Love in time of dictatorships

Going back to Venezuela after four months being out of the country required some aculturization.

We all have things in our countries of origin that bother us. Things that we grow up fed up with; The way people act in certain circumstances, social expectations or norms, stereotypes, etc.

For me, I would say that once I became an adolescent and started having my own experiences I realized that there were many things that really bothered me.

After four monts I was getting back to that. To a society that claims not to be racist or segregationist but in reality is consumed by materialism and uses it to discriminate. Where people judge you for what school you go to, what clothes you wear, what kind of car you have, if you live in the east or west side of the city (if you live in Caracas), do you speak English or not, do you travel abroad, do your parents have the means to support you abroad while you get an MBA, etc.  

On the other side of this upper middle class segregation you have people who are really poor and also might discriminate against you if you do not speak with the slang they use; or simply if you find yourself iclose to the wrong ‘barrio’ ( shanty town).

If you have ever read Ruby Payne and her Framework for Understanding Poverty, Venezuela is IT. The extremes of everything.

There are tons of derogatory terms that fly from one side to another. Somehow that translates into a cumbulated chaos of traffic, bureaucracy at all levels, lines for everything, ineficient services and therefore frustrating… plus a large gamut of etceteras that would anybody lose their cool in just minutes.

When you grow up in the middle of that chaos and you see no different you don’t know though how to expect any different.

In my case, at ten I had experienced visiting Miami and stayed with my aunt and my cousin who were making a life there. Just for vacations. I visited the the parks in Orlando and soaked in their apartment building pool all summer; which I thought it was the coolest thing on earth: A building with its own pool!

That planted a seed in me, that fully sprouted at 18 when I traveled to Sweden. That trip really set me on track to get out of the country. I was so fed up of the chaos and the country’s idiosyncrasy. I wanted out. More importantly I never wanted to have children growing up in that mess.

I had started studying languages in college to become and interpreter. I had experienced Germany and some other European countries in its vicinity, easily reached by train; there was no way I was going to stay put.

After coming back from the States, it was a great joy to see my family again. I had a lot to do. I had one more year of school to do and I was required to prepare a dissertation, as well as presenting it before a panel of professors to fulfill the graduation requirement.

Usually the dissertation takes itself a full year; I did not have time for that. I had plans of leaving by the end of my school year in June of 2002.

Economic turmoil came into the country to stay. Chavez had won democratically by a landslide of votes, unfortunately including mine. He campaigned as the radical change that people were longing, someone that would stop the corruption. Later on, through many political strategies his government took every institution of government and the country set foot foward to the total collapse it is today.

One of the most damaging laws imposed on the country was a currency exchange control. This is a regulation that controls how much domestic money you can exchange into foreign currency. The consequence of this is that people who travel or import goods into the country do not have the access to foreign currency, which hinders imports and makes them more expensive.

To add insult to injury all these controls originate a black market for foreign currency where the prices fluctuate mostly upwards on daily basis increasing prices for everything that comes from abroad. It is really a slippery slope for the economy. The domestic money lose buying power by the day. Salaries are stagnate and you basically go to work every day for less.

At that particular time the situation favored me because I had earned money in dollars, from working in Michigan. In a sense my dollars had appreciated.

With all fears, December came.

From my years working at the airport I still had a couple of friends working there who had offered me to bring me to the door where Betsy was going to be arriving. Gate 24.

Feeling still some doubts if she was going to be there I started making my way to the gate.

I saw her in the distance. Wearing a pea coat, a scarf, and the tan that only winter can give you in the Midwest. There she was. Her eyes glistening, smiling as usual although this time it was more than that. It was almost a seal of commitment to each other. We were going to make this happen.


8 thoughts on “Love in time of dictatorships

  1. Your title reminds me of “Love in the Time of Cholera,” but your story is much happier!! Your writing is giving me a window into a world that I only know through the news. The reality we are all more alike than different. So glad your friend made it to visit you.


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