Today is the thirteenth day of February. Two nights ago I laid in my bed restless and wide awake, tossing and turning. I kept my eye on the Facebook page all night. College students in Venezuela were going to celebrate the Day of the Youth by marching and protesting peacefully out on the streets. They grew sick of social media and its powerless force in winning. Instead they used it to announce a time and place to convene and make a call for action. Peaceful action.
“Get off social media and hit the street, we need you”
And so it had been decided, the twelfth day of February they would march. Peacefully. Venezuelans here in Chicago began to brainstorm what they could do to help. The brainstorming began at 8 P.M. the night before. They went back and forth between themselves.
“We haven’t gotten any permits to protest!”
“Where do we meet?”
“What time are we meeting, I have work!”
It was hard to get anyone to agree on anything. It’s also hard to be able to drop everything and speed off to a protest we weren’t even sure we would be able to have without city permits. It’s hard to make that decision when your life doesn’t depend on it like so many of the college students in Venezuela.
Finally, I made up my own mind. I would be there in front of the Venezuelan Consulate with a camera ready to shoot whoever was there at that time. I had a feeling local media wouldn’t find it “newsy” enough to pick up on it. The overthrowing of a government was not newsy enough if there were less than a hundred people there. So as a Venezuelan and a journalism student, it was my absolute duty to document this somehow.
Standing in solidarity with Venezuelans protesting on February 12
Throughout these past two days, I have experienced the strongest feeling of impotence. Impotence because I cannot be there to march with my compatriots and fellow college students. Impotence because there isn’t much I can do thousands of miles away except divulge a message little outside of Venezuela seem to care about. Impotence because all I could do was point a camera and shoot at these few people that came to stand the freezing cold and march around with yellows, blues and reds because they felt the same impotence as me.
But let me tell you something about Venezuelans. One thing they do have is PATRIA. Whether it is something Maduro thinks he gave to us or something that we cannot use to make arepas with, we still have it. Patria is a sentiment so impossible to describe. Yesterday patria was when I hit record and they saw the flashing red light. Patria was when they positioned our flag and in unison sang the Venezuela’s national anthem with hurt that you could hear in their voices.
“Gloria al bravo pueblo que el yugo lanzo, la ley respetando la virtud y honor…”
Every hair on my body raised and my body was overcome with a tingling that inundated my eyes with tears. This was patria.
And as the day went on and we all prayed, there comes a point when you realize prayer wasn’t enough to save someone’s life.
On the twelfth of February of the year 2014, three Venezuelans died. Two students, one officer.
And when you see the videos of the shooting, it is so unreal. It was so unreal to me to be thousands of miles away and watch a spraying of bullets on video. When eventually I got to the 36th second, and it was inevitable. Like the person behind the camera said, “one has fallen.” And it reminded me of a fallen soldier.
What impotence I feel but also what inconsolability. That college student went to fight for his future on the twelfth day of February. On the same twelfth day of February, I went to classes. And that night I was able to come back without fearing for my life, and hug my mom.