I didn’t remember the heat being so extreme. Maybe it’s a Barquisimeto thing. Maybe it’s why this nurse is just sitting there with her eyes glazed over. Maybe it’s why she seems so annoyed at us for trying to give blood to a stranger. I had pictured it allso differently in my mind…

How did I, a skeptical caraqueña who lives in Canada, find myself in this situation?

A few years back, one of my nieces got very sick; a life and death kind of disease.

My friend Rafael, called to give me his support in that difficult moment. He decided that the best course of action in a situation like this would be to make a promise to La Divina Pastora. Needless to say, he is a Barquisimetano.

I tried my best to squirm out of it, but Rafa was very insistent. I ended up promising to go visit La Divina Pastora in her church, to donate blood in his home town.

Against all odds, my niece recovered completely – thank you virgencita. That was three years ago.

Since then, Rafa has been acting like a mobster to whom you owe a big amount of cash. He even started getting screen shots of our Whatsapp chats whenever he managed to get me to say that I would go soon, then throw my words back at me if I dared travel anywhere else. He would under no circumstances allow me to let go of my promise.

Last month I had to go to Caracas, and decided that a visit to Barquisimeto was due. Overdue, really. I had never been there and I was dying to meet Andrea, Rafa’s seven-year-old daughter, whom I have loved from a distance for years. I was received with a parrilla de báquiro that tasted like heaven.

The night was clear and the moon looked much bigger than in Montreal. I couldn’t believe my luck; Mila, Rafa’s wife, had lit candles that made the place look almost magical. I was happy, they were annoyed as hell. The candles weren’t there for the atmospherics, it was just one of the usual power cuts that interfere with their lives almost every day.

I was woken up next morning at 6:00 am to go donate blood. Rafa told me it would be a 30-minute errand. He said we should hurry so that we’d have time to go visit several tourist sites and make it back home in time to make a Chupe. A real Chupe, with proper queso blanco, and not the weird Lebanese stuff we substitute for it in Canada.

We showed up at the Centro Regional de Donantes de Sangre de Barquisimeto, ready to give our blood. We were feeling really good about this, all generous, and about to make things right with Barquisimeto’s virgin. The place was clean and well kept, but suspiciously empty.

After waiting a few minutes, someone finally took notice and came to explain that they weren’t receiving any blood because they just didn’t have the chemicals needed to process it. He suggested that we go to the Clínica Camila Canabal, where the supplies were available.

We were optimistic, and in a big hurry. This delay already meant we would have to make our city tour a bit shorter. But it would be worth it.

The nurse at the Clínica took a while to focus her gaze on us. She was just sitting there doing nothing. Not even the usual workplace manicure nor reading Condorito. We told her what we were doing there and she asked who we wanted to give our blood to. We said that we were giving it to anyone who needed it. A ha! Finally satisfied, she smiled, and explained that we could only donate if it was for a specific patient. We asked for the name of patients who needed blood, but she said no; we had arrived there without a name, so we didn’t qualify. Then went back into her semiconscious state.

Rafa is the typical streetwise Venezuelan, ready to always get his way, but he was as stunned by this as I was. How could this be? People there needed the blood and at that point we were desperate to give it!

We were both speechless.

Discouraged, we walked to the car already planning to visit every hospital in town until we could make our deed. Rafa was going to distract the next nurse while I tried to glimpse at the list of patients, or something… but at the parking lot, we stumbled across Rafa’s doctor and we told him our story. He gave us the name of a patient at the Clinica Santa Cruz and off we went.

But it wasn’t meant to be. For the first time in my life, my blood pressure was too high and I wasn’t allowed to donate. Rafa did, though.

It was late. We cancelled our tour and just went to a Feria Popular and bough vegetables to give away to kids with special needs in Hogar de Niños Impedidos, Honim.

The rest of the visit was beautiful and Andrea and me were the perfect roomies and friends. The Divina Pastora was visited, and the blood will have to be donated to an unknown Canadian patient.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. Being a good citizen in Venezuela is very difficult. I once went to EleOocidente to pay my electric bill and the disarray was such that I had to threaten to put fire to the office to be attended to. Seeing my face the woman at the desk said, terrified: “You can pay us anything you want”.

  2. From a Barquisimetano thank you for your effort, is sad that this things happen.

    My mon is an 0 negative, so she is a common with this “vaivenes”.

    This situation is a reflection of our conditions, even charity o goos citizenship becomes a trouble.

    But this ia our land, and we love it and protect it.

  3. With the lack of reactives donations should be done only by people known or refered by the patient. So sad for the ones who donate as a habit, but a need for the ones who has to take responsability of the material. Not justifying it but with the current sanitary environment of the country it is right to restrict who donates to whom.

  4. Ana,

    Sorry to tell you this, but I doubt you will be able to donate blood in Canada. Having recently traveled to a country in which Malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya, and now Zika, (all blood-born parasites and viruses) are rampant, any hospital or blood bank up north is going to tell you to get the hell out of their facility and take your blood with you!

