In response to looting and violence at a local electronics store here in Valencia, one woman said, “Venezuela is one of the most beautiful and resource rich countries in the world. Why are we all messing it up?”
I drove past the crowds forming before the chaos descended. Myself and over twenty other people were on the way to the beach to celebrate multiple birthdays.
And me just writing that has forced me to admit that there is a huge difference between living an immigrant life and living an expat life.
I was wading in beautiful water, sipping a pina colada, chatting with friends, and dancing on a rented boat, while others looted a store. Why? It’s all coming down to economics.
Inflation is a runaway horse here. According to another article about Venezuela churning out yet another beauty queen, inflation is at a two-decade high. I can’t describe it because I don’t fully understand it myself. I took one semester of Economics in high school, and I’ve been banking on that knowledge to help me comprehend what I observe around me.
Am I an American trying to learn a language, experience a new culture, and broaden my teaching practice or am I an imperialistic colluder as some government officials would like to say when describing all things American?
Am I an immigrant or am I an expatriate?
Being an immigrant has a connotation of being a hustler, a person of color, someone who’s struggling to make it work, of language barriers, of The Other, of poverty, and of triumph.
Being an expatriate has the connotation of wealth, privilege, whiteness, willed separation, and exploitation of the local population.
So where do I fit in? I can definitely circle items from both categories.
I have been struggling with this topic before, and I continue to struggle with it now. All I know is that I can’t play stupid like I don’t see what’s going on around me.
Playing stupid is unsafe (1) and (2) it’s unjustifiable when one’s participated in or listened to as many social justice-toned conversations as I have.
As I was explaining to my brother, one of the reasons why my Spanish has to improve is because it’s a necessity when living in the current economic and political climate. Choosing not to improve my language skills is choosing to be ignorant at a time when I need to be aware. It’s choosing to be the expat when the immigrant is needed.
It’s a safety issue. It’s a cultural issue. It’s an economic issue. It’s an immigrant issue. It’s an expatriate issue.
And it’s an issue I’m trying to figure out privately before posting publicly.