“We are all Venezuelan”). He kept moving the red flag; laughing and telling me “Keep with that ideology girl… and you’ll…”. A journalist started taking pictures of me and my friend giving flowers to the Chavez supporters. I think other students followed us and did the same thing for about two minutes and then we all came back quickly to the demonstration.
“You got balls!” – Another friend said – “Do you think it was ok?” – I asked him – “Yes” – He answered.
A few minutes and streets later, there we were, a block away from the Supreme Court (impossible to get to the Supreme Court and an amazing amount of police men and soldiers were standing there to remind us); loads of students, my classmates, my friends and the people who joined the students along the way. The students who still had carnations in their hands quickly approached to the police ring to give flowers to them.
And while we were waiting for some students leaders authorized to get in the Supreme Court and make our requests, we continued chanting and showing our white hands: “¡Y aquí están, aquí están, los estudiantes que querían libertad!” which means: “And here they are, here they are, the students that were asking for freedom!” …

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