Isabel from Caracas, Venezuela

As I arrived at the International Airport of Caracas, Venezuela I was pretty confused and slightly nervous due to all the negative information that I had previously heard about the country in Colombia. Even the conversations I had on the plane with other passengers were pretty terrifying but I wanted to see Caracas with my own eyes and leave the media discourses aside.

Luckily, as soon as I reached my destination, Jesus, a friend of someone I know in Mexico was there to pick me up and kindly drive me around to a few interesting locations before eventually arriving at Isabel’s apartment block.

My worries about insecurity arose more knowing that I was actually in the city and I had to spend 10 days of intense tension there. Fortunately as the days went by I managed to settle in and feel much more relaxed.

Isabel is the sister of a well known rapper from Caracas, Venezuela. She lives in the central part of the city and is a devoted Christian whose interest centres on knowing who God is through the study of metaphysics.

She tells me that some changes have recently taken place in her neighbourhood. For instance two mision viviendas (social housing) projects were recently built. What was once a nice green space with trees and birds singing has now turned into a set of buildings for working class people, part of the legacy that Chavez left behind him.

Residents of the mision vivienda are pretty nice and hard working, Isabel comments, though there have been reports of minor issues about the loud music played at night. That said, it does not happen that frequently. Isabel says that people who live in these buildings are seen as criminals, and adds, “There is a stigma against people that live in these places as others think they are delinquents and live off of the government.”

On a positive note, the square where the metro station is located has been rejuvenated and looks a lot nicer now. Trees, green spaces and a nice fountain in the centre of the square embellish the surroundings, allowing people to sit on the benches and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.

As we discuss the word ‘change’, Isabel asks herself, “what is the benefit of all this change?” She thinks that changes increase the population in an area, which I suspect is not a positive thing for her maybe.

As we sip on the coffee she kindly made she talks to me about her personal interests. Isabel is a volunteer at the religious centre where she prays, her job is to support people in need. She helps every day of the week with a smile on her face.

She also takes part in a course to learn who God really is through metaphysics, God is supreme, she adds.

I barge in to ask her what love means to her and she responds, “love cannot be seen but can be felt. She hopes God gives more love to the president of the USA, Donald Trump in order to cast light along his way and blesses his country and Mexico.

I shift gears and ask her a bit more about the violence that Venezuela is succumbing to. Isabel tells me that she does not leave the house at night. In fact, her brother warned me not to go out at night around the neighbourhood if I wanted to be safe.

She has never been robbed which is pretty uncommon in this country. Literally every person I spoke to told me that they had been mugged at least once at gunpoint.

Robbers will strip you of any valuables you carry, whether it’s a mobile phone, a wallet, a few Bolivares, a hat, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t have anything to give them you could potentially suffer a severe aggression or be killed right on the spot. This is one of the reasons why Venezuela has sadly been ranked as the most violent country in the world.

As I take another sip of the delicious coffee which actually burns my tongue as it’s still pretty hot, I ask her if she sees any future changes in the country. She responds, “I want the country to change. I want a change from the food crisis we are undergoing”.

Isabel tells me that there was a time when people had many food options and that’s when tons of food got wasted. Today’s reality is different; the scarcity of food has given people a lesson in life not to waste things anymore.

It’s pretty common to see people queuing for hours desperate to buy the basic staples, such as bread or flour at a cheaper price. It’s also frequent to see kids and mothers begging for food and people searching among the rubbish for something to eat. In the end, that is what the culture of the haves and have nots creates, pure inequality.

She says that God means abundance and adds, “God did not bring us into this world to starve to death”.

Finally she says, “Apart from all the problems that are affecting people in this country, people keep smiling, they are humorous and friendly…

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