Sep 15, 2008


It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a weak mind is easily swayed and I mine was. I thought I should at least consider the possibility of moving to the U.S, after all any place was better place to live than my country at the moment. So I decided to stop acting childish and I did some research, I went online, and at the risk of insulting this beautiful nation I'll admit that if before I was disinterested, after researching I was appalled at the idea and as determined as my sister to go to Spain. But with my sister in Colombia finishing her last year of law school, keeping my mom's convictions of Spain was a little harder.

My dad ranted and complained but since the trip was so far away and my sister still in school I let him argue and pretended to listen when he presented the choice, nodding when he reminded us that my aunt and uncle were in Miami. Think of all the shopping! He would tell me, thinking back to that I wonder what kind of person I was then that a comment like that didn't bother me. I would nod and ignore him, knowing in my heart that Spain was waiting for us.

"Pack your things, you are going to Miami" My dad said to me Sunday April 21st of 2002. "Ooo, vacay!" I said excited. My mom shook her head. After September 11 the thought of having trained the terrorist who flew the planes into the Twin Towers was understandably too much for homeland security and new laws were applied. The new law, to be established April 30th 2002 would not allow tourist to stay in the country for more than 30 days, completely changing the costume of having your passport stamped in Florida allowing tourist to stay for 6 month if they chose to and also offered the chance to request a 6 month extension after the 1st 6 months have passed.

That gave my dear dad 8 days to stuff me in plane and send me to Miami to be able to get the 6 months stamp and the ability of request 6 more months before the law came into transition, which would roughly translate into a year here in the US to try to figure out how to keep me here legally. Yippee!! I was in a panic. "Do NOT get on that plane, no matter what" My sister said when I told her. Easier said than done. What was I supposed to do? "Why aren't you here?" I wanted to ask her? "Why are you leaving me to deal with this all alone!?" I was so weak I feel ashamed. I had been confident before in my power of persuasion, I had not even a trace of doubt that my dad would let go of his annoying U.S.A. campaigning once my sister, my mom and I were a united front against him. And my dad had never, EVER, once denied me something I wanted, but in a week? Eight days? What could I do when all I had was a mere 192 hours? My sister was away, my dad wouldn't answer her calls, my mom was divided by her promise of sticking together and what she thought was the best for me.

Sep 10, 2008


Most North Americans think we immigrants are all dying to get here. They don't seem to understand that for me, coming here was never a possibility, never a thought that crossed my mind. Leaving home was not something I had considered before and only Chavez and the beautiful promise of Spain (and Paris a train away) would make me consider leaving home.

If my sister hadn't been to Spain I doubt there was anything that would've convinced me to leave the country, as bad as it was I loved it, I loved home I still love home. I love the familiar smells and the places I knew how to get to, the mountains and the air they breathed in the valley, the chilly Christmases and the perfect weather, the baseball season and the passionate arguing it brought with it, the traffic laws that no one respected. Sigh.

Most people don't believe me or rather; refuse to believe me when I say that nothing about North America appealed to me. I wasn't intrigued by their people or the culture. Aside from an obsession with Disney movies and sit-coms I was totally and utterly indifferent to the country.

My brother was another case; he loved the US and had made New York City his home since January 2001. It is a testament of how little the US appealed to us that not even to remain together as a family did we consider moving here. North America was to me like leggings; I appreciate them on other people, but would never consider them for myself. If you had asked me then, about North America my first thought would've been McDonald's and my annoyance of the country having a "World Series" where only U.S. teams played.

Our move to Europe was far away still; we had settled for the end of summer for our departure and then decided to move it until after New Year’s, the thoughts of that first lonely Christmas at a foreign country way too scary. Unknown to me, however, my dear dad was having second thoughts about our new destination, we had no relatives or friends in Spain, and it was so far away, the time change so big and other silly reasons kept bothering him. Let me translate that for you, it was too expensive and he didn’t feel like paying for it (go ahead and call me ungrateful).

While I dreamed of my Italian count his evil mind plotted. When he finally voiced his concerns my sister was outraged by the idea. We were NOT going to the U.S. end of sentence, end of discussion, period.

Aug 18, 2008


After a short coup attempt, Chavez was back in power. It was the most short-lived pleasure of my life so far. How deliriously happy we were! “We don't have to leave after all” Was the main thought going through my mind. Mere 24 hours after he was smiling to the cameras again addressing the nation reassuring his followers he was back and nothing would get in the way of this revolution.

