On Mothers Day, a Community Gathers

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On Mothers Day, my husband and I drive to the Orange Regional Park to meet our community, a small group of Venezuelans united by the common love for our homeland.

On the lawn, the younger children play with water. The younger women stroll around trying to escape their parents’ watchful eyes, while the adults lounge on mats on the grass.

Nelly calls her mom from the park. We all speak Spanish, but today it the soft cadence of my country’s accent that I hear. She says, “bendición,” the traditional greeting to our elders, the blessings we need to start or end the day, to say hello or goodbye. Nelly wishes her mom a happy mothers day, and answers her mom’s questions about her family and friends.

That’s when cellphone goes from her hands to those of the entire group. One by one , the friends greet Nelly’s mother with the same respect and deference reserved to the older grandmothers.

Nelly’s husband works with my husband, and so do the other three men in the group. They all used to work for the same company in Venezuela. We left long before they did, and took a different route, but their line of work brought us together in California. All of us have raised our children away from our natural environment, but firmly keep our traditions alive.

“Ya falta poco,” somebody tells Nelly’s mom on the phone. At the end of the phone call, Nelly’s mother has blessed the entire group.

Sensitive to the needs of our people back home, we agree early on what pictures we take. We also avoid speaking about what’s hurting us: the horrific images we see on social media, the stories we hear from our families back home, a wealthy country gone wrong, people starving, youth dying on the streets fighting the narco-regime.

Luis says, “I’m grateful we can celebrate, with food and with casi-familia.”

“Not casi. We are family,” somebody protests.

We are indeed. A family, a community, the Venezuelan diaspora that gathers to celebrate life and send words of hope to those we left behind.

 

Dia de las madres 2

En el Día de las Madres, la comunidad se reúne.

 

El Día de las Madres, mi esposo y yo nos dirigimos al Parque Regional Orange a encontrarnos con nuestra comunidad, un pequeño grupo de venezolanos unidos por el amor común a nuestra patria.

En la grama, los pequeñitos juegan con agua. Las jovencitas pasean tratando de escapar de la mirada atenta de sus padres, mientras que los adultos nos estiramos sobre mantas en la grama.

Nelly llama a su mamá desde el parque. Todos  hablamos castellano, pero hoy escucho la cadencia del acento de mi país. Nelly saluda a su madre como es nuestra tradición para dirigirnos a nuestros mayores, pidiendo “la bendición” necesaria para comenzar o terminar el día, para saludar o despedirse. Le desea Feliz Día de las Madres a su mamá y responde preguntas sobre su familia y amigos.

Ahi es cuando el celular empieza a pasar de mano en mano por todo el grupo. Uno a uno los amigos saludan a la mamá de Nelly con el mismo respeto y deferencia reservado para las abuelas mayores.

El esposo de Nelly trabaja con mi esposo, y con los otros tres hombres en el grupo. Solían trabajar para la misma compañía en Venezuela. Nosotros salimos mucho antes que ellos y tomamos un rumbo diferente, pero su trabajo nos hizo encontrarnos en California. Todos por igual criamos a nuestros hijos lejos de nuestro ambiente natural, manteniendo con firmeza nuestras tradiciones.

“Ya falta poco,” alguien le dice a la mamá de Nelly. Al final de la llamada, su mamá le ha dado la bendición a todo el grupo.

Sensible a las necesidades de nuestra gente en Venezuela, nos ponemos de acuerdo desde el principio en que tipo de fotos tomar. También evitamos hablar de lo que nos duele: las imágenes horribles que vemos en las redes sociales, las noticias de los familiares que hemos dejado atrás, un país rico destrozado, gente pasando hambre, jóvenes muriendo en las calles combatiendo al narco-régimen.

Luis dice, “estoy agradecido de poder celebrar con comida y con casi-familia.”

“Casi no. Nosotros somos una familia,” alguien protesta.

Es la verdad: una familia, una comunidad, la diáspora venezolana reunida para celebrar la vida y enviar palabras de esperanza a los que dejamos atrás.

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Venezuela, no te rindas. Do not submit.

