“Tú no puedes comprar las nubes, tú no puedes comprar los colores, tú no puedes comprar mi alegría, tú no puedes comprar mis dolores” (you can’t buy the clouds, you can’t buy the colours, you can’t buy my happiness, you can’t buy my sadness), the chorus of Latinoamérica by the group Calle 13 echoes in my head as I observe the reflection of the clouds in a little stream on La Gran Sabana. There are things that a crisis, a regime or a disastrous government plan cannot destroy. Perhaps this was my greatest learning during my brief stay in Venezuela.
As I mentioned before, this trip was a bit different this time. I changed plans several times along the way. And it was good. La Gran Sabana is probably not the place a journalist would seek to portray the crisis, but I am grateful to have chosen this unusual destination. I spent the day both in the most perfect calmness and in the eye of the hurricane. And this constant contradiction allowed me to see dimensions of the country’s situation that I probably wouldn’t have been able to see elsewhere.
Amidst the spaced vegetation, some lakes that form small oases and the grandiosity of the “tepuis” – like Mount Roraima – that can be seen from the distance, it is almost possible to forget why thousands of Venezuelans flee the country every day.
Almost. If you look more carefully and attentively, you can see that the sense of normality is only apparent and that the political, economic and humanitarian crisis, yes, is present even in the most hidden places.
From where I was – and cannot be revealed for security reasons – the silence was broken several times a day. I crossed paths with people from all over the country, who saw there a refuge and a way to survive the current political and economic chaos without having to leave their homeland.
Due to the proximity to Brazil, the lack of supply, in fact, does not seem to be a problem. And you cannot feel the crisis so much. Through a kind of parallel market – which is not approved by the government but also not barred by inspection – all kinds of Brazilian products arrive, from food and gasoline to cigarettes and alcohol.
Even so, in the villages, there are those who walk for almost two hours to reach a point of sale of Brazilian products. Among the conversations, I heard many comments such as “I’m not going to work on my motorcycle because I can’t afford to spend so much on petrol” or “I can’t buy a lot of vegetables because there’s no way to keep them without a refrigerator at home”.
You can’t deny that there’s something melancholic about the scenario. And it would be irresponsible to romanticise the suffering and daily difficulties of the crisis. But I’d like to emphasize here the strength of those who move forward, always.
Because, at the same time, I heard a lot “I won’t leave this place even with the worst situation it might reach” and “I couldn’t be happy anywhere else”.
There is something beautiful about how life goes on and how every little thing becomes happiness. I saw a celebration over a pot of olives, for example. “Wow, it’s been five years since the last time I’ve seen olives, oh my God!”, said a woman with bright eyes contemplating the “luxury” of being able to eat something different from the usual.
I travelled to the beaches near Caracas without leaving the place I was during a humorous talk about times when the only concern was deciding whether to go into the sea or not. I heard many laughs, I saw many smiles. It’s hard to explain that joy. But I know it’s also a form of resistance and deserves space in this blog.
“No puedes comprar mi vida” (you can’t buy my life) say the final verses of Calle 13 in Latinoamérica.