lunes, 7 de enero de 2013

Where do you come from?

When people hear me speaking, they immediately ask where I come from. “Venezuela” – I answer, politely, with a smile, trying to pronounce my country’ name carefully so I won’t leave room for confusion. Even so, I always feel the need to add something like “in South America, the north part of South America” – It is only there when a general sound of relief follows – “Ohhhh” – as if now they finally know that I come from somewhere in the planet Earth. “And what is it like?” – They ask. I do not know what they expect me to answer so I hurry to make some comments about how nice is the weather “there”. After being under 30 F for weeks most of time, I realize the not- so- hot, not- so- cold, always –the- same weather that I enjoyed in my hometown was truly a privilege.

Once we have spoke about the weather, things can get a bit confusing.

Some quickly forget the word “Venezuela” and start naming Latin-American countries indistinctly throughout the conversation as if they were the same. Argentina, El Salvador… even Spain which is not even in Latin America. For them, I could be from either of those countries; who could tell the difference?. The ones I like the most – and I end up befriending - immediately lose interest and start talking about something else. The most informed ones proceed to the next question: “Isn’t that guy, who is against America, your president? You know… Chavez…He is like a bad guy, right?” – I smile, quickly reassuring my political position. I can stand to be taken for another national origin but I couldn’t stand to be taken for a government supporter. “Unfortunately, yes”. Life is simple here. For many people there are “good guys” and “bad guys”- like my president. I wish things were that simple.

But every time things get more complicated in my country, I find it even harder to be understood by some people here. How can I explain them that I am not sure if Chavez is my president no longer? How can I explain them that we don’t know if he is even alive? How can I tell them that we have a certain idea that he is sick but we are completely unaware of his exact condition? That he left to Cuba in November and that’s the last we saw of him? I would have to also tell them that now the president is somehow, absent; his allies do strange things in his name. We thought we had seen the worse when he was here, but even more terrible things can happen when he is not.

Nervousness and anxiety can be read, I guess, in the face of all Venezuelans; even those who are fully committed to the Revolution. Chavez has to sworn in for a new presidential period in three days but chances are, he is not going to make it. The president of the National Assembly has called this Constitutional process a “mere formality” and many others have expressed a similar opinion. The opposition has done the little they could: to rightfully demand a truth that has been long time denied despite its importance for country: “Where is Chavez? How is he exactly?”

A part of me is still unable to take account of all the things that are going on now, of all these days we’ve been looking for that truth in our Twitter Timeline with no success. Of all the things that have been said against everything I believe and stand for: Laws, Rights, Democracy, Respect. We are witnessing possibly the end of life that is determinant to the course of a country and this end is capable now to uncover horrors we never imagine. We are witnessing how a man we always thought to be the most powerful- Hugo Chavez-, has been dominated by silence, lies and secrets. And how a country keeps on going, how lives keeps on being lived, despite a total ignorance of who is really ruling us – and the dark suspicion that the domination has been entirely dictated by a different country (Cuba, of course).

I hope I can later make for you a better account and a better reflection of what has happened in these past few weeks and of what continues to happen. In the meantime, my family back home wonders if saving some food for days to come wouldn’t be too paranoid.

And when people ask me where I come from and “what is it like” in that place they have never heard of, I prefer to answer that I am from somewhere in South America, certainly warmer than here; ruled by something more complicated than this “bad guy” you have seen on the news.

4 comentarios:

  1. I lived in Venezuela in the early eighties. I found your country to be very beautiful. I learned a lot about my country, EEUU, by living abroad. I do not like Chavez but I do understand how he was capable of maintaining his power for so long. By catering to the disenfranchised poor, he obtained. A super constituency that kept him in power every election. Regretfully he has mortgaged your country to the Chinese for years to come. Don't get me wrong, I understand that my country is up to its gills in the same Chinese debt. The difference is that I can go out and eat a Big Mac without cutting my arm off as payment of risking a secuestro

  2. Hi Julia,

    I stumbled upon your blog for two reasons- in a world literature class I am taking, we are encouraged to talk to someone in a non-english speaking country who blogs about their life there, and also, I will be attending a university in the fall and my room mate lived in Venezuela for most of her life. I think that your views on the current situation going on in Venezuela with the president is very interesting and I am eager to learn more so that I can communicate better with my future room mate and understand where she comes from.
    What is it like to be unsure of the current status of your president? Do you ever worry about the outcome of the government? What are the good and bad things you experience living there? If there is anything else you would like to share about life in Venezuela, I am very interested.

    Thank you! Your blog is very helpful.
    Claudia (Denver, Colorado, USA)

  3. Claudia, thank you for stopping by. I am sure this blog will be helful for your task, specially the archives filled with stories of when I lived in Venezuela. I left the country about six months ago.
    I think I will need to write a whole post in order to answer some of your questions. I thank you for that, because I haven't been able to publish anything new for a while.
    In advance I can tell you that my country is experiencing its worse moment since I can remember and if in my opinion, president Chavez was terrible; his friends now acting in his absence are even worse: even more radical and more cruel. We are eager to know about the current status of our president, because it is the only way to an end to this madness. Or at least have some hope. Right now, I have none.

  4. One of my first ESL students was a forer college roomate and General of the Venezuelan Navy. I helped him mediate a BBB issue with a sunroom he had added to his house that leaked. Either way, he said soldiers came to his house the day after Chavez was elected with a personal note telling them they had until 4 am the next morning to gather all of their belongings and be escorted to a military plane to be fown to Miami. The house would be seized and if he stayed, he would be jaild and all assets taken by the state. He thought they were friends. Over the next few years, I had a steady stream of wonderful middle to upper middle class Venezuelans come through. Every one was extremely polite, well educated but upset that they had to start life over. Their college age children transferred into TCU SMU Stanford. They were concerned about folks who couldn't afford to leave, abuses. My best friend is from Honduras and will tell you this was the future with Zelaya (Mel) and Obama sided with the wannabe dictator. You have to question US policy that is against democracy in areas where the outcome is only potentially NOT a dictatorship, yet intervention in the Middle East that results in the Muslim Brotherhood in charge. It makes no sense. Venezuela ceded its desirability as a EEUU and EU expat retirement destination when it took a hard left.


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