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Bailarina protestando

Ballerina protesting the Venezuelan regime. Borrowed from twitter. Lorena Scorzza Photography.

I live in two worlds. In the USA, I am a woman struggling to find a solid ground to set roots. A middle class immigrant woman with a book to publish. I enjoy a good life, but have a on-and-off relationship with the love of my life. Decisions need to be made soon.

The other world sits between my lungs and my rib cage, deep in my heart: Venezuela.

My home country is on the brink of a civil war. It’s a civil war of the people against the tyrant. A brave people who will not submit to lining up for a ratio of split rice when those who broke the country enjoy lavish living in other places across the globe, when a band a criminals abuse human rights on a daily basis.

Devastating images of the struggle of my fellow countrymen and women crowd my social media feeds. I can’t look away. I can’t turn if off.

I join a demonstration in Los Angeles, retweet, and join discussions online to help dissipate myths here about the political crisis there. I want to do more.  But my effort is infinitesimally small compared to the struggle of the “guarimberos,” those who barricade their local neighborhoods to fight the armed forces of the regime.
I call home, asking what can I do to help. I don’t know of a doctor who could write me a prescription for my father’s hypertension, or my mother’s thyroid issues.  Instead, I buy aspirin 81 mg. to send to my father for his health issues, a bandaid to stop a hemorrhage. I learn that my nephews and nieces haven’t been to school in more than ten days. The fight is so intense that schools have closed.

I reach out to offer guarimba/refuge to save those I can. My sister will hold to the end. She doesn’t even stop to listen when I offer to take her son out. Even this atheist learns to pray, “Venezuela, no te rindas, por el amor de dios.”

In my house in LA, I receive a call from my realtor: a showing is scheduled for 3 p.m. I leave the house to the potential buyers. My days go between preparing my house for showings, filling out job applications, blogging, submitting work for publication, editing my book, working on a marketing strategy for self-publishing.

At times, my mind caves in: between Venezuela’s situation, my personal decisions,  and building a career as a writer, my brain has all it can handle.

 Like the guerrera on the picture, I find refuge in dancing.

But I also need words of wisdom, which I find in the book of poetry, Codeswith, Fire from My Corazón, by Los Angeles poet, Iris De Anda

“When.”

When falling into unrest

do not submit

look up, reach out, & scream

like lightning

under rain

know you’re worth more than

you could ever imagine

when descending into madness

do not resist

fly beyond, ignite suspicion, & dance

like wind

under trees

know your essence is more than

you could ever imagine

CodeSwitch, Fires from Mi Corazón. Iris De Anda, Los Writers Underground Press, 2014

Instructions to talk to a Venezuelan

 

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Parque Nacional Canaima, Venezuela

 

By Lisbeth Coiman

When people meet me, they immediately want to know where my accent is from. This question usually precedes one or all of the next topics: a.) Beauty queens, b.) Oil industry, or c.) The imperialism-communism dichotomy. I cringe at each.

The following are four easy instructions to talk to an immigrant from Venezuela, or from anywhere else, for that matter.

  • Don’t use stereotypes.

“Venezuela? “That’s where all the beauty queens are from.” The permanent scar on the left side of my face should be a clear indicator that not everybody shares misogynistic ideals of beauty. This article in the Daily Mail exposes the dark side of the beauty industry in my beloved country. Not all Venezuelan women endorse beauty pageants like the Miss Universe.

  • Don’t make embarrassing assumptions.

Recently, my own impertinence taught me not to ask a woman if she is pregnant unless I see her pushing an 8-pound baby between her legs. “You must have an oil well in your backyard, don’t you?” No. Actually, Venezuela’s oil industry is nationalized. To learn about this important factor in the global economy read about OPEC and it’s origins and here.

  • Don’t proselytize or impose your ideology or religion.

“You know the World Bank is starving your country, right? It’s the imperialistic machinery at work.” There is nothing more imperialistic than having a righteous opinion about a foreign country you have never visited. Corruption like that of the megalomaniac, demagogue Chavez doesn’t have an equivalent in the civilized world, unless Donald Trump wins the elections. Then you’ll find out what it is like. Additionally, the ineptitude of the finger-appointed Chavez’ successor, Nicolas Maduro, has no rival.