    I once tried to give blood in the U.S., a long time ago. When the nurse reviewed my questionnaire, seeing that I had been vaccinated against Yellow Fever, Typhoid, had lived in various infected areas, and had had Malaria, the look of horror on her face was priceless. You would have thought that I was a carrier of the Black Plague. She was polite but appeared very anxious to see me leave immediately.

    So, you are going to have to find another way to settle accounts with la Divina Pastora.

    • Here is another page from the same website: https://www.blood.ca/en/blood/travel

      When they screen donors, they don’t differentiate between areas in countries. My read of this is that she will have to wait a year before she is eligible to donate blood once again.

      They are pretty strict about it, but they can afford to be, because they don’t generally have any shortage of donors. Even when they do have temporary shortage, due to a large disaster, a public announcement that donors are needed will immediately produce long lines of people willing to give blood.

      I had Malaria once (not here; in Africa), so I can never give blood.

  5. There are a lot of people in our country who are plumb lazy , who are always looking at excuses to avoid exerting themselves the least bit in the performance of their jobs , you see it often and everywhere….this is a legacy of the colonial slave mentality , slaves got nothing for their efforts so they saw themselves as engaged in a subtle struggle with their masters to do as little as possible as retailation for being forced to work without any kind of remmuneration . Even if slavery disspeared more than a century ago , the mind set of the slave became ingrained in the culture of people who had known slavery and passed on from generation to generation . You can see it in the passive aggresive stance of people who are always finding excuses not to do their jobs , to miss work , to arrive late at their jobs , to leave early. Who resent having to do a job that requires a bit of extra effort …..

    Students of Roman slavery were surprised at how often slaves were given their freedom by their masters after a period in which the slave was allowed to run a business on its own but which benefited its master , the slave made a bit of money for the master and the latter in gratitude granted him his freedom creating a special bond between the freedman and his ex master , the precedent to the patron client relationship that has been so common in Venezuelan social history .

    When they looked into the phenomena they discovered that this happened for a reason , slaves who worked without remmuneration always engaged in some kind of passive aggresive resistance and were on the whole very improductive …. the clever romans , very practical men , to get arround this problem gave their slaves the run of some small business , even going as far as spliting the profits with their slaves so they could in a way buy themselves out of slavery , this motivated the slaves to be very productive and make a lot of money for ther masters.

    This attitude of pasive resistance fed the picaro attitude so common in our culture , the weak person uses his wits and boldness and lack of scruples to trick the strong person from something he values. in the US one expression of this stance are the famed brerr fox and brer rabbit tales originating in slave folklore , in Venezuela we had our own tales of Tio Tigre and Tio Conejo.

    Compounding this slouchy lazy attitude in our culture is the fact that most of our male indian aborigines were very lazy inasmuch as they saw themselves as manly warriors and hunters , too proud to take much time in humble work and thus had their women do all the drugery filled tasks while they happily swayed in their hammocks . Hasnt anybody noticed how Venezuelan women are so often much more hard working than their men.

    The Europeans who came here for the most part came not as colonist but as adventurers or conquerors looking to strike it rich quick by some feat of fortune or arms, hidalgos in spain scorned work as only good for low born serfs and peasants …..so you see how its so difficult for so many of our country man to adopt a hardworking life, an attitude of dedicated effort in the performance of their jobs. !!

    • Bill,

      The pattern you speak of among the Native Americans, in which the women work hard and the men are lazy, was and is the norm in most subsistence-level farming societies. I have seen the same in many parts of Southeast Asia and Africa. So, this is not unique to Venezuela at all. This holdover characteristic from earlier societies has to be overcome.

  6. This attitude of pasive resistance fed the picaro attitude so common in our culture , the weak person uses his wits and boldness and lack of scruples to trick the strong person from something he values.in the US one expression of this stance are the famed brerr fox and brer rabbit tales originating in slave folklore , in Venezuela we had our own tales of Tio Tigre and Tio Conejo.

    Interesting that in both countries the rabbit was a clever one outwitting those bigger & stronger.

    • Poor Tío Conejo, confused and reduced to the icon of “viveza criolla”.

      Being smart, and being a swindler are two different things, people can be smart and get what they want without being criminals, which viveza criolla is, being a criminal.

      Tolerance and exaltation of criminal behavior is what drove Venezuela to this gutter it’s stuck now.

  7. Just to be fair with the entertainer Camila Canabal, I guess Ms Toro refers to Clinica Canabal. That medical institution name’s is Clinica Valentina Canabal.

  8. I reminds me when I tried to pay a traffic ticket the legal way…

    The on-spot pay plus convenience fee is a lot more faster and requires less paperwork. Not to mention that el fiscal de transito se redondeo la arepa…

    Free to cut another red light without demerit points…


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here