January 5, 2014
We hide our valuables as we sneak into the car meant to take us to the airport. Everyone is on edge. The next day, a former Miss Universe will be murdered on a highway too similar to the one we are about to get on. Will I ever come back? My grandpa’s Parkinson’s gets worse every day. Have I just said goodbye to him for the last time?
February 13, 2014
I’m sitting alone in my dorm room. A video on my phone screen plays on a loop. A 20-year-old student is running away from armed militia shooting at protesters. He is shot in the back and left to die. My family had been protesting that day. I watch until my insides boil over into a scream and my roommates run in.
December 6, 2015
It’s past midnight, and the news pours in like the first rain after a drought. The opposition has won control of congress, claiming a legislative majority for the first time in years. The political balance is altered. We believe things will now finally begin to change.
April 20, 2016
My youngest cousin gets mugged by a gunman. Her cellphone is stolen, and her eye is purple and swollen from where he attacked her with the gun. We remember when she and her brother were tied up and blindfolded while their entire house was robbed. We are immensely thankful. She’s still alive.
May 18, 2016
It’s all over the news. From John Oliver to CNN, people are taking notice. My coworkers ask me shocked questions on the things they are hearing. How long has Venezuela been without power? Without food? Medicine? Protection?
How do I tell them that the grocery stores are as empty as the streets. That my grandpa has to rely on smuggled medicine whenever someone can make the trip. That the job economy is so useless than an education is worth less than the dirt under my shoe. That another two international airlines have just suspended service to the country. That offices are ghost towns and hospitals can’t treat patients. That the country is running out of everything: milk, bread, butter, toilet paper… Even hope.
How do I explain that this has been the reality for years?
I don’t know how to account for the uptick in attention over the past couple weeks. I have spent so much energy over the years talking about this, and it has always felt about as useful as kicking a brick wall.
Whatever the reason, I know it’s a good thing that people are paying attention. I know it’s a good thing that people are shocked and asking questions.
But it’s hard not to feel bitter when the attention comes at a time that is seemingly too late. The world news had to wait until the economic crisis was too dire to be ignored.
What good is your attention now, I think.
When you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. But every time we think we’re at the bottom, the floor crumbles beneath our feet as we fall deeper.
When will we start to go up, I wonder.
And yet. And yet. I see my family get up every day and keep living. Despite every indication that things will continue to worsen, despite living in a reality that ignores basic human necessities and rights.
They wake up. They work. They make arepas (when possible). They share what they have with their neighbors and friends. They play music. They play with the baby. While I wonder if she will be able to grow up in a better Venezuela, they dig out the same toys I played with almost 24 years ago and make the best with what they have.
Why? Porque el que se cansa, pierde.
Living with fear is a terrible thing. Living without hope is worse. And if they can continue to look for light in never-ending darkness, then it is my responsibility to keep fighting to bring that light to them.
However many rock bottoms, they keep looking up. Every day, they get up and take care each other.
So people of the world — now that we’ve got your attention…
How will we take care of them?