No matter how short the pleasure I will always remember the sense of relief when he was momentarily out. I went to my balcony to hear the city joyous celebration, the whistles, the singing coming from the streets, the screaming and marching and shootings so recent in my memory it made the contrast of the festivity even more patent. That moment more than anything sealed the deal on our leaving. Not only had he stolen the country from us, our opportunities, our dreams, MY dreams, he stole that moment of sheer happiness when I thought we were staying. That morning, seeing him there again, boasting and gloating about his being back was the moment when we all realized we were going to leave... and he was here to stay.
I had dreams of Europe. After that God-awful march and strike I dreamed every night of myself walking the streets of Madrid as if I owned them. I can remember so vividly how the breeze smelled and how bright the sun shone and how cute my summer dress was. I remember the pretty sandals I was wearing and how my ankles twisted on the cobblestone streets when I hurried from train station to go to class. I remember the weight of the books in the backpack and how happy I was. I had dreams of falling passionately in love with some young Italian count (I was reading way too many Harlequin novels then) and how I would be happy living in his Vineyard. I dreamed of abandoning the place that had seen me grow up because I was weak and I refused to stay and fight. That is the truth. I was afraid to go out, afraid to stay, afraid to fail. I was selfish and I wanted for myself more than I could have.

I decided to jump ship. To say fuck it all and leave. Without looking back, without a real consideration of how hard it would be. Oh if I knew then what I knew now. I wanted to a stranger, I wanted to see new faces, new places, eat new food. I wanted people to see my face and wonder about my past, my story. I didn’t know how utterly isolated it feels when nobody knows who you are. I didn’t know how alienation felt. Silly me.

Jul 16, 2008


I don’t think I can make justice to the moments. There’s no way to describe how we felt, trapped in the house for a whole week. I’ve read tales of war, of death and murders. I am Colombian is hard to be one without being related to someone that can tell a drunken chilly story about someone’s death by the hands of the guerrillas.

Could’ve been worse? Yes, much worse! Was it anything compared to the grieving and terror some people live in other sides of the world in countries ravaged by war? No, hell no, it wasn’t. Did I fear for my life? Did I think that maybe they would just storm into our houses and take us away? Did I think that maybe the country was going to hell and all of us with it? Was I scared? Did I worry about the friends and family that I knew were out there marching? Was I worried that our fridge and pantry was empty and no way to go groceries shopping? Yes, yes to all, as unfounded as some might find my fears that didn’t make them any less real.

When all you’ve seen is peace and comfort, when all you have witnessed are some mild clashes, an armed strife of this magnitude can scare the shit out you. I sat in front of the TV with my mom, for the first time in my life regretting it was only us two in such a big and lonely house, watching the people tear each other apart, the crazy fanaticism in the eyes of the Chavez's supporters, the scary way they screamed and howled when he spoke, the passionate anger they felt. It didn’t seem like a happy following. They didn’t seem like a multitude of people filled with hopeful inspiration. They didn’t seem as if they were waiting to be saved (which is what they claim he did). They looked... vengeful. Their meekly following more like the obedience of a resentful pupil who expects the evil master to punish those who he thought had wronged him. I felt sick by the despicable signs they wrote saying "Dirty Colombians go back to your hole". I felt so bitter, so divided, I am Colombian but Venezuela was my land, it was my home. I felt like I would’ve felt if my mom had suddenly risen from the couch and told me to leave.

When did all this happen? How did we get here? When did we make the wrong turn? It was the reality of the new Venezuela, in front of my eyes, in live TV and still I couldn’t grasp the concept. But we are so mild! We are so lazy! We couldn’t be bothered with going to vote or stand up for the national anthem yet here we are standing in the street fighting our neighbor over this monkey-man that sits in our presidential chair! Where did all this belief come from? Where did all this passion? Since when does the national anthem make us want to cry? Since when is it cool to walk the street wearing the flag colors? Since when do we care about freedom? Since when do we chant and inexhaustibly march for what we believe? When did we start to care? I guess we all feel like fighting when everything that we hold dear seems threatened. When everything so precious that we took for granted is suddenly on the balance we all turn into fighters.

I could just sit and think. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why us? Why now? Why him? Not very original for an aspiring writer, but no other thought would form in my head. I could do nothing else but repeat that to myself over and over drowning the sounds from the street, the angry shouting the noises of the entire city that had pots and pans and banged them together all night as a sign of protest. I sat there and asked myself how and why until the TV showed the Chavistas breaking into the RCTV channel building; I asked myself how when the channel on TV went blank and the silence offered no answers to my questions.


On April 9, 2002 the leader of the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers called for a two-day strike against the government. Hundreds of thousands of members of the opposition took the streets in protest. Caracas, the capital, and the country were for that whole month unlivable. What was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration turned into a mini war.

