When you think of your twenties, you think about finishing college, partying and just starting to become an adult. I am twenty-one years old and living in Venezuela, what I think about is how am I going to graduate when we’ve had so many blackouts in a month, that the whole country has only had 9 days of work and 6 days of school. Let me explain.
We recently had a five-day blackout nationwide
How does a nation live five days with no electricity? Simple: it doesn’t. it barely survives. In addition, we also didn’t have running water during that time. Hundreds of people died in the Hospitals, people were going to the Malls to charge their phones because those were the only places that had an electricity generator, people were queuing to get drinking water anywhere. Even taking water from highly contaminated rivers.
Then, the electricity comes back. The government tells us that it was sabotage from the USA, that they had hacked the system. A system that we know, works analogically. Those lies aren’t feeding any of the hungry kids in the streets and certainly aren’t helping the families of those that died in the hospitals during those days.
We had a week of electricity before getting another nation-wide blackout. We now have one of those every day, we don’t know how long they will last and when the next one will come. I’m writing this from my laptop that I charged at a Mall. The food in our fridge is rotten, our microwave short-circuited because of the high voltage the electricity came back with. I haven’t been able to eat or sleep well. You wake up, there is no electricity, you go to a mall to charge your stuff, you run, do as much as possible, another blackout. You can’t sleep at night. You try, but you can’t.
The night I was able to sleep I was woken up by a high-pitched whistle. It was the neighbors. Turns out people were ransacking stores and taking advantage of the darkness to also rob houses. My neighbors had been robbed. Since then, I can’t sleep. And then the electricity comes in the middle of the night and you have to run and plug everything because you need those fridges to keep whatever food you have. Food is not easy to get in Venezuela.
And look, this isn’t a “boo-hoo, poor me” type of article. I get why you, living happily in a first world country, may not care about it. If I were you, I wouldn’t care about me either. But the fact is, in Venezuela, I’m lucky.
I’m lucky because I speak English and I can get jobs as a writer or translator that pay me in dollars and make about $150 a month, enough to survive, with no luxuries. But the reality here is that people only earn about $13 a month. Inflation is so high that prices change BY HOUR. You take two hours to buy something, come back and the price is different. How do you live in an economy like that? You don’t. You survive.
But when you have no electricity for five days straight, a week of constant, long-lasting blackouts, no water, and people ransacking, it gets to you. You feel defeated.
As I’m writing this, emotionally I feel like I don’t have the strength to keep on living like this. Surviving like this. It feels like every obstacle I overcome is met with a bigger one and I simply have no way of finishing this race or winning the game.
Why don’t you leave?
Sounds like an option, right? I’m educated, about to get my bachelor’s degree, have experience writing and working as a teacher. Leaving the country is an option, is it not?
I don’t have a passport. In a dictatorship, you don’t get to have a passport. It’s been over a year since I solicited my passport and I haven’t gotten an answer from the institution that issues them. Which is, of course, owned by the government. Ask any Venezuelan you know, getting a passport is so goddamn hard that people rather leave the country BY FOOT than to wait to get it. I could pay for the passport, go to SAIME central (which is the name is the institution) and pay them at least $500 to get my passport. But how the fuck am I, a normal person, supposed to get that amount? It’s impossible. And I have the privilege to be earning in dollars, most Venezuelans don’t.
So, what do you do?
Well, like many I stay up all night long looking at the ceiling as the mosquitos eat me alive, wake up, get as much done as possible. Go to a mall to charge my devices and then try and get some work done. I don’t know when I will be able to deliver anything, as we lose all telecommunications with each blackout.
The government hates when people say we are in a crisis, they may even come for me for writing and publishing this article. I wouldn’t be the first one they take out of the way just for speaking the truth. It has been more than five years since our national television networks were able to broadcast the truth of the country. The only channel of information we have is the internet and those brave journalists who risk their lives showing the truth of the country.
Let me show you some statistics our government doesn’t want people to know:
More than 40% of the country doesn’t have access to running water. More than 80% doesn’t have running water on a regular basis (Personally, I only get it twice a week). But if there is a blackout, the pumping system doesn’t work and no one has water during that time. Zulia is the state that has had the most blackouts, for over a year now.
At this point, politics seem menial to me when there is so much happening. People getting sick, kids dying at hospitals because of malnutrition, babies dying because there wasn’t a power generator working for the incubators and the constant ransacking of food stores, simply because people are hungry and have to way of buying food.
This is my reality, this what I live through each day. This is what I survive through each day. My college life isn’t cramming for a test and then partying. My college life is my waking up at 5 AM to be able to be there at 7 AM (because transportation also sucks, but that’s a whole other topic), getting to the university for a two-hour lecture and then leaving and having classes only twice a week because of the blackouts. My university has gone on strike more than 10 times this year. The budget to keep it working is non-existent. Bathrooms don’t work so it is not surprising when you enter a classroom and find piles of shit or urine. Professors and staff don’t get paid and when they do… Well, let’s just say they can’t even afford a single meal with what they earn.
Is there any hope for us? I don’t know. I stopped feeling hope years ago. This is the only life I’ve known, constant crisis and struggle and it hurts me to see how my 6-year-old niece is surviving through this as well. I do wish with all my heart this would change, that she didn’t have to worry all day about the electricity or get excited when we have running water. This is not us asking for privileges. This is us trying to get our rights back.