A few weeks ago I saw how a tweet of a young couple sharing their emotion about buying their first car in Venezuela went viral. It was a Chevrolet Spark, used of course, a little car that will fetch from $2500 to $4000 in Caracas, depending on how old and worn down it is.
The young birds’ celebration had extra flavor because they had secured this purchase out of running a small baking business and without having left the country. However, among the 1000-plus replies to their message, from Venezuelans and foreigners alike, there were a few common themes:
- If they bought a car in Venezuela they’re surely a couple of enchufados [people who take advantage of government connections] since it’s impossible to achieve that by selling pies.
- Their celebration plays into the government’s hands by pretending everything’s fine.
- Their achievement is meaningless because they didn’t leave the country. That means they are failures and will regret their decision sooner or later.
These comments came as no surprise to me. I’ve often witnessed the same kind of reaction after sharing some delicious food or small daily life joy on Instagram.
Not just that, once a guy criticized me for smiling in a photo: “How can you look so happy when in your country everyone’s crying, suffering and starving to death?”
In general I pay no mind to these complaints. I don't think they are worth it. Nevertheless, having seen them so many times and being so annoyed, perhaps it’s worth sharing a few thoughts on the matter.
First of all, not everyone who secures small material progress in Venezuela is an enchufado or a thief. There are millions of people giving every last drop of sweat on a daily basis to stay afloat and move forward. Not all who survive (very few, in fact) owe it to a bodegón [fancy convenience store] built with ties to someone in high places or to relatives who send remittances from abroad. Many of us, amidst this economic crisis, have been forced to reinvent ourselves and some can breathe a bit more easily than four or five years ago. This does not mean to deny or hide the crisis.
Second, in Venezuela there is no policy to support the oft mentioned “entrepreneurships,” even if the official discourse seems to suggest so at times. Quite the contrary, setting up new small businesses legally is quite the paperwork adventure. Not to mention an expensive one. So the advantage is really for those with large sums to invest. Entrepreneurships are also not a definitive and much less a collective solution to the problems we face. You know, we can buy the little used car, but that does not free us from queuing for fuel, for example.
That being said, small businesses have meant survival for many people. I’ll repeat: I don’t mean to say that the majority of the population is in good shape, nor that becoming an entrepreneur is an option available to everyone, but there are people from different economic strata who have secured small economic advances and it is their right to celebrate. Furthermore, those who would forbid small celebrations are often among those who feel that the situation would be fixed with a yankee military invasion.
Thirdly, we are a pueblo like any other. We celebrate our joys and cry over our sorrows. Even in countries at war life goes on, as hard as it may be. Houses are rebuilt time and again, couples get married, babies are born, etc. And you know what? The achievements are much more valuable if attained in difficult circumstances. We appreciate them more, we celebrate with more gusto because we know just how much sacrifice it took to eat that fried chicken with the family, to drink that glass of wine with our partners, to buy that used car, to simply stay alive.
Four: no, we will not regret having stayed in Venezuela. Many of us chose to do so when that meant going against the grain. And now we struggle to explain to others, and sometimes even to ourselves, that this does not represent a failure. In fact, on social media, there’s widespread celebration whenever some Venezuelan abroad shows a picture of his first house, but it’s heresy if someone does the same in Caracas. Why is that? It’s tough to migrate and make a living abroad, but it’s also tough to survive in Venezuela’s current context. We should not allow anyone to tell us otherwise or try to destroy our small victories.
As Emiliano Zapata would say, in these parts we share the misfortunes of war, the desolation in our homes, the spilling of our brothers’ blood, but also the bugle calls of victory. The struggle continues.
Jessica Dos Santos is a Venezuelan university professor, journalist and writer whose work has appeared in outlets such as RT, Épale CCS magazine and Investig'Action. She is the author of the book “Caracas en Alpargatas” (2018). She’s won the Aníbal Nazoa Journalism Prize in 2014 and received honorable mentions in the Simón Bolívar National Journalism prize in 2016 and 2018.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.
Translated by Ricardo Vaz for Venezuelanalysis.