I am from Venezuela.
And I dare to ask myself, but from what Venezuela? Which of the Venezuelan realities am I from? The Venezuela I grew up in, sassy and content, irreverent and easygoing, humane. Or the Venezuela that my parents and siblings live in today, aching, arid, bizarre, and hungry. How do I prevent my Venezuelan roots from drying when the fertilizer of my memories reflect a country that is not longer there?
Are memories rich enough to nurture the soil of my identity?
I am an expatriate.
My definition of home has been modified and adjusted so many times that I feel proud of the end result. Home for me is where my heart finds peace, surrounded by my children’s laughter and chatting, my husband’s deliciously grill meat and the dark brown leather couch that accompanies us since 2006. Home for me is the blue sea, the scorching sun, and white sand. I have learned the power of swimming in mountainous lakes and pretend I’m doing it in the warm waters of the Caribbean… I think the fact of just swimming makes me happy. Home is also warm arepas filled with avocado and chicken, German sausages, and heart-warming macaroni and cheese. As you may see, my concept of “home” is not purely based in a specific territory, but an conglomerate of feelings, places, flavors, and emotions. Each of these tied to a country, to a culture.
Home is also warm arepas filled with avocado and chicken, German sausages, and heart-warming macaroni and cheese
But what happened when I try to bind my memories of arepas with a Venezuela going through an unimaginable crisis so deep rooted that many have lost hope. They do not eat arepas… they have barely anything to eat. My heart aches and I don’t even live there anymore. Now, I have this dilemma of attaching my feelings from my country’s cuisine to an image of hunger. My fellow Venezuelans are hungry, thirsty, waiting for a future that hasn’t been drawn yet. Now, I restrain myself from joining the idea of the blue sea and the food to a suffering Venezuela, a country I cannot go back to. At least not to live. Now, I carefully eat and swim but I do not dare to go further… it is painful.
I think this is a pain felt by many Venezuelan expatriates.
Today, Venezuela is in ruins and almost 2 millions Venezuelans have left the country since the year 2000. Deep political problems, an enormous economic crisis and social devastation drove our families to pack their lives and move to other countries. Today, we have families that are completely clueless about what to do to prepare themselves and their kids for the challenges of moving abroad. We go overseas with a bucket full of roots, traditions, and beliefs that are drying. The water of the Venezuela of the past is not there anymore to nurture them. Ironically, we have the biggest oil reserves in the world but there are no antibiotics, diapers, bandaids or bedsheets in the hospitals. Patients die of hunger and infections. There are no medicines, no doctors either.
We go overseas with a bucket full of roots, traditions,
and beliefs that are drying.
Accordingly to information published by Revista, Harvard’s Review of Latin America, Venezuela was once considered a miracle country. Until the 1980’s it was one of the four Latin American countries certified by the World Bank as an upper-middle-income economy. Its political landscape was stable, democratic and prosperous; its economy was successful with a high income due to oil production. Socially, we, Venezuelans, were very proud of our heritage and we were able to study in high quality universities around the country and enjoy a middle class lifestyle that made us content and strongly rooted in our traditions and land.
These facts do not exist anymore.
Now, we abandon our houses, jobs, families, and friends to adventure in foreign lands, looking for a better future. We are too desperate to apply for an expat assignment; but we are not that poor and in risk to be officially considered refugees. We are a grey zone. Today, we read the newspapers, watch the evening news, search online, and we only find chaos. “The land of the Hunger”, “the Country of Teenage Pregnancy”, “oil producer country in ruins”… depressing headlines. I am pretty sure my fellow Venezuelans abroad think the same. We feel lost sometimes… where are we really from?
Thankfully, I have connected with many Venezuelans around the world and what I see is encouraging. These are people who reinvent themselves, their careers, their whole lives to adjust to a new system in a foreign land. These are men and women willing to work those extra miles to send money to their relatives in Venezuela. These are the byproduct of a country governed by an illiterate drug cartel. Frequently, I see leaders, entrepreneurs and businessmen; these are the Venezuelans that create change from outside. From abroad. These are the Venezuelans who insist in cooking traditional meals to share with their children and friends overseas; thanks to them my arepas are less sad and more diverse.
These are people who reinvent themselves, their careers, their whole lives to adjust to a new system in a foreign land
However, the reality isn’t the same for everybody and unfortunately many of my countrymen live in poverty in and out of Venezuela. Families are growing apart and children are spending their young years far away from mom and dad. Parents leave their offsprings with other family members and move away looking for a job to live a decent life. Bittersweet truth of people forced to change, connect, and lead far away from their birth country.
Today, I write about a reality that breaks my heart. Today, I make the choice to show my children the beauty of Venezuela’s landscape, the richness of our culture… the strength of our people. And even though I am saddened by the humanitarian crisis of my birth country, I choose to keep my roots dampened by the elixir of my memories.
Today, I connect with other global minded people and lead the change my land needs. Today, I change for the better to wholly represent a Venezuela that will reinvent herself and will welcome back many of her sons and daughters.
I am Venezuelan but also a citizen of the world.
Yo nací en esta rivera del Arauca vibrador…