On Tuesday morning, a security guard asked me to please buy him something to eat. He hadn’t had anything since Monday’s breakfast and was feeling dizzy. I turned back and bought two empanadas, those I don’t buy for myself anymore, because their price reflect the prodigy of their making: cooking oil, corn flour and, at this point, any filling. I specifically asked for the sweetest juice they had and a cup appeared smelling of guayaba, without a straw because there weren’t any.

When hunger trumps shame and a man cries over a couple of empanadas, emotions stir inside of you. He took one of them and wrapped the other, first in the brown paper bag and then in the plastic one. Before he started eating, he rubbed the wrapping saying: “for tonight, thank you so much.” He cried before and after he started biting. He tried to speak, but it complicated things, because his crying got stronger and through tears, gasps, snot and bites, he choked for several reasons. Words don’t always relieve sadness, but I tried to distract him anyway, talking about my nephews, my work and Sunday’s traffic.

Calmer, he spoke about the way he prioritizes his children at mealtimes, about the almost intuitive deal he made with his wife about it. That’s why they’re both eating much less, but making a habit out of insomnia takes energy and this morning he knew that if he didn’t eat, he’d faint. So he grew bold and asked me for the favor. Napkins shouldn’t be used to dry the tears of a worker who can’t buy the food he needs. Despite that, he thinks about the future and has been buying some school supplies and talked to a cousin -whose children are exactly one year older than his- to keep the books and some clothes because she “washes her clothes even better than my mom.”

I was moved by his tenderness when speaking about his children. He sums it up saying: “If we gave birth to them, it was to care for them and protect them.” It’s the first time I hear a man talking about childbirth in plural. When I reach my office, I told this story in three tweets, with all the indignation I felt about it. Without sizing the weight of my words, I insulted Nicolás four consecutive times. Several scoldings later, I chose to delete the tweets, to reestablish good judgement and exercise prudence instead of anger. I know that harder days are coming, that listening to him was more important than buying him some food, that we’ll see each other differently, that he’s one dad among millions who are going through the same circumstances. “Uy, it has papelón, so tasty!” he said while slowly sipping the juice, like we all do when we don’t want something to end.

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Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Stories like this show us that indeed a genocide is being committed against over 20 Millions where less than 40 thousand of “enchufados” should stand trial, punishment and international scorn for crimes against humanity. With all the respect that the Jewish, Armenian and so many other genocides committed deserve; there should be a global outcry and the firm international commitment to not let these monstrosities happen ever again… regretfully its Venezuela’s turn. Each and everyone of us should keep this present and don’t let these thugs get away with famine and the complete destruction of hope.

    • Have you heard comparable outcries with what happened with Holodomor? the 100 million killed by MaoZedong perhaps? Crimes done by the left are always whitewashed, and when they are so dramatic that they change the world as those done by the nazis, the left applies backward historic cleansing, making sure new generations that believe that the NAtionalsoZIalistische party was not socialist or marxist inspired

      • Any student of history would know that the worst of genocides came at the hands of Mao (30-100 million) and Stalin. (20-60 million). Their ideology taught them that “life was cheap”.
        Marxism has killed far more than any right wing ideology. And their tactics are far more horrific than gassing or bullets. Look no further than the “rock star” of all Marxist, Che Guevara. The guy had no qualms about killing persons with Downs Syndrome because they couldn’t pick up the rifle and fight for him.

        • Any political ideology based on supernatural beings (the proletariat, God, the Third Reich) will kill indiscriminately because a) it is fighting for a cause that deserves everything,a nd b) they see themselves in a war situation (class struggle, fighting the devil, supremacy of the Aryan race).
          Marxisms kills more people because the right kills its target only (like Operation Condor in south America or the Indonesian killings of 65), while Marxist governments kills its targets the counterrevolutionaries (e.g., Stalin killing Trotsky) and also kills the innocent through government ineptitude which creates penury and starvation like it is happening in Venezuela today inspiring sad stories like Naky’s.

  2. So ultra-sad, and tragic beyond words. People I know have lost 8 and more kilos of body weight, and these are skilled manual workers, but with no jobs, nor much food. One helps as one can, but there are limits, One 75-year old lady, with 4 thin-as-needles dependent grandchildren, tries to maintain herself/them/25 adopted abandoned street dogs/cats on her minimum-wage pension–heartbreaking beyond words–one thing is to hypothesize, the other is to see the reality of hunger and personal suffering….

  3. I read this and feel nothing. You want to know why? Because that guy probably supported Chavez. This is the future we chose. Now embrace it.

