pain

I’m A Criminal Going Down With My Country Venezuela – Part I

Graphics by  Patrick Leger

Graphics by Patrick Leger

I want to tell a story. A story about my country. But not in the regular documentary-political way. No, I want to tell a story from a 21st century perspective about what seems to be the worst time of mankind. Everywhere we hear quotes: “We are the lost generation”, they say. And most of us are actually on the right path, not quite there but perhaps might help humanity itself someday get there… However, there are some bad ones too – the bad seeds- those that somehow seem as if evilness just light up upon them and the God that brought them peace is more like a devil. Imagine what lives they must lead in these years, these lost years, years between a revolution brought by collective consciousness and a whole lot of wars before that.

Long story short, Venezuela’s fucked.

It seems unlikely that this country that for many years of its political life has been in some kind of dictatorship, and that for the last 15+ years has been through the worst one of its – and probably entire Latin America too- history. And even though most of its citizens are against the government and hold a positive sentiment of freedom, the portion of the population that is with the government hold a strong support for it, and the government itself is so corrupt and involved In drug trafficking and other illegal actions it is unlikely they will be served justice by the country itself, weakened after years of repressive dictatorship. Alas, the rest of the world is fighting its own battles and few eyes and not many influential ones are set on Venezuela and it’s downwards spiral of suffering. The election for The National Assembly deputies are probably going to end up as any electoral process in this country: Robbed. Altered. A win that is not theirs but ours. Everybody within Venezuela knows, but it’s hard to win against a government with so much power and money, the rest of the world sees and thinks we are dumb, but we are really clueless. Wouldn’t you be?

And here, oh, here you see people fighting – teeth, and blood and sweat and all- for a bag of flour. And you see a whole 4 block line to buy food, and every single person in that line sweating and cursing. Everybody’s so mad, you know? I’ve never felt it like this before. A year or two ago, with Chavez, at least we had a battered-housewife kind of relationship where they abused us but then later on after thinking about it, it wasn’t that bad, wasn’t it? They were still kind of good. Just kooks. Now this government is just black. It’s all I see nowadays, black. In people’s faces, inside their eyes. Who would’ve they been if it wasn’t for this regime? What happened, why us? How am I supposed to get over the heartbreak of meeting the love of my life but not knowing if tomorrow they’ll be killed or in a year, gone off to another country and a better life?

Graphics by Patrick Leger

Graphics by Patrick Leger

It’s too much. It’s December. So when you see something good, something growing here, a part of you shines outside of all of the darkness and tells you: cherish it. Better yet: teach it to be better. I am not trying to ask for forgiveness with this letter, but I am doing this to prove to you that we are lost, we are doomed, we are all black and dark and gone, at least do something good with the darkness. Children are probably the biggest proof of faith in something external. They are so full of goodness, still young and not so clever to the truth of the world; their eyes still shine with something most of it has lost by now: innocence. So living here, children are my favorite thing in the world. I consider them incredibly fun and light-hearted, to talk with a children is to not have a care in the world. They are the future and after all they might be the change, so all we have to do is to help them grow. Not make them, help.

I study Graphic Design at the local college of my city. For obvious reasons later discovered, I will not name nor city or college. For the last few months I have seen decadence amongst the social structure of this country. Beggars, before reduced to buses and the busiest streets of the city, are now seen everywhere, and many of them even in the same place. Whenever I go outside to have a cigarette with my friends, I am met with more than 4 beggars each time, most of them The Regulars; the others, occasional beggars asking for help to complete their bus fare or a phone call.

Two years ago, when I started attending college, I was an eighteen year old northern girl fresh out of her private high school. All my life I had grown with the dictatorship of Chavez, but the government’s bad decisions and the toll it was taking on the economy was barely felt by me, and I grew my childhood and teenage years as a well accommodated person, with good education and a great familiar life, other than a depression that lasted for two years, my life as a teenage-early adult was an easy one even though I was in one of the worst cities in the world. My mother lost her job in a petrochemical corporation for being against the government, but always a smart woman, managed to ace two great jobs afterwards, the latter one being high-end, just as her first one many years back. My father still worked at another government organization, but not one that was as radical. I was comfortable and didn’t know much other than cigarettes and alcohol, and thought of being a rebel for smoking and going out with my girlfriends to a night out with no boys. Fast forward two years later and some things remain. Such as my mother and her high-end job and my father and his desired job position, but nowadays the company where my father works is much more radical and demand that my father attends their pro-government walks and vote for the presidential candidate Maduro and everybody related to the government. He does it. My mother, who hates this government more than anything, doesn’t tell him anything. They’re old. I get it, I’d do it too. It’s the younger generation’s job to break the karma chain.