If that’s the communism you admire, I invite you to move to that communist paradise and queue several times a week next to my 80-year old father for a ration of rice. During the 70s, Venezuela made the mistake of putting all the eggs in the oil industry basket. Now that the oil prices have touched rock bottom, and that Chavez’s demagogue revolution emptied the nation’s coffers, the country is starving. The World Bank and the so called Empire don’t have anything to do with it. The country is sitting on oil, but it can’t eat oil.

  • To avoid embarrassing displays of ignorance, learn about Venezuela through the individual in front of you.

Ask questions such as: “What do you remember most about your country? What is the landscape like? What is the typical food? What kind of music did you enjoy when growing up? What traditions are typical of your country? What games did you play when you were a child? What is the political system? What is the religion?

Then, listen to me speak proudly about the country of my youth, the landscape I see under my eyelids when I close my eyes at night. Listen and get to know that I miss the smell of passion fruit the most, and learn that we wear yellow panties on New Year’s Eve for good luck, and that we throw water at each other during Carnival, the equivalent of your Mardi Gras. Maybe then, you find a friend with a beautiful accent.

Oakland, June 25, 2016

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Parque Nacional Los Roques,  Venezuela.

Spanish version follows.

Cuando la gente me conoce, inmediatamente quieren saber de donde es mi acento. Esta pregunta normalmente precede a uno o todos de los siguientes temas: a.) Reinas de belleza, b.) la industria petrolera, c.) la dicotomía imperialismo-comunismo. Todos me crispan los pelos.

Las siguientes son cuatro instrucciones fáciles para hablar con un inmigrante de Venezuela, o de cualquier parte.

  • No use estereotipos.

“¿Venezuela? De allí es donde vienen todas las reinas de belleza, verdad?” La cicatriz en el lado izquierdo de mi cara debería ser un indicador claro que no todos compartimos ideales de belleza misóginos. Este artículo en el Daily Mail expone el lado oscuro de la industria de belleza en mi querido país. No todas las mujeres venezolanas endosan los concursos de belleza como el Miss Universo.

  • No asumas nada. Es vergonzoso.

Recientemente, por culpa de mi propia impertinencia aprendí a no preguntarle a una mujer si esta embarazada, a menos que la vea pujando un bebe de cuatro kilos. “Tú debes tener un pozo de petróleo en tu patio.” No. Realmente, la industria petrolera venezolana está nacionalizada. Si quieres aprender sobre este factor importante en la economía mundial, lee sobre la OPEP y sus orígenes aquí, y aquí.

  • No hagas proselitismo o impongas tu ideología o religión.

“Sabes que el Banco Mundial está matando de hambre a tu país? Ese es el producto de la maquinaria imperialista.” No hay nada más imperialista que una mojigatería sobre un país que no se conoce. La corrupción del demagogo y megalómano Chavez no tiene equivalente en el mundo civilizado, a menos que Donald Trump gane las elecciones. Entonces sabrán. Además, no tiene rival la ineptitud de Nicolás Maduro, el sucesor que Chavez nombró a dedillo.

Si ese es el comunismo admirado, se les invita a mudarse a ese paraíso comunista y hacer cola varias veces a la semana junto a mi padre de 80 años para recibir una ración de arroz. Durante los años 70, Venezuela cometió el error de apostarle todo a la cesta petrolera. Ahora cuando los precios del petróleo han caído hasta tocar fondo, y ahora cuando la revolución del demagogo Chavez ha vaciado los cofres de la nación, el país está pasando hambre. El Banco Mundial y el llamado imperio no tienen nada que ver en esto. El país nada en petróleo, pero no se puede comer el petróleo.

  • Para evitar despliegues vergonzosos de ignorancia, aprenda sobre Venezuela a través del individuo delante suyo.

