Venezuelans don’t take much very seriously. But voting we take very seriously. Showing yourself in public on Election Day without ink on your pinky carries real social stigma. Here we go, folks.
6:05 am, Macaracuay. Already over a hundred folks waiting to vote. My polling center is large. About 7,000 people vote there. I was assigned to table three. Familiar faces start to turn up right away.
For me, this isn’t just about civic duty, it’s about civic action. Because there’s always a long line, vote is an encounter, a proper collective act. You see the guys you played basketball with after school. That lady that pinched your cheeks as a child.
6:45 am.There is Paula, the aunt of that girl from Tower C that I had a huge crush on as a teenager. Carlos comes to say hello, we joke on how we always see each other here, but only here.
7:08 am. One of my best friends from childhood appears. He chats with me both to catch up and to sneak into the line which by now has grown a lot. We catch up, say hello to others, the line moves, we go inside.
The Venezuelan opposition doesn’t change voting stations. Here is Adrian. I know he lives in Puerto la Cruz now. He came to Caracas with his wife just so they could both vote. There is this urban legend that if you attempt to change from polling center you will be assigned to a really remote location. So no one ever switches.
Voting is also a civic pilgrimage.
First step, captahuellas. You get a paper that helps those in your table find you. I go upstairs, find my booth. The lady in front of me has problems with the machine (our machines are horribly designed.) She takes a few minutes to cast her vote. I take seconds. Sign the notebook and dip my pinky in the indelible ink bottle.
I leave the voting booth with a sense of accomplishment and optimism.
After all, there was no toque de diana.