lunes, 30 de mayo de 2011

On the day you were born, and the day before...

To be honest, I still don’t know if I’m going to have children of my own. I have thought about it. I think I would be a good mom. Odd, that’s clear. But good. Either way, until that moment comes if it ever comes; you have been the closest thing to a son that I have ever had. You are not my kid, but in lieu of your mother I would have to take care of you. That’s why your parents decided to name me your godmother. Thankfully, you have great parents, and grandparents, and loads of people ready to give you everything you need in life. You won’t need much from me. Except for stories. I have many stories saved for you and someday I’ll tell you all. Most specially, someday I’ll tell you the story about the day you were born; and the day before.

Your mom looked nonetheless, radiant. She was packing the bags with your dad and they both looked radiant, and tense, and worried, and; well, panicked. We were not helping them packing their bags; we were at a protest instead, a few blocks away.

You’ll see; just the day you were born, the most famous, oldest, and most widely viewed TV Channel, called RCTV closed forever; at least in open signal. So we were protesting about it. I know what you are thinking, I know you are raising an eyebrow and wondering why we made such a big deal over a TV channel closure. I know you were born with Internet and ever since you were little you watched Cartoons on Youtube so you don’t care about TV much. But TV was still very important back then. Or maybe not so much. To be honest, RCTV was a very low quality TV channel, with a vulgar corny programming. We never watched it. The protest was about something more important than a TV channel, something that it was very important back then and it should be important still: it was about freedom. It was about the citizens standing against the president because a man in power can’t make a decision just because he wants to. No one is above the law. No one. And no one in power is allowed to restrict their rights to anyone else; including one’s right to be free. One’s right to watch a low quality TV channel. Even if the TV is low quality. And even if the channel says things against the regime.

So we were protesting – meaning your grandparents and myself – and in a very confusing situation, the police started dropping tear gas to us, and other things too. When it happened, your grandmother had already left the protest and come back home and I was hanging out with some friends. We realized we had nowhere to run and the situation became quite stressing, until we found a hotel door and refugee with another group in the lobby. We had planned to stay in the streets until midnight, when the closure of the channel really occurred. But we had to sit in a corner of a hotel lobby for an hour or more; until we stopped hearing detonations.

When we got out off the hotel, the protest was over. I did not have minutes to call your grandma and there were no bus or taxis available; so I walked with a friend throughout the highway (yes, the highway; pushing ourselves to the border while cars were sporadically passing by). As we walked, still scared; my friend asked me if I was going to the university the day after. I said no. Because you were coming…

We stayed up that night until RCTV broadcasted its last minutes: an image of the channel employees crying while the national anthem was played. “I hope my kid can born in a free country” – Your dad said, still in hopes that there was a backing down somehow.
Unfortunately, you were not born in a free country. But then, who does? I might have born in a country a bit more free than the one you were born years later; but at the end, all generations seem to be condemned to fight for rights they should already take for granted.

A few hours later we rushed to the clinic. Your mom had a scheduled cesarean because… I really don’t remember the medical details. It was a complicated road. There were many streets closed by protesters in our way to the clinic. We explained to each block point that you were coming to the world and they looked at your mom and let us pass. It wasn’t that bad, because we were at the end, supporting the protesters. It was more like an adventure. Like a story to tell you.

My sister got into the delivery room or the operating room or whatever and we waited for you; with the TV on. Told you, those days were the last days were TV was still important to us. I realized that there were two stories about the day you were born; one about an end and another about a beginning. At least that’s what I thought when I saw my friends protesting and making statements on TV. And many many many others like me. Many university students. I was in my last year and I waited all five years in the university to see what the TV screen was giving me while I was waiting for you. The university students were finally, and massively, standing against the government. That awful government that feel entitled to be above the law and everyone’ rights. I felt proud and contradicted. I wanted to be there. Don’t blame for it. I can assure you I wanted to be where I was as well.

We turned off the TV because someone let us know that you were here already. A nurse took you out in an incubator. You were crying. You looked cute for being a newborn. All newborns are ugly but you were not… the secret it’s in our genes, you know. My friends were calling me and texting me to tell me about all the protests out there. I was calling and texting them about your arrival. Your accidental and politically contextualized arrival. During that day, we had to sneak off to the waiting room to watch the protests on TV since my sis was breastfeeding you and she could not be disturbed with news about protests and street riots. You have seen the pictures of the day you were born and I know there are a lot of people in those pictures. But believe me when I tell you that we were expecting at least double than that; since we are a big family. Many could not make it, the protests, the streets blocked, the channel just closed, the student movement…

It’s been four years since that. You are much taller and annoying than then. You have an outrageous fixation for Spiderman. You always want to save the world, same as we wanted to do the day you were born. But we couldn’t. No one could. Still, I think that day a greater awareness of the gravity of our circumstances was settled. I’m sorry that we couldn’t do more, that we couldn’t deliver a greater country for you to be in.

But I still have hopes. I dream about the day when you read this letter. I dream that you be somewhere else different and that you will pass your existence fulfilling the desire for freedom that filled the place where you came; during those days. And most specially, in the morning of that May, 28th, 2007; when odd circumstances, casualty, luck and a lot of love brought you to the world

So, whenever you read this, wherever you are; happy birthday!

With love,

Your godmother.

PD: You can read more stories about those days here. That post was written almost in the moment, while this one comes from my memories four years later. So any inaccuracy (if any) is given to that.

martes, 17 de mayo de 2011

This blue bird calling...

