I started my second year at the university with a strong conviction of pursuing a political career beyond the political party I was working with in the place where I spend most of the time: the university. During the first week of class I proposed my candidacy to run for the class president charge (actually called “delegate” here). From that moment on, everything related with my “political career” was one of those disasters I thought you only see in movies.
I got quickly elected as a class delegate. Well, “elected” is actually a big word to describe what happened: they were no other candidates running against me, no one else who wanted to be a delegate and so they had no choice but to let me take the charge (this can give the reader a good idea of how big the apathy was between the students). Is funny to think, especially if you consider how passionate I am about democracy, that my first – and only – political charge I ever had was a product of some “elections” pretty much Cuban style. But it wasn’t my fault that anyone else ran against me anyway.
My job as a delegate was very simple: to organize the calendar, to keep my classmates informed and to negotiate with the professors and /or the faculty in case they were any trouble. It was really hard to fail as a class delegate – or so I thought. Apparently, for many, I was a very lousy delegate and this was spoken out only a month before the classes were over.
One day, I notify my XIX century history professor that I had no choice but to skip her class in order to solve an issue my classmates had in regards to the Psychology class. She had no problem with that and simply let me skip her class with a smile. I had no clue about the events that were about to develop behind my back while I was speaking with the Psychology professor and everyone else should be having another History class.
I’m taking the trouble of telling about those events on this blog not because I want you all to know about my personal life but rather because this was an example of how the countries politics in general affected the university politics in particular.
During that period, the opposition was trying to push a recall referendum against Chavez rule in an environment of an extreme political polarization. After picking up and seeing a large number of signatures rejected several times on suspicious tricky moods of the Electoral centre, the Referendum was finally celebrated in August of 2004.
The events I’m telling you about in my class happened around May or June of 2004, when the referendum was definitely a “hot topic”. The important thing to highlight here is that the people started believing that, if a leader did not do its job right, they had the right (even the duty) to force that leader to leave his charge.
As I was told a few days after, my History professor heard a couple of students talking about me as she entered the classroom. And so she propose to the class “If you guys feel that Julia – (I just need a name but can’t use my real one!) – does not represent you anymore, you should make a recall referendum against her charge so she can stop being the class delegate and someone more able to do that can make the work”. My classmates followed her advice – as a second year kid follows many “advices” some so called expert professors – and with the History class as a suitable place to do it – ethics off – my professor pass along the desk a notebook picking up the signatures – just like the opposition did against Chavez months early. Yet, I was not removed of my charge. It seems like unlike the opposition, the “history professor” side of my classmates couldn’t pick up enough signatures. I never knew the exact number of signatures they managed to pick up, but I doubt it was small since I could feel the general discontent.
After finding out what happened, I don’t remember if I stood up in front of the class like I did many times during that year or if I only spoke to a small group. But I do remember what I said, sort of: “If there’s something wrong with my job, why you just don’t say so? And if you want to make a referendum against me, at least be kind enough to let me know you are doing it instead of picking up the signatures behind my back. I have two hands; I’m perfectly able to pick the signatures myself”. My classmates gave me a couple of embarrassed looks and no one ever said a word again about my job. I finish my period with more sorrows than glory but overall, with some “political incorrect” lessons to pick up.
Now I know – actually I was never that naïve to not suspect it- the reasons of why my job was considered a terrible one. My classmates did not want a class delegate, they wanted an employee who reminded them every single damn day the due date of our papers and exams; plus they wanted someone able to talk to the professors in order to demand them to be less exigent in all possible ways: to move a couple of weeks the due date of an exam and to ask that to the professor the same day of the exam. I wasn’t really up to do neither of that. I sort of propose myself to be a “fair” delegate and that often went in prejudice to the more lazy students, the ones who beg for the couple of points they need at the end of the term in order to pass a class they don’t deserve to pass at all.
By taking that attitude, I definitely made a terrible political mistake: to stop representing the ones I committed to represent. And I knew that if that was the student interest then I was totally unable to represent them.
For making my university political experience even more bizarre, as I was having difficulties with my class delegate charge; a project that I was working on with a few classmates for months, to run for the Student Centre of my school for the next period, was seriously affected by the “referendum against the class delegate” effect, among other things of course. We wanted to beat the useless current Student Centre that stayed in power for three years in a row because no group ran against them on elections during those years (yes, more student apathy). I had also encouraged the boyfriend I had back them to do a similar project on his school.
And so the elections came and my boyfriend became the Student Center president of his school for the next period while my group and I were not so lucky. We were beaten badly: I think the only votes we got were our own votes. From that moment on I decided to stay away of the university politics and especially to stop looking for a student leadership I was not made for.
Either way, I did not have time for crying in the corners: the recall against Chavez was coming soon and I there was a political campaign going on that I had to work for. I met my youth group of my political party at least twice a week during those months, and daily as the election date approached. We hanged posters in the nights and spend all day on campaign tends giving pamphlets and convincing the people to vote against Chavez. We were pretty much sure of the victory. Yes, we were naïve.
As everyone knows, the opposition lost that referendum claiming a fraud that it could not be proved. I felt that defeat not only in my mom crying the night of the referendum but also the next day when the leaver of my youth group picked up each and every one of us at our homes to have a meeting and talk about what happened and the feelings we had about it.
One guy of the group who was around 18 years old back then, refused to come out no matter how many times we rang at his door. Years later, on June of 2007 for being exact, I found him smiling over a truck in a demonstration as one of the White Hand (student) movement leaders. He’s a low profile leader, but has worked hard for the movement none the less. I quickly looked back at the nasty episode of the day after the recall against Chavez, when we stood outside his house begging him to come out and keep up with the political work. He recovered his mood slowly but never left the politics he had in his blood back. At the student demonstration, he approached me for saying hi and I looked at him like saying “I know what you went through, you deserve to live what you are living now…”
About the picture: I didn’t had a cam back then so I thought that my lonely shadow could symbolize a year filled of defeats.