The Heroic March
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage ~ Anais Nin
This quote is dear to me. There have been times when I’ve said it over and over in my head to push myself in making decisions. It’s kind of like a mantra, if you will. And it really makes sense if you think about it. If you have little or no courage your life will shrivel like fruit left to dry in the sun, but if you have some courage your life will expand in all directions. Living life to the fullest is kind of the point, isn’t it?
Last week was one of those weeks where I reflected heavily on courage. You see there is a presidential election coming this Sunday and last week the leader of the opposition was in Caracas to speak to the people. Now some of you are thinking, so what? That happens all of the time, all over the world. First let me preface by saying that I’m not a fan of politics, but unfortunately living here means I cannot escape it. It permeates everything. It’s like air; you simply cannot avoid breathing it in.
This particular election is important because for the first time in almost 15 years there is the possibility of a man becoming president, a man who has the foresight to see the huge potential of Venezuela, a man who wants to end the farce that is known as Chavez’s Social Revolution, a man who really, in all honesty, wants to end poverty and suffering of his people. Capriles is intelligent. He doesn’t want a communist country. He doesn’t want to give gifts in the form of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil daily to countries such as Cuba. He wants Venezuela to produce its own food, he wants a safer country and he wants to do it all democratically, not by force, not by cheating, not by dividing Venezuelans down the middle, not by inducing fear, not by paying people to support him, not by murder or by kidnapping and, most importantly, not by denying millions of people their basic human rights.
Anyway, I digress. Let me get back on track. There was a march called The Heroic March in support of Capriles and Juan really wanted me to go with him, but the problem is/was I have a fear of large crowds. I get panicky about not finding an escape route, or being trampled on. Another legitimate concern I had was the possibility of violence. There are A LOT of guns in this city, so many that there are signs in almost every public space prohibiting them. There are also millions of people (Chavistas = Chavez supporters. It’s kind of a misnomer now that Chavez is dead, but the name has stuck) who don’t approve of the opposition and some who have absolutely no fear about committing violent acts, not just at election time, but pretty much all of the time. Ah Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this particular post, you’ll have to understand why I kind of failed to mention this part. Just know that we really do live in a safe part of the city and we’ll be moving soon. Caracas is one of the most violent cities in the world, making it the most violent in South America. In 2011 there was on average 53 murders per day, although I think this figure is low considering that many murders aren’t reported. So yea, I was scared.
The thing is this march, this election, and Capriles are history in the making! I’m living in a historic time. A time where both sides (some Chavistas and non-Chavistas alike) want change, want to live in a safe country, want food (food/product shortages of the basics such as flour, chicken, oil and toilet paper), want electricity (lots of power failures), want solid infrastructure, want and end to corruption. This march essentially would bring all of these people and ideas together for the common good of everyone. Did I really want to miss out on that? Did I want to miss out on the incredible energy and the immense amount of hope? No! So what did we do? We compromised. I’d go to the march and walk among the crowd and if I felt worried, claustrophobic or down right scared, we’d stop.
Of the 12 km we walked, I felt scared only twice. Once when we were walking down a narrow street and there were some Chavistas protesting on top of a building. My vivid imagination got the better of me (I was thinking of snipers) and we moved from the center of the crowd towards the wall. And the second was when the line of people entered into a tunnel. We rerouted ourselves up a hill and across a street.
This march was energizing. People were singing, laughing, and dancing. There wasn’t any violence and the times when the crowds encountered Chavistas, there were innocent displays of beckoning for them to join our side.
So what really came from the march? Approximately, 800 000 people joined together to make one of the largest political statements in Venezuelan history, violence free. What did I learn? I learned that a lot of people’s lives expanded that day because they had courage to fight for their cause. This isn’t even my country, let alone countrymen, and I can’t tell you or even describe the amount of pride I have, especially in a country where the election process is so rigged, where fraud is rampant, and fear is sky high. They have courage to believe in a man they know can make a positive difference to all Venezuelans despite the odds stacked up against him. If I hadn’t gone, I would never had the chance to participate in something so large! Have a look at the aerial view of the march.
As I write this I’m getting news snippets from Juan: another murder, a kidnapping, the government has closed the Colombian boarders so thousands of Venezuelans can’t return to their country to vote…..and on and on it goes. Nobody really knows what will happen this Sunday. I just hope that all Venezuelans will have to courage to face and deal with the result, for good or bad.
If you’d like further reading on the situation here in Venezuela, check out these blogs. Daniel Duquenal tells it like it is and Caracas Chronicles is really well versed on the subject of all things Caracas.