These last few months have been hard on the soul. You may have noticed if you were a regular reader: writing was scarce. Perhaps it was my subconscious dealing with the reality of exile. I had written that discussing Venezuela from afar was somewhat a hypocrite exercice. It is up to journalists to visit Venezuela for a few days and then bomb us back with supposedly knowledgeable articles from their safe desks at home. But a blogger who made his name writing in situ, from some Podunk like place in Venezuela?
There was something else at work, the grief of having lost home and memories. I suppose that grieving in a span of 6 months the loss of my life partner, the loss of my father and the loss of my health distracted me from grieving the loss of my country. Oh! I knew Venezuela was lost for a while, but as long as I was there it did not hit home the way it does now that I have left and start realizing there may be no return.
Two recent articles, unfortunately in Spanish and too long to translate, helped in my efforts to come to terms with my new reality.
In a way Santos does not say anything new, nothing that has not been said or suggested here and there. But he puts it together under the raw light of objective observation, of the raw comparison of the Venezuelan exile with other painful ones. We do not pass the test. As a nation of exiles we are failing the test, we are not accepting that we have left the country and may have chosen to live in a future of "next year in Jerusalem". And it will not. Even if a quarter of us returns, at most according to historical examples, it will not remotely be the Venezuela we left. And I add, it may have no connection with our memories.
There are things we need to do. We need to accept the fact that our exile may never end. We need to properly grieve and move on. We need to reconstruct our lives around what we may be able to build wherever it is we are. And we also must develop our community of exiles. This not only to feel better about ourselves and to forge new acceptable shared memories, but also to help those that are yet to come to fit in faster with less suffering than what we burdened ourselves with.
The second article was from Milagros Socorro who I often referred to and even translated in this blog. This time it is an interview in the great site ProDaVinci where what is left of Venezuelan intelligentsia tries its pen in some times memorable articles. The title is Milagros Socorro: “No creo en las sociedades menores de edad” which can loosely be translated as "I do not believe in minor societies" as in too young to be responsible. Certainly the Venezuelan society is responsible for what happened to it.
In this interview on her latest book Milagros speaks of her creativity and sources on what makes her a great writer of short stories (2). What caught my attention for the subject at hand was this paragraph translated next (3):
"Are you telling me that other things should be told? Hugo, I am a loser. I am defeated. For 20 years — twenty years — I have been doing journalism non-stop, non-stop. I have done many interviews, chronicles, opinion articles, grand reporting, profiles and for years I have been writing, trying to prevent things from happening. All that journalism, all that strenuous effort, sometimes even a bit ridiculous, was to keep things from happening, because journalists, really informed, knew the trap that was being prepared for the country. There was no way not to see it. The experts, in each of their specialties, told us that with these actions by Chávez and Chavismo, the country was going to its destruction. If you fire, if you boot, 20,000 PDVSA technicians, you are beheading the oil industry. You are not only doing it to lose all its heritage, but to be able to control and destroy it. There was a will to destroy the entire country. We were seeing it, documenting it, interviewing it. So, I feel like a defeated person. All that work was useless. It was of no use".
This is a rather stunning confession and I suspect Socorro says it as an invocation to help rebuild her life. She is after all now exiled, like Santos. Perhaps she suffers more than Santos or myself: there are so many writers and composers that went silent once unable to nourish their souls with the air of their land.
Like Milagros, all the effort to write this huge blog since 2002 has been for naught. All the exposure I got has been wasted. Nobody will even remember that in 2002-2006 we were only a very few writing in English to tell the truth, to announce what was coming. Few will admit that we were among the first to be righteous. It does no good to remember these days when my voice counted a tiny bit. Like Milagros I have been defeated.
Any exile is a defeat. Any exile is a challenge. Our grief shall be carried forever but our lives, rebuild we must how unpalatable that may be.
I have to grieve that all is lost. I am afraid that were I to return my memories may have nowhere to latch on to revive a glimpse of my past. What I will see then is a foreign country where outside what memories I have kept in my old rooms will feel as foreign to me as anywhere else I may be living in this world. Grief is necessary to live so I'll have the strength if I ever return to Ithaka were no Penelope awaits.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her, you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
1) If you want the whole poem, a translation is here
Mi libro, en Amazonhttps://t.co/FaxsUeHEXn— Milagros Socorro (@MilagrosSocorro) December 8, 2020
3) The original Spanish paragraph
¿Me dices que otras cosas deben contarse? Hugo, yo soy una derrotada. Yo estoy derrotada. A lo largo de 20 años —veinte años— he estado haciendo periodismo sin parar, sin parar. He hecho muchas entrevistas, crónicas, artículos de opinión, gran reportaje, perfil y durante años he estado escribiendo, tratando de que las cosas no ocurrieran. Todo ese periodismo. Todo ese esfuerzo, denodado, a veces hasta un poco ridículo, era para que no ocurrieran las cosas, porque los periodistas, realmente informados, sabíamos la celada que se le estaba preparando al país. No había manera de no verlo. Los expertos, en cada una de sus especialidades, nos decían que con esas acciones de Chávez y el chavismo, el país iba a su destrucción. Si despides, si botas, a 20.000 técnicos de PDVSA, tú estás descabezando a la industria petrolera. No sólo lo estás haciendo para perder todo su patrimonio, sino para poderla controlar y destruirla. Hubo una voluntad de destruir todo el país. Nosotros lo fuimos viendo, documentando, entrevistando. Entonces, yo me siento una persona derrotada. Todo ese trabajo fue inútil. No sirvió para nada.