Haga preguntas como: “¿Qué es lo que más recuerda de su país?” ¿Cómo es el paisaje? ¿Cuál es la comida típica? ¿Qué clase de música disfrutabas cuando eras niña? ¿Cuáles son las tradiciones típicas de tu país? ¿Qué juegos jugabas cuando eras niña? ¿Cuál es el sistema político? ¿Cuál es la religión?”

Entonces, escúchame hablar con orgullo del país de mi juventud, el paisaje que veo bajo mis párpados cuando cierro mis ojos por las noches. Escucha y aprende que lo que más extraño es el olor de la parchita, y que las venezolanas nos ponemos pantaletas amarillas en Año Nuevo para buscar buena suerte, y que nos echamos agua unos a otros durante los carnavales, el equivalente de tu Mardi Gras. Entonces quizás hasta encuentres una amiga con un acento hermoso.

En Oakland, el 25 de Junio del 2016.

 


Headshot

Lisbeth Coiman is a bilingual writer standing (unbalanced) on a blurred line between fiction and memoir. She has wandered the immigration path from Venezuela to Canada, to the US, and now lives in Oakland. Her upcoming memoir, The Shattered Mirror, celebrates friendship among women and draws attention on child abuse and mental illness. She also writes short fiction and poetry, and is the curator of Zocalo Spits: Arts in the Dro, a reading series meeting on Second Saturdays in San Leandro, CA.

 

 

Dignity and Hope for Venezuela

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Venezuela’s democratic victory of last night does not mark a trend towards the right. It marks a trend towards sanity, a healthy way out of oppression.

I lived five years in Canada, where citizens enjoy social programs, a robust health system, and an inclusive, tolerant, welcoming, and very liberal society. Nobody in Canada thinks of taking from what you have earned to give it to somebody else. You pay big money in taxes and that’s the extend of the wealth distribution.

If socialism in Venezuela had meant to bring education to the highest priority, tax the rich, develop a strong health system, diversify the economy, stop the rampant corruption, and develop jobs to counteract the need-based crime, I would have supported such system.

What happened in Venezuela in the last 17 years escapes political views and belongs more in the realm of brutality and abuse of power.

It started with incendiary rhetoric, with a change of patriotic symbols, with arming the masses to defend the revolution, with dogmatization of education, with social programs aimed at earning loyalty from the masses not at helping the individual’s personal growth. Then it gained momentum by giving oil for free in exchange of political alliances in the Caribbean region. It became full blown dictatorship with the censorship of media, the imprisonment of opposition leaders, and the torture and killing of thousands of young protesters. Finally, they took away the people’s dignity: lines to buy milk, eggs, and split rice, soap and toilette paper, with a prepaid card on the day of the last number of your id card. I don’t have any respect for that kind of socialism.

True, oil prices are down, but for the first 15 years of this regime, Venezuela enjoyed the highest oil prices in the world history. What did they do with all that money? In 17 years, the so called social programs implemented could have seen fruits already, but the country seems to be falling deeper into an economic abyss with the highest inflation rate in the world.

And if the social programs of education worked so well, why are so many still on the streets, unable to provide for their families. Why has crime only worsened? I not only lost respect but gained repulsion and contempt against the regime, which I refuse to call government.

Today, I celebrate hope because that is the only thing the opposition won last night with the 99 seats in the Legislative Assembly. Hope that the newly elected legislators will advance the economy and restore the dignity of the country. The economy might take generations to restore, but dignity is top priority.

Terrorism, Our Collective Fear

 

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UN News Center

At the meditation group on Friday a woman asked about fear of violence on the streets, the tangible apprehension we carry in our hearts. People die on the streets every weekend, senseless violence. “What do I do with my fear,” she asked.

 

Week after week, we witness the images of shootings in schools, colleges, abortion clinics, churches and malls across the country, when we sit silently watching the news of another black young person dying by police force. Or more recently, when a white terrorist killed three innocent people in a Planned Parenthood clinic. This fear is domestic, manageable. Yet we do nothing.

