On Sunday night I told my husband I was off to bed. We had our computers tuned with Venezuelan TV Channels and my twitter account ready to receive the news. But I somehow knew I was not ready to hear them. My heart was still holding hopes of getting good news. Like Chavez lost. That we finally did it. My husband hoped the same. He even put a bottle of wine in the fridge, just in case of a celebration. Even if we wasn’t really there, in Caracas. Even if it was just the two of us and the other three Venezuelans we know in town. Obviously, I couldn’t sleep. I turned and turned in my bed, eyes wide open in the darkness.
About an hour later, my room door was open and lights immediately turned on. It was too important to hold any respect for my supposed sleeping. After all, my husband knows me too well, he knew I couldn’t possibly be sleeping at all in such a moment. We didn’t say much. He was standing at the door and his face told me everything: his face was that face of a man falling apart. We both fell, in a long embrace, crying. Not sobbing. It was a quiet crying as if it were disrespectful on our parts to cry, since we already left the country while others we care about so much are still there; and they throw all their best efforts on Capriles’ campaign.
Next, we had an odd conversation about our future. What to do next. It was implied that given how complicated things are in Venezuela, with absolutely not hope for us to have a better future – stuck in low paid jobs, in companies at risk of closing their doors…plus crime rates etc. – we were not going to go back. But we never told anyone so, this others’ supposition, what everyone thinks when a young couple leave. Not ours.
For us it was simply a matter of: “the Masters program lasts two years and once he’s graduate we will see”. In that quiet crying on Sunday I knew it: in our hearts, we never planned to stay abroad indefinitely, we both want to go back. We didn’t know if we were going to do this in two years or later on but we wanted (want.. I don’t know if I should put this in past or present tense) to raise our kids the way we were raised, where we were raised. To grow old in a house in some middle class Caracas’ neighborhood, in a backyard including an annoying mango’ tree.
I remembered all the elections I have witnessed since the Revolution started. Every time the CNE has announced Chavez as winner, I always go back to my bed and cry – an awful routine, I am aware. Inside, I always hold the same thought: that if some day I manage to leave the country, things like this will affect me a lot less; since I would be living a completely different reality. It couldn’t be farther from the truth: this time, being away, knowing the results; affected me a lot more.
My husband and I still haven’t figured out “the future”. Why should we? We just got married, moved overseas; that means a lot to handle, a lot of adjustments to be made. No one can ask us to decide yet if we want to go back, or stay or go somewhere else. I feel relieve we both want the same: to go back. If we can’t go back, it won’t be because we don’t want to. I suppose we will and we will keep monitoring with the aid of our family and friends still there how the situation develops before making any decision.
In the meantime, I want to share with you a few thoughts I had after this devastating results and after the immediate mourn and crying:
1. I don’t understand my country.
I have tried, don’t know if hard enough, to understand it. To study, to talk, see and work with all kinds of people. I still don’t fully understand how it works. There are many brilliant essays circulating in the web – unfortunately most in Spanish – talking about this, so I am glad I am not the only one. We – I mean “we” as those who oppose the current government – were so annoyed by the fact that a majority of Venezuelans voted last Sunday for a government that has done little good and much wrong; that we are working hard on finding an explanation. Or a word that can comfort us. Or both.
The classical “people- meaning, poor, low class people– ignorance” – is not enough. It is an argument often offered by people who think they are better than others and I don’t like that. I have seen a lot of sh… (excuse the word) in the middle class, as in the low class “barrios” as in the rich, exclusive class. In all those scenarios I have seen lack of moral, corruption, brutal ignorance, zero political even less democratic culture. Is like a plague and it doesn’t respect social classes. Explanations can also be found in the fear the government infringes on a lot of people: fear of losing their jobs, fear of losing their contracts or their benefits from social programs, fear of just… changing things. My mom asked me the other day if fear was not another evil derived from plain ignorance. I could not argue.
Last, perhaps the most “objective” argument is the power the government has. The overwhelming advantage our president enjoyed in resources and in having the military, the judicial and the electoral branches of power all for himself. I am still puzzled as to how we could ever be strong enough, smart enough, rich enough to overcome that power.
So for me, the “why we lost?” question could be answering arguing the following:
a) We, as a country, still got a lot to learn in terms of political culture to go to the ballots aware of our responsibility as citizens, and the consequences our actions have on others’ lives.
b) Our government in 14 years in power has manage to hold, well, a lot of power. This power comes in a ridiculous advantage when it comes to campaigning that will simply overcome any attempt to do to be in equal terms. We will never have fair election in those conditions.
c) However, and this is a paradox, it is only through elections that our current president must leave his office. Only this way guarantees a peaceful transition and sets the roots to establish a more democratic, respectful and lawful state.
2. We have a leader now: Capriles. And a great opposition alliance (MUD: hope it last). So no reason to give up.
I am quite aware we lost but we were so close to the goal we could almost smell it. Everybody agrees on this, on polls, on long opinion analysis, on reviews of the exhausting tour Capriles made throughout the whole country during this campaign. He did not make it but proved we can make it, proved that he has what it takes to go through this process. Capriles is the leader the opposition never had before and longed for. No one is more against populism than me, I don’t want to deify him or anything closer. I just want to state that this is a guy who is prepared for the job, who had the best possible reaction to the news of his defeat, who is political, smart, a democrat. Someone that can glue the whole unintelligible “salad” that is the Venezuelan opposition together. This, of course, with the help of those who have worked to make the MUD (an alliance of opposition parties), a reality.
Despite the results, the campaign was brilliant. Those in the opposition did exactly what they should. So I won’t lose my hope of witnessing the end of this Revolution and a peaceful transition leaded by Capriles and those who worked with them, from his party and from others.
3. Even here, far away from Caracas, I still have a role to play
When I moved out, I wasn’t sure of what to do with this blog. I decided to keep it open, until I figure it out. This blog, in my opinion, holds its value in the fact that it is an open, honest testimony of a witness within a particular situation; a political one. Now that I am away, it will be harder to bring stories from the ground, unless I include the daily talks I have with my family and friends back home (thank you, Internet).
But now that I have finished what is the first post here not published in Venezuela, I think there might be something valuable in the experience of an emigrant, who is still – as you have noticed – pretty much attached with what it happens back in Venezuela but who is also managing to adjust to her new life. My testimony and what I can recollect from those back home will continue filling the “pages” of this space.
Besides my vote from abroad which is counted only after the first, irreversible announce of the elections results has been made; Internet holds for us the possibility of sharing information, keeping those who needed informed, check if connections in Venezuela in key moments are working properly or if what we can do to spread a message and so on.
My physical address have changed. But my blog, my Twitter account and what I stand for remains the same, wherever I go.