During April 1st and 2nd I attended a conference about Venezuela, organized by Venezuelan students in the USA. More than 100 young Venezuelans came from all over the USA, Venezuela and Europe, to discuss in different committees how they thought the future of our country should be. Living in the middle of Ohio and being the only Venezuelan in my campus, I experienced a level of understanding that I have never experienced before. Many of these people shared an almost irrational love for Venezuela, the fear of not knowing when and if one day we will be able to go back home, and the pleasure and guiltiness of ‘being privileged’. Those days at Plan País (the conference) reminded me of many things that I love about my country and why I identify with it. I have been a foreigner for the past 4 years, living in places that I like but that I cannot even remotely call home… and for the first time in a long time, I felt that I belonged somewhere. I suppose that what makes me feel this is how much I know Venezuela and how its citizens work, interact and feel; probably because I happen to be one of them… there is a history that unites us, a mixture of education, slang, food, landscapes and TV shows… call it however you feel like calling it, culture, if you want. But it is something that I can’t ignore.
I love my country, and I know it; but yet I left it. And although I feel really glad that I was lucky enough to study in a great university in the USA, and that I don’t have to worry about security issues or many of the problems that Venezuelans face daily, and that life is in a way easier than it was destined to be; yet I feel guilty for leaving to other people’s choices the place that I love. Now, in my defense and in the defense of all the exiled Venezuelans around the world, the life of a foreigner brings privileges sometimes, but it is far from being easy. It is not easy to leave your friends and family behind and to rebuild your whole life in a different place. There is an emptiness that I don’t think I can explain, and that can be understood just by the people that experience it.
But… if I love my country so much, why did I leave it? This is a question that I face constantly, and there are many possible answers. The most obvious might be: that I don’t actually give a damn about Venezuela, and that I’ve just been lying to myself. But it is actually more complicated than that. As many of you might now, Venezuela’s situation is extremely hard, life is expensive and jobs scarce; it is dangerous and unstable, and he/she who lives there, lives with permanent fear. Venezuela is the synonym of uncertainty and, from my point of view; there is nothing worse than not knowing. Having the opportunity to leave that country, and still staying there, requires a lot of courage or stupidity, or maybe both of them. It takes courage and certainty to do something about the present regardless of how impossible it seems. Many of the students present in Plan Pais have been thinking for a long time in how the future in Venezuela might be, and about the possibility of going back to the country after this government disappears and a new Venezuela gives them the green light of hope. But by leaving the country we don’t have much saying in its future and we can but hope that “someone else” will clean the path for us. This sounds terrible, I know, but it is like that… In Plan Pais, many of the final resolutions talked about “bringing back the human capital that left the country,” but I am not so sure that bringing us back will be the priority of the Venezuelans that stayed. I suppose that we would be more than welcomed if we go back, but we will have to earn all those years in which others struggled while we focused in our private lives.
I don’t want to blame myself (or other Venezuelans), however, for the choice I made. I know that it was the right thing to do at this point because, although I do love my country, I don’t love it as much as my life. There is so much to experience and so much to see… how can I know that the best way to live my life is to struggle to recover a country that I love, but that is also the only place that I really know? We are so young… we know so little and yet we think that we know so much. If I went back to Venezuela right now, I don’t think that I would be courageous, but stupid. Because I cannot make such an important choice if I am not certain. The courageous people are courageous, I think, because they are willing even to give their lives for a cause… and the only way in which you can agree to this is when you’re certain that it is not worth living another life. There are other reasons, like the fact that we are young and are probably not able to do much… In fact, we would like to do a lot, but if we stayed, wouldn’t we be condemning ourselves to be destroyed by a system that we’re not strong enough to fight? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. I know, however, that certainty is rare; and that there are people that can live their lives without ever being certain about nothing.
I don’t want to talk about this anymore because I have this feeling that I will go on and on forever. Let me go back to what I think of Plan Pais. I think that the conference was very well organized, but I am afraid that we didn’t have the time or knowledge to structure realistic solutions, I think that the moderators where exceptional, but too influential. I don’t blame them for this because it was impossible for them not to be influential while directing a group of young students that knew so little about what they were talking about… but I’m afraid that we shouldn’t feel so proud of the great solutions that we saw in the final presentations because many of them were directly or indirectly influenced by the moderator’s views on the topic, and those moderators are just a side of the dice. We need more information, and from that new information maybe different solutions will arise (and different problems); we need to challenge the solutions that we think are right. However, this is a good start, a renewed debate and perspective to analyze our country, le lanzamos un balde de agua a los debates a los que estabamos acostumbrados y los refrescamos. I LOVED how much we focused in actions and how LITTLE we focused in Chavez, and I am sure that we have created a new debate (at least in our generation) that will go on.
I just want to share some of my disorganized thoughts hoping that someone will find them useful.