 

The conservatives see those fatalities on the ground as no more than “bad things happened,” as one GOP mentioned in an interview about gun control. The liberals pretend to raise their voices, but not loud enough to annoy anybody, lest they disturb the favorable winds that seem to be blowing their way in this election year. The community declares itself uable of fighting the NRA on their own, and retreats to prayers and social movements that have done nothing but interrupt political speeches and flood the social media with memes.

 

We allow the lobbyists of fear to dismiss those incidents as either mental illness or racial problems, something that happens to people other than the white mentally healthy, mostly Christian person. However, the signs of a society living in fear have crept under our thin skin. iPhones are ready to capture incidents of police brutality. Colleges and schools all over the country drill their students and staff to respond in cases of armed intruders. Neighbors watch from their windows, looking out for suspects in an effort to keep the violence off their front lawns.

 

Several weeks ago, a bomb brought down a Russian airplane flying over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. The news circled around possible reasons. We didn’t feel threatened. After all, it was a Russian airplane. Then a bomb killed 44 people in Beirut, but American’s hearts didn’t bleed a drop enough to change the lightning color of their buildings. After all, those were Arabs. Then a series of coordinated terrorists attacks in Paris brought the spectacle of fear right to our living rooms via mass and social media. And then our lives changed. America now is driven by fear at mass murder scale.

 

Growing up in a small town in Venezuela in the 70s and 80s, we read the newspaper with AP translated news of a world in turmoil. During those twenty years, the world saw over eighty wars, in all corners of the globe, including the Malvinas Islands. There were wars between neighboring nations – Iran-Iraq, Tanzania-Uganda, and Lybia-Egypt – civil wars in Sri Lanka, South Yemen, Afghanistan, El Salvador, and Lebanon. There were multinational conflicts like the Lebanon War between Israel, Syria, the PLO and factions of Lebanese fought against each other. And, of course, there was the Vietnam War, a brutal conflict that left US pride wounded and thousands of disabled veterans portrayed in movies as the new evil. Terrorism was rampant in the 80s with hijacked airplanes at the center of it.

In those days, the TV also brought images of young people in Washington D.C. singing, praying, asking to “give peace a chance.” That generation of Americans managed their fear collectively, on the streets, demonstrating and rallying for peace and rejecting the military draft that fed the front lines of the Vietnam War.

 

Families sat around their TVs watching the evening news and mumbling their comments, usually a muttered thankful prayer for being so far away from those places. Refugees? Oh yes. The entire Americas in the 20th century became a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities by accepting refugees from around the world.

 

It seems we are living the same situation today, with one major difference. We are not giving Peace a Chance. We have allowed mass and social media into the inner fabric of our lives. We don’t read the news over coffee in the morning, or watch it on TV in the evenings. Rather, a constant bombardment of (mis)information reaches us at every minute, with graphic images of violent events as they happen, insensitive interviews of the victims, faces of bearded men, and the vitriolic comments of the trolls.

 

The media serves us what we want to receive. How does the media know our interest? Take a guess. Yes, the media gets data from the small hand-held devices we click on obsessively all they long. Each one of our clicks sends data to marketing analysts. Our likes, comments and “follows” determine what we hear and see on the news.

 

We reacted to Paris attacks in a visceral way. There is something about a Parisian dying in a terrorist attack that moves us in different way from the Beirut victim of a suicide bomber, or the Russian tourists who died in the airplane a week before. We all love Paris. We have been there, or want to go there, or dream of going. Paris symbolizes western culture and civilization, freedom, equality and romance like any other place in the world.

 

We clicked and clicked. We changed our profile pictures to display the French flag in solidarity with the victims. We showed the media we want to know more about what’s happening in Paris. And we got more. Much more. The week of terror was far from over – brutal attacks in Nigeria, the Israel, and Mali left around 50 casualties; however, we anchored our emotions in the Paris attacks, because it was easier for Americans to identify with the progressive French than with African people.

 

If the corporate media belonged to peaceful entities concerned with the well-being, and the collective mental health of the audience and true American values of freedom, if the media had our best interest in mind, this singular interest in Paris would have been used to invite us to reflection and solutions for peace in turbulent times. But it does not. These media belong to moguls who serve only the interests of the corporations they govern.