Nothing, however, could stop the opposition; they walked and talked, and sang, and carried flags, and held hands in a beautiful display that still raises my hairs on end when I think about it and that was nothing short of heroic. I discovered myself hating "the others" too, not understanding how they could follow him, how they could love him, because love him they did. I wanted to stopped them and yell, "Don’t you see! Don’t you see what he is doing to us? What he is doing to this country?" I didn’t want to believe that it was because they were poor; I wasn’t raised to believe that money makes you better, but I wanted to. Oh, I wanted to believe the fact that their hunger and ignorance made them easily manipulated. I found myself clenching my hands when I watched them on TV, my nails digging half moons in the palm of my hands, calling them names, saying out loud that uneducated people shouldn’t have the right to vote. And then I heard what I had said, I was saying that, an ex law student, a person that believed in the principle that we have rights, to think, to choose, to vote, for whomever we want to. I felt betrayed by my own beliefs, because even as I recoiled at what had just come out of my mouth, I still felt the same when I saw them shooting people from the opposition because our president asked them to.

On April 11, 2002 the opposition marched, peacefully from one end of the capital to the other the president called his people, his followers, and his "Bolivarian circles" to defend his so called "Bolivarian Revolution". I was baffled when he said "People of Venezuela, go and protect this blessed revolution, go fight the enemy" What enemy? Are his followers more Venezuelan than the members of the opposition? Were we second class citizens?

I might be a little biased, as a fervent member of the opposition myself, but is hard not to believe the images when the newscast showed the president’s followers from a bridge, hiding behind buildings and cowardly shooting down at the members of the march, who peacefully (I can’t stress that enough), walked, and sang. For their country, for their freedom, for the right to take the country out of his arbitrary hands into the hands of someone who knew what was doing. RCTV, a privately owned TV station and one of the most outspoken critics of the Chavez presidency showed the people getting shot, the victims, the blood, the tears, the kids, the women, the elder, the young men, the Venezuelan people being murder by their brothers. The channel split the screen in two, in one the protesters were being shot at and in the other the president shamelessly addressed the country, reassuring them that nothing, absolutely nothing was wrong, and that the people could go to the streets and check it out.

While pandemonium broke, and screams and shooting reached my ears from the streets, I sat in my living room, crying and shaken, afraid for the lives of friends and family that had gone out to march, wondering how we ended here. How the country had turned against itself and now there were people out there, shooting each other, because you love him, or you hate him. And the camera man filmed a guy, looking around him, the same feeling I was feeling, reflected in his face... "How could this happen?"

FACT: RCTV closed its doors after 54 years of broadcasting on 2007 after the Chavez's refused to renew their license. As of today September 11, 2009 they remained closed down. The government appropriated all of RCTV's equipment to use it in a government owned channel.

Jun 24, 2008


No country but a country that has suffered the indescribable pain of civil war can understand what it means to be divided. To have the citizens of a nation go against each other seems unnatural, yet somehow history keeps repeating itself, and while it has happened and possibly will happen again, and again, and again in countries around the world, it had been years since deep beliefs had father and son confront each other, hate each other in my country.

For the first time arguments that used to be about baseball turned into political ranting. There was no more pleasant bantering, no more funny bets to walk around the neighborhood naked if the team didn’t make it to the finals. This time it was important. This time it was more, this time it was everything. This time it was brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, friends and girlfriends and boyfriends practically hating each other. All of the sudden there was a “them”, there was a line and there was a wall between us that never existed before. The friendships lost the broken families. No one would have imagined that would happen to us.

I dropped out of school after my finals. To say that I was heartbroken doesn’t cover it. I felt cheated. By life, by the system I had promised myself to learn how to defend. Cheated by the country that had given me so much, cheated because my dreams were crumbling, cheated because life wasn’t turning out the way I wanted it to be. Cheated because I had known all along I wanted to be a lawyer and all of the sudden I had no purpose, no dreams and no goals to look forward to cross. I was lost.

My sister pounced. She had been trying to convince us to move to Spain (which she had fallen in love with on her trip) practically since she landed. She spoke of how beautiful it was, how mild the weather, how gorgeous the architecture, how hot the guys (for my benefit) how the three of us, my sister, my mother and I, would totally rock the town. How Spain was ours for the taking. How nothing could stop us now. She knew I wasn’t planning on going back to school. She knew what buttons to push and in less than a month we were convinced. Things in the country were tense enough for us to make the decision without regret. We could come back for vacation and every time I felt an ounce of hesitation my sister would say: "Paris is a train away"and she would reel me back in.

So with an aching heart plans were made to leave Venezuela. Passports were renewed and we spent hours online checking local listings of apartments for rent in Madrid. We would spent hours giggling and talking about the bars we would visit, the museums we would learn from and the weekends in Paris to be had. I also researched college campus and was even more impressed by those than by anything else, the possibility of maybe going back to school too sweet, too great for me not to consider it. College, like always was my first love.

