Living in Venezuela can mean different experiences for different people, it all depends on one’s background and also on your ability to observe, process and react in the face of various stimuli and dynamics. Ana Isabel Hernandez who grew up and currently lives and works in Venezuela shares her personal thoughts of a country’s transition process that accompanied her life.
Although the title of this piece might seem redundant, it has a clear reason for being so. In recent years a significant number of Venezuelans have left the country looking for a better life. They are gathering into communities around the world that are often referred to as “Venezuelans living in Spain”, for example., mostly as an initiative of self-organization on Social Media. In an attempt to bring this lesson learnt back to our homeland, I am looking at the country’s reality as a Venezuelan living in Venezuela.
In recent years a significant number of Venezuelans have left the country looking for a better life.
Those ones of us who are still here share a common space, which is not only physical but also emotional and very personal: the current time and general order of things in Venezuela define a mindset based on resilience, endurance and above all, a creative power to overcome setbacks. Due to the impact that living under these conditions has on an individual, Venezuelans, inside and outside the country also share a strong sense of tragedy and shame given what our home has turned into. Despite this and against all odds, one can still find in our common story a strong sense of empathy and solidarity, beyond political standpoints. This might seem like a contradiction: how can one person describe Venezuela in these terms in the midst of the crisis?
Child of a Different Era
The Venezuela I grew up in is not the Venezuela I live in today. This is so much so that for me it is necessary to keep in mind that I am a Venezuelan from the 80’s. The opportunities that were presented to me back then are not even remotely similar to the opportunities most Venezuelans can grasp today. Venezuela’s political system was completely opposed to the current one, the country’s financial perspectives and economic status were very different, the vision of democracy and development was dramatically contrasting to what it is today, and most importantly, our idea of community was based on a different set of values. These “old” values were based on a democratic vision that was financed over decades by the exponential growth of the oil industry of a country that, even today, continues to have one of the largest oil reserves in the world. With this bonanza, Venezuela was able to build and market itself and a fast growing economy.
I grew up with an abundance of access: to education, to high quality health services, to efficient local policy making, to political participation and to the practice of citizenship. I spent the first half of my life surrounded by endless possibilities and a sense of balance that came from these surroundings. At that point, everything it seemed that everything would have turned out well for everybody.
Staying to Transform
I am living now in a country that has made the headlines in international media for over two decades for no reason other than the sense of tragedy and downfall present here. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled to all the corners of the world seeking for anything that can make a positive difference in their lives in order to leave this behind. So every single time I speak to a foreigner, the same question pops up: “Why are you still living there?” For me, the answer to this question is rather simple: because I choose so and more importantly, because the very same reasons that would make me want to leave are the ones I am working really hard to transform into something better or at least, something closer to the vision of democracy and economic growth that the country experienced in the past. I believe I am doing the right thing, yet the decision to stay will most likely not show me any results anytime soon. It is my own very personal long-shot decision. I know this transformation doesn’t come easy or fast, since it requires a collective effort based on the agreement to change and rebuild. It’s like planting a tree: as of now, I am working on getting the soil ready and selecting the best possible seeds.
My story might not reflect the reality of a great number of people living in Venezuela right now. I come from a privileged background. Almost every aspect of my life is a result of my privilege: a great family with strong foundations and values, a couple of hard working parents who laid out a long term plan for their children to be well-fed, educated in high-quality private institutions and raised in abundance of resources but also love and understanding. My own personal story is therefore not about scarcity or lack. However, I am certain that I share a vision for this country with many different people who are still here for the same reasons I am. I work with them every day. I see them as they are as much as they see me for who I am and not what I am. I listen to their stories as they have listened to mine. I have helped them through hardships as they have helped me. And I have found motivation and inspiration in them as I hope they have found in me.
It’s like planting a tree: as of now, I am working on getting the soil ready and selecting the best possible seeds.
I am a partner and the Director of Impact at a company called ProEmprendimiento. My job is complex but very much so enjoyable and more fundamentally for me, it is necessary and useful. I run a platform of tools, knowledge, networks and financial opportunities that help Venezuelan entrepreneurs start their business in what we all know is a very hostile economic environment, characterized by hyperinflation and general chaos. This platform is built on a very simple premise: in a context like this, entrepreneurship might be the only thing capable of dynamizing the economy and supply the people with products and services which the traditional industry is no longer capable of producing. As it stands we have managed to assign to this platform the role of an incubator: we help to create and design, we accelerate and we provide effective solutions in the midst of scarcity and a humanitarian crisis.
Yes, entrepreneurship can exist in the middle of this. In fact, it is the most certain way that one can remain resilient and resistant: by creating.
Working with entrepreneurs is without a doubt a privilege. I have found in them a very special tribe in which I certainly belong. Feeling discouraged or unmotivated is not an option when I am surrounded by people with a vision for transformation, possibilities and opportunity. I am constantly thinking, creating and developing new and innovative ways in which we can provide high-quality solutions to our many different gaps and breaches. Therefore, I consider myself a bridge builder. It turns out that in a place like this and as I can see it, the only thing you can do in the middle of a severe crisis that impacts different aspects of life, is to build bridges.
In this piece I am sharing my own personal story as a Venezuelan living in Venezuela; A story based on what I believe can be achieved in today’s reality, and based on my bridge-building capacity. The purpose of the article is to provide inspiration and a brighter light on what might be the worst crisis the country has experienced since its independence years; I am writing this with the intention of bringing awareness on what does work, what is still operating and what helps to (re)invent solutions despite this crisis.