nt on imported goods, leaving it dry without those imports due to broken relationships with the producing countries. The people have forgotten how it feels to be powerful and independent, and that’s precisely what those ruling the nation wanted.
I was born and raised in Venezuela, and my perception of her has changed throughout the years. As a child, it was apparent to me that the country was on a train heading for a wreck and I would recognize that fear and shut it down, drown it. I didn’t want to admit my soul was right and the pain it caused me. I was always very intuitive and part of me knew I would leave before it all started really falling apart, but the guilt I felt for the amount of people stuck in that misery was almost unbearable, so I drowned that feeling too. When I stepped back and analyzed that pattern of self preservation, the ability to be aloof about the problems next door and pretend that I, myself, am not affected, it was quite revelatory. We do this with everything and everyone. A way of moving on and forward.
And yet, I have arrived at a depth in me in which pretending that someone’s pain doesn’t affect me is an obvious lie. I hurt because they hurt.
There is an undeniable force that if visible would look like an infinite family tree connecting us all. The people in Venezuela with whom I share a rich culture and past are not only my brothers and sisters, they are parts of me. The parts of me that make me human, that make me dance to their songs and crave sand between my toes to salsa and reggae. The parts of me that remind me the feeling of home and culture are very bound together. Then there is this distance that has given me a necessary perspective which is that all the people in the world have a need for belonging and culture. We all come from somewhere, a country, a smell, a song, that makes us feel rooted. The pride that comes from the ideals of patriotism are just as important as the ideals of family, simply bigger. We want to grow things, make them stronger and when our rights to belong and evolve get stifled, we crumble and rebel.
I believe in the idea of a government that understands they are enablers and not takers. That understands their power comes from a people empowered and self sustained through that empowerment. That is simply not the way things are in Venezuela nor the world and yet I believe it is possible. The crisis going on in my country has me in a constant state of sadness and fear. I am terrified for all the people jailed for rebelling and standing up against the government.
Kids with dreams of education and freedom are now in prisons for voicing those dreams. Tortured for being in a country ruled by fear instead of governed responsibly. To this predicament I have to stay aloof because the news and photos that describe what’s being done to my brothers and sisters make me feel so weak. Is there a possibility of healing when that many people are traumatized? We are talking hundreds of thousands dead in the last 14 years of people vs government and all the relatives tortured and barely surviving it. I don’t believe that’s living.
I remember living in Venezuela, the weekend trips to the beach full of music, food and friends. The feeling is unlike anything I can describe, it’s a memory that feels cultural. To hear about a friend’s beach trip in America, is completely different than in Venezuela. My memories of that life seem so distant and unattainable now that I almost feel I imagined them. There is a cultural freedom in the Venezuelan people, a way of communicating and sharing that hits me so deeply. A belonging I encourage every human to find within their own culture because while I understand everyone in this world is part of me just as much, the idea of losing what I once called my culture, deeply saddens me.
I don’t know when I’ll create new memories in Venezuela, the memories that made me feel like I was running through the country’s veins. She is still powerful to me and the ideals I grew up with still run through my veins. I am a strong woman, passionate and liberated by the heat of that culture.
I rise with pride in the saying “I am Venezuelan” and I will not keep calm.
Photos:Isabel Avellan http://www.isabelavellanstudio.com
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