Editor’s Note: Though our publication focuses upon news and events in Colombia, the country cannot help but be influenced by the tragedy that is unfolding in neighboring Venezuela. With Colombia facing a presidential election in 2018, and with many potential candidates on the left, including Gustavo Petro, parroting the very same rhetoric that Hugo Chavez used in 1999, there are lessons to learn from the last two decades.
Este artículo fue traducido desde español. Marca aquí para ver la original.
The Reality that is Venezuela
I should start by saying that the situation of Venezuela wasn’t always like this. Still, until about five years ago, naïve citizens like me thought that the situation was soon going to change, or that we would be able to escape from it. However years have passed, it’s now 2017, and after 18 years, things have only gotten worse.
In Venezuela, two schools of thought exist. In the first group there are those who seem to have an almost inexhaustible faith. Then there is the rest, those who sometimes feel that the situation will last forever. I should state that I count myself among the first group, even if day by day it’s still hard not to feel hopeless. Being a young person in my early 20’s, I feel trapped in this bizarre reality.
In retrospect, 5 years ago I still was thinking about building a life in my country, along with my friends and family. But, little by little, that circle of friends and family is shrinking. I know, people often say that as you get older your friends become scarce and your circles of friends smaller, yet in this circumstance that wasn’t the case. Friends are now scarce because nearly all of them have left our homeland to look for new opportunities in other countries, seeking to live a better and more quiet life.
No more than four days ago, I said goodbye to my little sister. My heart shrinks, despite knowing that it’s not goodbye forever. Hopefully she will be gone only a few years. What I was thinking when I was writing this article, with her in my mind, is the desolate face of my mother, when her smallest girl boarded that bus to perhaps never return, running away from violence and despair. That face, I will never forget it.
I wish that I could say that I am happy for many of the people I know, including my friends and families, who have been able to emigrate –not an easy thing, but it is not completely true. I would rather have them here, by my side, sharing my joy and sadness with them, passing their moments with me in Venezuela, the country that raised us. I certainly know that they feel the same way, they all would rather be here, but they can’t be. Not if they want to live a full and tranquil life.
I am aware that many might think that I am exaggerating as, in many other cultures, the young leave their homes early to seek out opportunity in other places. Some only see their families once a year, if that. Nevertheless, we must understand that we, Latin Americans, specifically the Venezuelan, live in a culture where our strength relies on unity. December 24 and 31 are days when we share our food and traditions with our families. On our birthdays are days we get together, at least for a coffee. We spend weekends together, with family and friends.
The Venezuelan people have never known loneliness, or at least until now.
And when this nightmare finally ends, be it in one month, one year or beyond, who will be here with us to help rebuild our country? Our best entrepreneurs, academics and the young people with the spirit and strength that it will take to rebuild are no longer here. We have lost our engineers, medical doctors, accountants, attorneys, and business people. Who will do their jobs?
Venezuela is a young country, as one of our most famous comedians always says. We hadn’t known suffering and maybe, because of that, now we’re trapped in this corner without knowing what to do. We are still a naïve and cheerful people, in spite of experiencing bad times. We’re still smiling and we’re full of will to live. We are still standing and fighting every day with the hope that tomorrow will be better.
I am Venezuelan until the last inch of my skin. That is why I don’t give up. I choose to continue fighting with faith, praying every day, and to focus upon becoming a better person. I will not allow myself to spread this seed of pain. And I am sure that this suffering will end sooner or later, and that we will return back to be who we used to be. Even if I leave my homeland, I will still be as proudly Venezuelan as I am now. Because those who go away from this land, leave their skin behind.
Margarita Romero is an independent professional and contributor to Colombia Focus. She lives in Valencia, Venezuela.