    • Perhaps. But even more likely, hindsight (for him) is 20/20. He won’t be too quick to forget the desperation and the anguish that Chavez et alli brought to Venezuela. I am not one to give to buskers and panhandlers (You will work for food, eh Chubby?), but I honestly don’t think I could look past a father who is starving so that his children can eat. If that isn’t the type of person who is “Christ-like”, then I don’t know what the definition is.

      Up until recently, my wife’s family has been doing well with the care packages that we have been sending. Now, the care packages are getting “lost in customs”, and the items that they used for bartering never get past the airport customs building for delivery. (Apparently, evil tooth-fairies and gremlins are infiltrating customs and stealing packages during the night?) We are fortunate that we have a reliable method of sending her family cash (US dollars) but now even US dollars can’t buy what isn’t for sale. Now the comfortable with connections are feeling the pain.

      It won’t be long. The starving have nothing to lose.

    • Rev, that’s simply an unacceptable way to think. I’m sorry, but your point is moot. Not only is there no evidence that he ever supported Chávez, but also, tragedy strikes the human being, no the ideology. Not feeling anything with this story reveals more about you than it does about him. Get over the hatred. It helps no one.

    • That is around 70% of the population of Venezuela. It included not just lazy people who wanted freebees and wannabe enchufados, but millions of decent hardworking people including those who were well educated. Were they hoodwinked? Absolutely! Should they have known better? Of course! Nevertheless, Venezuela will never become whole again, unless you and all the rest who did know better can forgive them.

    • Perhaps you felt nothing because you felt nothing and this is your way of rationalizing it. Unfortunately for you, your means of rationalization betrays the same kind of authoritarian streak of the worst kind of Chavista. At this point we should be through with allegiances and instead find whatever way we can to recapture our mutual humanity. Even if it’s done with a simple empanada, regardless of who is worthy or not.

    • Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, there’s no actual mention of that in the article, national guard or any uniformed minion doesn’t inmetiately mean chavista zealot.

      Maybe he supported the corpse because as millions more he was deceived in 1998.

      Maybe he even delighted in the suffering of those who had relatives persecuted and murdered by chavismo.

      But, now he’s, at worst if he’s still chavista, a person at his breaking point, a point where it’s laughably easy to turn him against everything chavismo is and has been.

      I don’t believe in forgiveness if the person asking for it isn’t honest about his repentance at least, but I know that it’s more logical and useful to turn those disenchanted chavistas into former chavistas, because they’re won’t be going to support the sabotage chavismo will attempt against the following government in the near future after they are ousted.

  4. Sad and powerful story. One wonders how they are feeding the military. The moment is truth is just down the road, per when the next bond payments come due. If Maduro defaults, there will be money to import more food, but at the expense of giving outsiders considerable leverage to actually make the government negotiate and impose conditions on government policy – basically telling Maduro what to do, and this has never been something any Chavista has ever accepted. Not from the ANC, from the people, or anyone else “meddling” in the Fatherland. Which one will he chose – food for the people, or absolute control. One will come at the expense of the other, so like it or not, change is coming big as the nut on that bond.

    • And a good number literally went blind due to insufficient protein while growing up and resultant optic nerve damage–ergo, FC’s much-ballyhooed “Mision Milagro”.

  5. sin duda una historia conmovedora… cada vez me interesa más ver cómo se resuelve políticamente todo esto y dónde aterriza Venezuela tras una crisis de tal calibre.

  6. A number of years ago as I looked out over a busy downtown Chacao scene I noticed an Indian woman with her two children. One child was sitting on the pavement whilst the other clung to his mother’s waist.I think she may have been Warao but not sure. Dressed in rags, bare footed with her hand outstretched she was invisible to everyone who passed her. And those who walked past without a sideways glance were well dressed, well fed and outwardly content with their lot.
    I fumbled in my pockets and managed to find a few hundred Bs. I gave the money to a colleague, local to the area, and asked him to handover the money.
    The mother said thanks and headed off towards a shop across the road. I waited and as she left the shop she was feeding her children. Milk and something else.
    That was “pre-Chavez”.
    I have no doubt the scale of desperation is much greater today. Problem is the level of compassion is unlikely to have changed, unfortunately.

  7. We got word today that our reliable courier service is shutting down in Venezuela and shuttering operations. Now, even cash is unlikely to get through.

  8. How much longer Venezuelans will “exercise prudence instead of anger”? What does it need to happen for Venezuelans to feel real anger and bring these bunch of thieves down? I left the country over 20 years ago because I was starting to feel anger then. I would probably be death now should I have stayed. Please let anger overcomes prudence for once and for all.

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