 

Additionally, this is an election year, and the last thing the media have on their mind is our well-being or collective mental health. The lobbyists of fear, who are also tracking down our interest from digital data, fuel our concerns to promote their agendas, by preying on the strong fear risen from junctures like this.

 

From pulpits and from political platforms, the lobbyists of fear have asked to close our borders to refugees or immigrants, stigmatize the Other with visible marks, worse yet, round the Other into concentration camps. They have fueled the strong emotions and reactions the fear elicits within us with incendiary discourse, which does nothing to help us deal with fear in a positive way. On the contrary, lobbying fear will only further divide our wonderful country, and radicalize the extremists that exist within us in every religion, ethnicity, and political view. Do not forget that the United States has suffered domestic terrorism carried out mostly by white Christian men.

 

For those of us suffering from mental disorders, these are difficult times. When an individual feels extreme fear over something that is not happening, or over the possibility of something happening, that fear sends signals to the brain that produce hormones and other chemicals. The person gets sick from fear. It is expressed in anxiety, or pain, or lack of sleep. It can disable the individual.

 

Any therapist will recommend turning off the media and enjoying the small pleasures of the day away from the scary news. Get out, create a supportive network within your community, engage in productive activities, nurture your soul, and be at peace are common suggestions heard at therapist sessions when the individual is in distress and paralyzed or disabled by fear.

 

It is no different with a society, only that the brain is our collective consciousness and the reaction does not involve brain chemistry.

 

Nevertheless, we must deal with this situation collectively. Selfish as it is to say, we must, first of all, be thankful that the events of the last weeks are not happening down the street from us. Although our collective fear might be well founded – it can happen to us anytime – the distance from the current events is our leverage, the foundation from which we can build solutions to contribute to world peace. We are not presently in a terrorist crisis in this country. We do not have to act the part.

 

What looks like a crisis are the many instances of domestic terror inflected on fellow citizens by extremists within our own society and our shared Christianity. Domestic or foreign, if we were in a terrorist crisis, there is little the regular citizen can do but trust our government and our military forces to protect us. That’s why we elect them and that’s why we should raise our voices to stop the fear mongers and the extremists, from whichever side they come from, for taking over the media. That’s what we can do.

Stop the noise.

What we can do collectively is to live in awareness of the danger that exists. We should also be grateful that we live in a country of abundance able to extend a helping hand to those in need, where we can practice any religion or no religion, express our disagreement with the government, have access to education and healthcare, and enjoy civil liberties. Refugees can’t. That’s why they flee their countries.

 

Channeling our strong emotions into serving our communities, and contributing our part to stop the stigmatization of the Other, to strengthen the values that make this a great nation are only a few strategies to deal with our collective fear. If we tell ourselves a story were we are the scared victims of extremists, we will believe that narrative. Instead, we should believe we are safe and live as such.

 

Reach out across ethnic, religion and language barriers in our neighborhood, school, and workplace; build bridges of communication to assure each one of us that we love one another and do not mean harm. Welcome, feed and house the refugee. Capture the gesture with your iPhones and make the images of peace the new meme. Even though all those strategies may sound naïve, although they will not stop a terrorist attack, we rather go through a crisis holding our neighbor’s hand than being scare of him/her. Do not let the lobbyist of fear reach your soul or mind, lest we become the next refugees.

 

Give Peace a Chance.

Stigma, Fear, Courage

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First they stigmatized the lepers.

The power holding institution of the Middle Ages, the church, believed that leprosy was the result of god’s anger and that only segregation and suffering would lead to the salvation of the leper. Isolation also secured the safety of the rest of the population, those who were accepted as normal and didn’t pose any threat to others.