My before long kept innocence was quickly broken after getting into college by some stints with drugs, encounters with interesting crowds, and the initiation of sex.

It was a gradual descent and it seemed that as the country got worse so did my reality. Once so well kept and protected, now thrown into the wilderness. And I’m not talking about the drugs or the sex. These two had their positive and negative impacts in my personality, and hold no control over me. I mean the interesting crowd. I didn’t know there were people like this, I grew up and my life was about a small portion of my city, the one known as the rich people district. Now I know too much, too much of this city, I’ve been to too many places to know it is not at all like where I grew up. Where I grew up is an illusion, a tent brought up by those with more luck and money to pretend that we don’t live in a hot pot and they’re slow cooking us all. Getting into college on one of my early days I met Linda. The only rumor I ever heard of her is that she was rich and fell into drugs; she’s actually thirty-five even though she looks a rough sixty, and claims she doesn’t do crack or weed anymore but she sure as hell drinks a shitload. Sometimes she’s nice, sometimes she’s out of her senses. It is usual to see her asking for money at eight am and then berating you for no reason at seven pm. She’s one of The Regulars. There’s also a man that stands on a corner with a saint, asking for money, but I haven’t seen him in a while. Another guy sings along with his guitar to Ali Primera’s tunes and another guitarist is more of an indie rock kind of guy but fell into crack and his mind is too far gone, and even though he holds a conversation with you and talks to  you, all he does is talk about himself and what he could’ve been.

Graphics by Patrick Leger

Graphics by Patrick Leger

But as of six months ago a kid that was once just a child and part of The Regulars and begged for money around my college, has turned into more than just a kid but a small boy and brought along two of his friends or cousins, I’m not sure which because they refer to each other as ‘nephews’  They are mostly nice, but the oldest one is now meeting puberty and fills the younger ones minds with dirt and the things boys going through puberty have on their minds. So together, they’re a mess.

One of them once started masturbating in front of us, they shit in front of people, they make inappropriate remarks to women, and the list goes on. It doesn’t surprise us, in Venezuela this is normal now, and children with a poor background are unlikely to be thought of as growing up smart or improving their life.

But some days ago, something happened. I was outside of my college, trying to find a place to sit down and smoke a cigarette. I found a place, a small set of stairs that I could use as a chair, and I sat. In front of me, the skeleton of a house that was once meant to be a breakfast joint was now a popular drug-dealer area and whenever you wanted it, there it was. Right in front of college, within your eyes. There were the usual drug dealers that I knew by know and knew them to be harmless, they are usually boys or girls that attend college and sell to make extra cash, and there were also some strangers I didn’t know but this isn’t weird in a popular part of town. But there was this guy, and he exhaled darkness. The way he walked, he looked. His eyes themselves. I had seen him before and had seen him first a few months ago but never stayed too long in his presence, thinking him to be some kind of criminal. And it was incredible to me to see how everybody paid him no mind because it was obvious he didn’t belong. He didn’t attend college, he wasn’t young. He never talked to anybody. He just stared. That day, he got to staring. I was sitting next to two other people and didn’t notice him at first, but when one of the ‘nephews’ from the trio of children beggars -the younger one- walked up to me and asked for money and later struck up a conversation with me, my attention became quickly aware of him because he was staring at me, straight at me, and whenever I looked he looked away and pretended to be occupied. I spent some time chatting with the kid, I learned he liked rockets and was looking forward to lighting them up this Christmas, but no the big ones, just the small kind. He also looked forward to tomorrow because in the city plaza there was a big toy give away and he and his ‘nephews’ were gonna go get some. It was around 20 minutes into my conversation with this baby when the man across the house jumped over the window of it and was now at the other side of the road, facing the college driven businesses, coffee shops, and us.

I wasn’t worried, there were other people and I knew he wouldn’t do anything, but he seemed insane. He kept looking at me and the kid, and I became a little more nervous and turned over to the boy sitting next to me, telling him hurriedly to come with me somewhere else to continue our conversation, after all this man was upsetting me. He and I then walked over a few feet further and stared at him from afar. It was then that he told me that that man had one grabbed one of his ‘nephews’ and tried to sell him, saved only by the other two present. He told me he chased them. Whenever he went, there he was. That he told him nasty things. He scared him. I told him to stay away and to be a better person, not to look or to make trouble, we were all struggling in this country and he had to be a difference. He then told me about his mom and his grandmother, described them as hardworking women. I saw him with a different light and spoke to him as a mature sister would, I believed my words could make a difference for at least a moment and they did.

He asked me to be his friend.

From Part II:

“I will shoot you, I am not scared or kidding, I know how to use this and I will shoot you. So turn away and leave me alone”.

Anonymously submitted to ArtParasites