living life in a multicultural world
I understand that what is happening in the Ukraine is important from a political science perspective. I find Russian actions in the past two years scary and questionable and I see Putin as a Stalinesque figure whom we should be wary of (have you seen those eyes?).
That being said, I find it personally sad and interesting from a world perspective that so little attention is being paid to what is happening in Venezuela. I guess Venezuela does not have an important role in world peace or the dynamics of global power. The oil it offers is substantial but would not affect the world economy if it were not to flow, and Latin America, like Africa, is usually put aside by pundits as ungovernable and let’s face it, insignificant to world affairs.
I, however, have been following the situation closely. I have a special place in my heart for Venezuela. I learned to go potty there and I celebrated my “quinceanera” there, the Spanish equivalent of sweet sixteen but the when you turn fifteen. Pretty landmark events in someone’s life, if you ask me. There is also the little bitty important fact that I have family there. Now. And I am nervous about their well being.
My parents emigrated from Spain to Cuba and then from Cuba to the USA. Another section of my family emigrated from Spain to Cuba and then decided to go to Venezuela. I was always jealous of this part of the family.
We would go from our cramped tenement style NYC apartment on the ground floor, take a plane to visit my two aunts and their big families and enter this tropical paradise where houses were grand and breezy and maids arranged things without you asking for them. I remember watermelon sized papayas, everyone being beautiful and impeccably dressed with gucci bags and lots of lipstick. I remember going to the luxury malls and second homes on the beach.
I vividly remember thinking my parents had made a grave mistake choosing New York. We were paupers who lived a sober life compared to my carefree and lucky rich cousins.
I guess my parents made the right choice after all.
Most of my cousins have had to emigrate to the US or Spain. They have left behind their beloved country to start a new life in a foreign land. They have good educations but have struggled to find good jobs and get settled. Luckily, my aunts and uncles had learned their lesson in Cuba and had invested their savings in the US and Europe, not only Venezuela. They are not poor and destitute immigrants but they are immigrants nevertheless — struggling, learning to live in a new culture, making the best out of the situation. Longing romantically for their Venezuela while realizing that they will probably never return.
The ones that are still there are now in a war zone. Holed up at home or carefully attending peace demonstrations that they think will not become violent. They are arranging to leave because they are lucky and have the means to do so. It is still not easy. They leave loved ones behind. They must start from scratch in a new place.
Venezuela — people are dying on the streets, businesses are closed, people do not have toilet paper or access to milk. This beautiful country with beautiful people is slowly being ravaged to nothingness because of a dictator, a dictator who does not even pretend to have an idealistic vision for the country (unlike his Cuban ally Fidel Castro). Maduro is one lucky ex-bus driver who wants to ride this gravy bus to the end.
But the fault is not fully Maduro’s, or Chavez’. When we would arrive in Caracas at night the plane would circle over the city and it looked like a twinkling wonderland below. The lit Caracan hills were magical until the dawn appeared and the reality of the favelas, or shanty towns on those hills was visible in all its ugliness.
The bottom line is that populists such as Chavez come in to power because there is a deep discrepancy between the classes and this creates a deep resentment and inherent conflict between rich and poor. A country will not thrive when there is such a wide economic disparity between people.
History certainly repeats itself. I can only hope that we take baby steps to learn and grow from our past. Let us realize that in order for true freedom and liberty to reign, our society must be compassionate and have a solid social network to help those in need.
The world seems to not care too much about what is happening in Venezuela. I do. For personal reasons as well as for grander reasons. I think that there is an important lesson to brush up on that is always forgotten by the industrialized countries. Economic disparity matters. A society cannot function when the gap between the have and have nots is so wide.
This gap drove Venezuela away from personal and public freedom and liberty and led them to where they are now. Now, the different classes are coming together and hopefully the country can peacefully regain control of its democracy and work towards a once again vibrant country with true opportunity for all.
SOS is a morse code signaling an emergency. Historically people have mistranslated it as “Save Our Souls”. Hmmm….