Follow me at @julia84Caracas. I'm tweeting more often now, and I'm starting to enjoy it almost as much as blogging. Only trouble, or warning more likely is that I might be an English- language blogger at The End of Venezuela as I know it, but I'm a bilingual (and more often than not... Spanglish) Tweeter. - This is the End, do not click anywhere

The family cake (A story on the cooking oil' shortage)

Our "family cake" is famous. We inherited the recipe from my grandmother and we haven't done a different cake ever since. This cake has been my constant companion for endless birthdays and meetings. When I first went to lunch at my boyfriend' house, I brought the "family cake" and I'm sure this had a lot to do with me being accepted as part of his family. There is something different and truly special about this cake, about its soft texture and its sweet (but not so sweet) taste.

Like all good cakes, it has a "key ingredient". We don't keep our recipe as a "family secret" but we won't reveal the "key ingredient" until everyone has tasted the cake. We have a reason for it: as soon as we reveal it, everyone puts ugly faces exclaiming how gross and weird it is to use that for a cake. Most don't believe us, they think we still keep a secret, and hence, never try what we do at home.

The key ingredient is (drums roll, please): cooking oil. That's right, cooking oil. No, we don't "fry" the cake as someone once dared to suggest (he was weird, not us). We simply use cooking oil (vegetable oil) instead of butter. And it might be not like that where you are,- I have seen many online cake recipes using cooking oil- but here, a cake without butter simply strike many housewives and cookers. That's why, strange as it sounds, the recipe has remained exclusive for all this year; as my family tradition. A tradition which now could be questioned.

With a serious cooking (vegetable) oil shortage and with my nephew' birthday coming soon; the cake has been a worrisome topic at home. My sister tried making a cake using butter and it tasted weird. Like bad- weird. Perhaps she did something wrong or more likely, we are simply not used to cakes made with butter. Let's face it: for us butter and cake don't go in the same sentence. Those cakes are heavier and look way too yellow. The second possibility is to buy one; but that's an insult to my "cake Masters" (self given title, that's for sure) family.

While we search, supermarket after supermarket, popular markets and convenient stores for a bottle of cooking oil (we need even less than that for one cake); my nephew plays around the house wearing a weird blue-red outfit. He screams: "Don't worry, I'm going up there to save you!" - then he raise his arms and makes the fumiest sound ever. For him there are no shortages, or crisis, or revolution. For him there is just a world as big as our home, filled with "people in danger" (actually, toys in danger) which he must save.

He's clueless (and he should be clueless) about all those things we adults worry about; the things - we hope - he will know by asking us for old stories or by reading them in history books.

And he probably won't even care whether his cake is the usual "family cake" or not; as long as it has a Spider-man figure and four little candles on top.

PS: The image was taken from here. No copyright infringement intended

domingo, 15 de mayo de 2011

Painful memories (Comments on FARC- Chavez connection)

- Note: this should had been published last Friday... but Blogspot was out of service for more than 24 hours and then a busy weekend followed. The image was taken from here, it shows my president with FARC' secretary Iván Márquez -

Altamira’ story is one story hard to tell; the links and protesters motivations didn’t made much sense, and their fight mechanisms even less. It all started in October, when a group of military decided to declare themselves in “Civil disobedience”. Everyone I knew celebrated the move, presented to the country on live TV. The “disobedient” members from the army gathered in Altamira square for about two months, conducting daily speeches and protests asking for Mr Chavez’ resignation.

A clock was installed, right next to a Virgin Mary altar that still remains if I’m not mistaken. I never quite understood why the high military command were acting like civilians. With their obvious lack of politics experience there was no much to expect. I know I’m touching a delicate ground, but it seems to me that this “civil explosion” end up benefiting Chavez, since the army was easily purged to guarantee that only loyal will stay in it; while the ones who did oppose Chavez were switching microphones in Altamira. Since then, I think it is really hard if not impossible to find anyone inside the army against the regime. With a country as militarized as mine, to my disdain, we have no choice but to have the army on our side if we want a change. So, looking now at the upcoming presidential elections (to be held next year), you can imagine where that left us.

But Altamira’ story is not only a story about huge political lost and costs; it’s also a story about violence and political intolerance, about the lost of three human lives.

I was sitting at home, watching the dissident military speeches from Altamira live on TV. Then we started to hear some screams and the TV images gave us back the look of people running and hiding. It was obvious that someone was shooting against the crowd. Three people died that night and many others were wounded. In particular I remember seeing a young guy holding a light purple sweater with a red spark. He was in the waiting room of a clinic, and explain to the cameras that the sweater belonged to his girlfriend, who was in intensive care.

Soon, the government found the shooter. A red haired simple guy, with Portuguese origins and a strange look in his eyes. The official version is that this guy, apparently crazy, on his own, decided to perpetuate the massacre. Just like those horrible killings in the first world where a dis-adapted, strange fellow is responsible.

Just recently, files from Raul Reyes’ laptop confirm a close collaboration between my government and the FARC to pursue state terrorism acts and to purgue counter revolutionaries. Experts suggests that due those e-mails found in Reyes’ laptop and the modus operandi of Altamira’ massacre; that FARC might be behind it. I don’t know if it’s pure speculation or a carefully thought conclusion that has now spread in the media like dust.

"Subsequently, on December, 2002, at the Altamira neighborhood of Caracas, three opposition members that were taking part in a rally die, and others are wounded.

The IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies in London) suggests that for the “modus operandi” and context, it could have been FARC’ members work."
(Read it all here, in Spanish)

Either way, a laptop lost in the jungle, a terrorist group’ propriety that shouldn’t have anything to do with us; has find its way to bring us back painful memories.

PS: Venezuelan bloggers have worked intensely to bring out everything about Chavez - FARC connection, since data from Raul' laptop was released. Check my links below for their compilation and their analysis.

PS 2: The New York Times published a direct and disturbing piece on the topic yesterday. Read it here