“Every year we used to get together as a family and have a massive party, with music, alcohol, and food. A lot of food. Heaps of food. I remember sitting to have dinner four times,” Wence Peraza says with the same enthusiasm of a kid who talks about what they have got for Christmas, as he recalls his youth memories from Venezuela.
The cheerful end-of-year feasts and celebrations now live solely in the nostalgic reminiscence of the Venezuelan people as the country falls deeper into the worst humanitarian crisis ever seen in Latin America. And Christmas became a reminder of what the country could have been but it is not anymore.
Wence Peraza has fled Venezuela more than 10 years ago. He currently lives in Australia but the situation still affects his peace of mind. For him, just the simple act of remembering the good moments from home is hurtful.
“It’s sad because as soon as you start to think about the happy memories, you know they are not coming back straight away,” he says with frustration.
Family time is a Christmas tradition that is gone with the crisis. Wence is the eldest of three but none of his siblings lives in Venezuela anymore. According to the last report of the Organization of American States (OAS), eight million Venezuelans will have left the country by the end of 2020.
“Families are apart now. It feels bad that parents have to spend Christmas without their kids. No one in Venezuela expected they would have to spend their holidays alone,” Wence says.
“Family is the first thing. So [it’s sad] when they have to spend Christmas alone. And you have to spend it with friends and create your own kind of family outside of Venezuela because you’re pretty much alone.”
But not having the family around is not the only struggle Venezuelans have to go through. For the ones who stayed, getting together to celebrate can also be a hard task from a financial point of view.
“Some of my relatives are going to meet my parents for Christmas and my dad is just trying to plan a budget for it. Because things are not that good and it’s not possible to spend money on things that are not necessary. For example, he has a budget for food, but cannot spend money on a cake or something like that.”
Putting food on the table is already a challenge for most Venezuelans. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Inflation is expected to hit 10 million per cent in 2019.
“I would say a lot of people in my family have to sacrifice one meal of the day. They either do, breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner or breakfast and dinner but never all of them,” he says in a mix of sadness and disbelief on the current situation of his own family.
“For me, to say that my grandma, my aunties, my cousins do that is like: ‘are you kidding me?’”
Despite the unholy scenario, there is still room for hope — on both sides of the world. “My dad always goes to conferences about the future of Venezuela and what the situation is going to be like. He still has hope that things are gonna change. He has been saying that for the past 16 years,” says Wence.
For him, the faith that better days will come is also present. “Right now, what Venezuela means to me is the future. Because I know that once we get over this, it’s gonna be such a good country. It’s gonna take a good 20 years for it, but I would say it will be a really good country for my kids.”