Sunday, December 27, 2020

Defeated, and so far away from Ithaka

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.

The first one is from Miguel Angel SantosEl largo regreso de los venezolanos a Ítaca, the long return of Venezuelans to Ithaca , inspired from the famous Cavafy poem (1).

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 


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.   



  1. So true, I have been expatriated twice and twice reached your same conclusion! The country of my youth no longer exists, but in my memories and Venezuela is precariously close to the same slippage into the twilight....

  2. Anonymous2:21 PM

    Hi Daniel, it must be tough all recent events you had to deal with, but, please, do not stop writing, it was not for nothing, why? Because you are very good at it and we are still millions, decent and hard working people, still in Venezuela. I agree we are at our lowest as a society, a rogue state, the far west. But I am sure the better memories you have are about this country's people, it amazes me how many of us keep believing there is still a future, and it is easier for some of us, but millions are still good people and despise this disaster. Your blog has helped many of us to keep a clear vision of wrongs and rights, it must be difficult to keep up from abroad, but fights of this scale are not easy. Maybe I will have to leave too one day, but as long as there is people here trying to revert this nightmare we all have to chip in the best way we can. Everybody needs a break from time to time, but WE are still the ones right and the majority. When we recover our country in some years, it will be thanks to the efforts of all of us. Best regards.

  3. I agree, you must not stop posting your views. Most of the world does not understand that this VZ Disease infects most other countries in LatAm and if it can kill an oil producer it can and does kill most small agribusiness producers. Daniel, I ask you keep posting in a formal manner, so many others are now silent, but, you and others are or will be heard by those who matter. Roger Biron de LaFrance

  4. wanted to say that this blog was not for naught, I think this blog will make for a great book someday, on what had happened in Venezuela during chavista/madurista years. I have been an avid reader since 2002 and your blog has allowed me to understand the country of my birth. it was truly amazing to see the foresight that Daniel here alluded to, and it was plain as day, and it was interesting to see the transformation of the people during all this mess.. I honestly think this blog will show a great glimpse to historians as to what had happened during these era. and also shows the power of what a blog can chronicle. regardless I wanted to thank you for this blog, and my condolences to the lost of loved ones.

    1. Thank you for your words.

      Yet I am not sure that a book out of this blog would be a good idea today. Who would care? Everybody knows now the end of the story and in today's media world few care about the process that leads to the result.

      But I have an idea on what to do with this blog. Still maturing.

  5. Anonymous2:11 PM

    I agree with the four above. Thank you and if possible keep it going.

  6. I am sorry for your loss, and I also lived it so I know the pain and nostalgia you live through. We can never go home again, because moving to another world requires quantum changes. There was a time when Venezuela was a magical paradise, not because it was perfect but because it was magical and so real.It was so unusually real and authentic, that it appeared as magical realism. The globalists want to spread their influence everywhere and base the world on expediency and crime, money and uniformity and not on magic. It would be good to write about that world you loved.Venezuela , Tierra Magica.

  7. I am not planning to stop writing. The problem is about what to write. And whatever for.

  8. I am so sorry to read this. This phrase may not be correct but it is as I was taught "mi mas sentido pesame" for your home.

  9. Thank you and if possible keep it going.


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