Jun 19, 2008


The night of his acceptance speech, I decided in all my generosity, to give the man a chance, a chance to prove himself, the chance to do some good, the chance to give this weary and hurt nation some healing, show them some good deeds, and bring our beautiful country to better times. And to tell the truth, his lack of pomposity, his down to earth attitude, his informality was appealing. He was funny in his own way, giving hesitant but heartwarming steps toward making the country what it should be, showing the forgotten that better times were coming and the privileged new ways to be more so.

Europe happened summer of 2000. My sister went backpacking for two months. I was seventeen and about to graduate. My life was magic. Three days ago someone asked me which was the happiest day of my life and I could say without a doubt that it was one day that summer of 2000 when I found out I had been accepted to go to law school. My life was perfect I was graduating, I had an amazing social life, my dad was making a lot of money and being very generous with it, I was taking short trips to Margarita Island with my cousins and learning how to drive the cute stick shift car my dad gave me for graduation. I had the life every teenager dreams off.

I was also going to the most prestigious law school in the country and I couldn’t wait to be a college student. I had fallen in love with my school one day I was visiting college campuses my junior year. Schools back home aren’t like the schools here; there is no ivy, no ancient buildings with red brick and cobblestone streets, no gigantic libraries and nothing that would make them beautiful enough to be a tourist spot. They are efficient and utilitarian, they look like schools, organized and simple, no ruffles no frilliness, just tons and tons of cements and windows and green. But my school’s campus appealed to me. Its simplicity spoke of hard work and no nonsense but the parks and gardens and grassy areas invited us to sit down and play around, to juggle and listen to music while you unloaded for a bit the heavy books. College life spoke to me like nothing else aside from writing had before. I felt like I belonged. My feet walked that campus as if remembering steps previously taken. College was my first love.

By the time my first year of college was over, however, I was painfully disappointed. What is already a hard career was made so much harder by Chavez arbitrary changing of the constitution, by his rewriting of laws and his childish attempts at law making. It was heartbreaking knowledge that my teachers were learning along with us. Not quite knowing what to teach when to stop in case the new referendum brought new surprises, the classes just a room for heated debate hour after hour between Chavez sympathizers and the opposition. Endless classes spent arguing about his accomplishments and what he had done for the misfortunate and how the oligarchy (he loves that word) was just bitter because they had to learn how to share.

Everything could have been easier if Chavez had no followers. I probably would be back home right now, a lawyer, without employment and speaking only Spanish. The sad fact is Chavez had followers, not only followers, but passionate followers, people that believed he was a saint, short of a messenger of God come to deliver us.

There is nothing scarier than fanaticism, and that is what they were, fanatics. Before the country had time to say "Saint Hugo?" Its people were divided.

Jun 11, 2008


Some people ask me how I ended up here, in the melting pot that is America. The truth is my trip to America was a discombobulated escape full of drama and lack of planning. Before I knew it I was here and sometimes I forget how it all started, how I ended up here. Well here’s the answer to those who’ve asked:

It all started with Europe and the 1998 Venezuelan elections. The events curiously enough chronologically unrelated but for the purpose of my story intrinsically tied. I was fifteen years old. That year, one fateful December night of 1998 Hugo Chavez was elected president.

I was minding my own business, going to school, crushing on boys, shopping with my daddy’s money and living unknowingly the charmed careless life only a teenager can live. I had no way of knowing that my life would change so much. As bad as things have been politically in Venezuela in the past most of the population has always been pretty apathetic towards it. Never once in my 12 years as a Venezuelan resident (I had moved from Colombia my country of origin when I was 3 years old), had I been the witness of incensed patriotism any feverish passion for the country. People all around sat instead of standing when the national anthem was being sung and kids in school changed the lyrics for limericks. If Hugo Chavez has done something for his country is to make a patriot out of the most indifferent one of us.

He was... refreshing. In a stinking pile of stiff-necked, smiley-let-me-kiss-your-baby phony politicians he was a breath of fresh air with his unpolished speech and his polo shirts. He was so different to what we were used to that we had no other choice but to give him a chance. We as a population had been taught with decades and decades of shameless corruption, reckless waste of our resources, hunger and rampant crime to immediately mistrust any politician who smiled too bright, shook hands too often, kissed too many babies and wore a tie.

Maybe, just maybe (we thought) this is what the country needed, someone young (inexperienced) someone casual (poorly bathed), someone who the less fortunate could relate to (with only a high school degree) someone a little rough around the edges that like a rough diamond could be improved with a little shine (vulgar, abrasive, tactless), someone who had gone to prison for treason (wait what?) someone who the world would know was an ex-convict (World says: good going Venezuela *shakes head*).

Yeah, we hired an uneducated, tactless, ignorant, ex-convict as our president. What in the fuckity fuck where we thinking?!