When leprosy disappeared from Europe by the end of the Middle Ages, the buildings of exclusion remained marginalized at the outskirts of the cities, stigmatized as a place for the poor, the criminal, the vagrant, and “deranged minds.”1 All that was needed was an informant pointing a finger to send the “deviant” to the former lazar house, excluded for life, away from the normal population. The church encouraged the actions of informants by propagating fear among the ignorant. Continue reading

Protestas y Salud Mental / Protests and Mental Health

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Spanish version follows

My heart is heavy with sorrow at the news from my homeland Venezuela. For over ten days now, university students have been out protesting on the streets for a myriad of complaints against the illegitimate government. In retaliation, the regime has repressed the protesters with a display of brutally not seen in the country since the last dictatorship in the late 50’s. Images of raped and tortured students flood the social media, while the journalists are silenced with closure of TV networks, shortage of paper for the daily news, and even personal attacks and threats. Venezuelans abroad worry not only for the safety of the loved ones, but also for the emotional wellbeing of all involved.

While the younger generations are risking their lives on the streets, older Venezuelans are growing withdrawn and farther away from a regular and healthy routine. They only go out for the most necessary errands -line up for food or trips to the bank to collect their pensions. Without even television now or reliable media, they are completely separated from the outside world and spend their days worrying about the younger ones out in the danger. The bravest ones pound on pots and pans from their balconies, and a few ones say they have nothing to lose and go out to protest as well. This constant distress will eventually have detrimental effects in their mental health.

In the meantime, the life of the diaspora continues as normal. We have jobs to attend, bills to pay, responsibilities to meet in our new and adoptive lands. We try to easy our pain by gathering make a human S.O.S. message for international organizations so that they send observers to witness the uncountable human rights violations committed against the protesters. We do vigils and eco the messages from the frontline in the social media. Nevertheless, the pain runs deep and at times is almost impossible to concentrate. We feel our mind is displaced; our thoughts are thousands of miles away in a beautiful country on the south shore of the Caribbean Sea, because there is no solace when the homeland is at siege and blood runs through the streets of my youth.

Español

Tengo el corazón pesado con las noticias de mi patria Venezuela. Por más de diez días los estudiantes universitarios han estado protestando en las calles por un sin número de quejas contra el gobierno ilegítimo. En retaliación, el régimen ha reprimido a los protestantes con un despliegue de brutalidad que no se habían visto en el país desde la última dictadura a finales de los 50. Las imágenes de estudiantes violados y torturados inundan los medios sociales, mientras que los periodistas son silenciados con cierres de las televisoras, cortes en el suministro de papel de periódico, e incluso con ataques personales y amenazas. Los venezolanos en el exterior nos preocupamos no sólo por la seguridad de los seres queridos allá, sino por el bienestar emocional de todos los involucrados.

Cuando las generaciones más jóvenes arriesgan sus vidas en las protestando en las calles, los ancianos se aislan y se separan cada vez más de una rutina sana. Sólo salen para hacer sus diligencias más necesarias, hacer colas para comprar papel toilette, o jabón de baño, o para ir al banco a cobrar sus pensiones. Sin televisión o medios creíbles, están completamente encerrados y pasan sus días preocupándose por lo que pasa con los estudiantes en peligro en la calle. Los más osados golpean las cacerolas desde sus balcones, y unos pocos dicen que no tienen nada que perder y van a protestar también. Esta angustia constante eventualmente tendrá efectos perjudiciales en su salud mental.

Mientras tanto la vida de la diáspora transcurre como de costumbre. Tenemos que asistir a nuestros trabajos, pagar nuestras cuentas, y cumplir con nuestras obligaciones en nuestros países adoptivos. Tratamos de calmar nuestro dolor reuniéndonos para hacer un S.O.S. humano y mandar un mensaje a los organismos internacionales para que envíen observadores a presenciar las innumerables violaciones a los derechos humanos cometidas en contra de los estudiantes. Hacemos vigilia y reproducimos los mensajes que nos llegan desde la zona de batalla en las redes sociales.

Sin embargo el dolor corre profundo y a veces se hace imposible concentrarse. Sentimos nuestras mentes desplazadas; nuetros pensamientos a miles de millas de distancia en un hermoso país en la orilla sur del Mar Caribe, porque no hay sosiego cuando la patria se encuentra en estado de sitio, y la sangre corre por las calles de nuestra infancia.