Oh, my country! From the distance.
“To prevent frogs from jumping out of the pot, first put them in cold water and then warm up the water slowly until it boils.”
This my mother told me. She was’t trying to teach me how to cook frogs, she was reflecting how people didn’t see where Venezuela was going under the Chavez regime.
Last night I read the eloquent and brave article Slumlord in the New Yorker by the amazing Jon Lee Anderson. I say brave because to tell this story from the inside-out, Anderson went (and spent time) into the slums and in the midst of an invaded, unfinished building run by criminals: equivalent to going into a war zone without wearing a bulletproof jacket. Also, his article also, bravely, crystallized what no news analysis could do and only story can––the complexity of the failed Revolucion socialista and the uncertainty over Chavez’ future.
In his article Anderson referred to the ‘glorious’ past of Caracas, his lines conjured in me nostalgic memories of my childhood and I thought to myself that perhaps that is the reason we middle class expats react so viciously to Chavez––he destroyed our image of progress, stability and prosperity.
I broke off to watch a video of Tambores (drums) to cheer myself up, but I was struck with how foreign it all seemed, like I was watching a video of a country I’ve never been to and was trying to understand their strange customs. Yet the scent of coastal towns came roaring into my mind, the sensations of heat and crowds. I could imagine the jokes (Venezuelans are all comedians) off camera. But it all seemed like a long trip I had taken a long time ago. Fourteen years in the United States while Chavez has been in power has given me the foreign eye. A distance from which I can comfortably read articles, get Facebook updates, have phone conversations and cry for the deterioration of it all. Even my visits to Venezuela have become increasingly uncomfortable, fearing for our safety, the scarcity of basic goods and the blondness of my daughter; and yearning o return ‘home.’
My husband said, after reading the article, “decay can happen so fast.” I thought to myself, estrangement can happen so fast.