Caracas at sunset time
I have been away from home for nine years. It is the longest time I have ever stayed away from my birthplace, Caracas, and from my country. In a way I feel guilty because I do not feel nostalgic, I do not miss my home town and I do not feel the urge to return. Am I a bad Venezuelan, “unpatriotic”, as Hugo Chavez likes to label all the members of the immense Venezuelan diaspora?
The way I feel has several reasons.One is philosophical. It has to do with my sense of being a citizen of the world. We now live in a planet where one almost can have breakfast in Asia, lunch in Europe and dinner in the U.S. The planet has shrunk, not only due to faster travel but also to the wonders of instant communication. We now know that no country is “special” or “unique”, a belief that many Venezuelans still hold as a religious dogma. I have come to dislike parochialism.
Another one is sentimental. The Venezuela I always loved is no longer in existence. It has been deformed beyond recognition by 14 years of Hugo Chavez in power. It was a Venezuela of wonderful sunsets, smiling faces and an attitude of friendship that cut across social classes and skin colors. I am sure the sunsets, such as the one in Juan Griego, Margarita Island, are still there but the smiling faces and the friendly attitudes have been replaced by hate, death and fear. Venezuela is now the third most violent country in the world. Since Chavez came into power 160,000 Venezuelans have been killed in the streets of my country. No one is ever brought to justice for these crimes. I do not want to become one more dead body, thrown in the dirty floor of the Caracas morgue. Dying is a very serious matter but dying like an animal, in the streets of Venezuela, with no one being brought to justice for the crime sounds intolerable. How can I return to a Venezuela that I do no longer recognize as the one I loved?
A third reason is political. I refuse to return while the dictator is in power. I do not criticize those who have chosen to stay at home. I admire many of them. But I simply refuse to go back to a country where a bunch of gangsters are in charge. Returning to my country while Chavez is in power would go against the principles I have cherished all my life. I could only do it if some person extremely dear to me needed my presence in Venezuelan soil.
Yet another reason is visceral. From what I can read and see and hear, Caracas and Venezuela are so deteriorated in body and spirit that I simply do not want to return. Sadly, this is a condition that will last for a long time. Venezuela is not going to recover tomorrow or next year or, perhaps in the next decade. I might as well do what I can for my country from the distance, in the remaining time of my life.
I am not sad. I had a wonderful life in my Venezuela. I know that a new Venezuela will, someday, grow from the ashes. But this will happen in a future to which I do not belong. I believe that this future will have other criteria to define country (patria). Our patria will be Planet Earth. The borders of our current countries will be seen as relics, as museum pieces.
My Venezuela is gone forever. However, her memory is safely kept in my heart, always intact.