I did what I said I wouldn’t do.
I stumbled upon the protests today.
The above recording is what it currently sounds like outside my building. An impromptu banging of pots, horn honking and shouts for better. Even in the elevator ride down people were getting on with pot and wooden spoon in hand to join the protest.
I’ve been in a funk that’s been stretching on for weeks. Having running water since I returned to Venezuela has made a HUGE difference in my mood, but something is still leaving me antsy.
That something is realizing that I still want more–more discipline when it comes to honing my craft, more (deeper) relationships with people I cherish, and just more to do in a country where I’m constantly reminded that it’s unsafe and unstable. In short, I’m going through culture shock again because I feel like I’m living in a gilded cage.
Salsa class has been my saving grace.
I debated whether or not I should even attempt to go today, what with constant warnings from the State Department and my supervisor to exercise extreme caution when moving about right now, but my security guard friend and neighbor (who also drives a taxi) assured me it would be OK to go out.
It took us an hour to get to salsa class. Normally, it takes fifteen minutes.
People created a miles-long human chain that made it difficult to drive. When the taxi stopped, a woman wrote SOS Venezuela on my neighbor’s car (which, along with paz (peace) is a common thing to see on cars right now).
People were decked out in Venezuelan flags, babies were propped up on sun roofs (which would’ve caused people to flip out in the US, but is not seen as a bad thing here), and the protest was continuing.
My neighbor admitted as we sat in traffic that he underestimated the longevity and the intensity of the protests. He thought people would’ve stopped by now.
My heart skipped a beat when I saw the soldiers. But I must admit, I was awed 1.) at people’s courage to stand across the street from armed guards and 2.) people’s signs, which all hinted at reasons why people (im)migrate. A rough translation of a few of the signs would read as follows:
Venezuela: Fight for us (young people) or lose us.
We want a life without fear and crime.
I’m here because my girlfriend wants me to be (I didn’t see this sign, but my taxi driver started laughing because he saw it).
Cubans go home.
That last sign gave me pause. I’d heard about it earlier this week and thought it was
disgusting disconcerting. It wasn’t racist per se, but it was…wrong. I abhor generalizations and scapegoating in their many manifestations.
There’s a sentiment here, which I’m beginning to realize, that is anti-Cuban. Some Venezuelans fear that the country will become as closed off as Cuba. Others say that Cubans get favored over Venezuelans when it comes to hiring. Others say Castro is really the one leading the country since the government here is close to Cuba.
Supposedly, there’s a history of anti-Cuban sentiment. At one point in time, the Cuban embassy was stormed in Venezuela.
All I know is that at this point in time I’m learning a lot about politics. I don’t think I can ever go back to thinking that politics are boring and/or do not affect me.
And just in case I ever forget, the sound of banging pots and honking horns will quickly remind me.