My time in Venezuela was short. I arrived one day and left the next. And I feel that I needed more to absorb the atmosphere of the country that, yes, is sinking into a crisis. But in contrast, have people who don’t hold their heads down.
I didn’t have the chance to stop for the long conversations I like to have to create the content that you usually see here because sitting down for a talk, in reality, it’s a habit of those who don’t have so much to worry about. I spent a lot of time listening, because, amid a tiring daily struggle, I felt like everyone had something to say. But I gave up on formal interviews because there are things that don’t always fit into a recorder and some notes.
I left the formalities aside several times so I could participate in conversations about the lack of gasoline – which only arrives once a month in Santa Elena de Uairén – and share recipes on how to make food last longer. I took some time to discover people’s “real profession” before the crisis – like the musicians who became miners and pilots who became traders – and understand the reasons that make Venezuela a country to stay and not migrate.
I’ve seen tired people. I’ve seen people fighting for survival. But I’ve also seen hopeful people. I’ve also seen happy people. In fact, what I’ve heard most was that the Venezuelans were cheerful people and that one of the biggest losses of the crisis was precisely that happiness. But I could still feel a sparkle of joy sneaking into the middle of conversations, in the art that Brazilians also know too well that is “laughing at our misfortune”. And this kind of joy I could only have captured on camera if I hadn’t been part of it. Maybe if I was behind the lenses, I wouldn’t be able to notice the fractions of a second when everything seemed perfectly normal.
I chose to live this clandestine happiness to try to understand the real situation of Venezuela from its intimate perspective. I came back with more understanding than before. I understood that life always goes on and the human being always adapts. I understood that crises can unleash the worst in people, but they can also unleash strength. A kind of strength that comes from within and that no one can take away. I understood that crisis also teaches a series of values that sometimes need to be rescued, such as how good it is to be close to those you love or how delicious it is food on your plate. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
I also can’t say I haven’t seen sadness and a certain nostalgia for what the country was and isn’t anymore (and it never will be again, because you can’t go back to the past). But I still felt that hope was the strongest feeling there, in the same way that I felt hope when I was at the border a year before.
This time my journey was different, the process came from within and here is my sincere perspective from what I saw and experienced. This series is brief and has fewer portraits. But it has more reflections. I hope it can capture a little of what my time on Venezuelan soil was like.