I always pictured it as a huge, malevolent grasshopper gnawing at my grandpa’s ankles. That was the only way my five year old brain could make sense of the outlandish stories adults were telling me. How else could the deep marks still visible around grandpa’s legs have been caused by “grillos“?!

Nobody stopped to explain to me that, in Spanish, grillos is a homonym meaning both grasshoppers and leg shackles. There was no way my tiny little world could incorporate the idea that all the way back in 1928 a generation of young people —just high school students some of— had risen up against the Gómez dictatorship, or that my grandpa was just one of many who had ended up in jail for their courage, shackled to a wall with irons so heavy they’d left a permanent mark imprinted on his body, that the marks I was noticing six decades later, just above his slippers, were this distant echo of a battle he’d fought and won for all of us.

No, that realization dawned later, much later, as I first began to grasp the immense sacrifices that had been made for the democracy I took for granted.

As a teenager I began to tune into the stories about the underground struggle for democracy in 1940s and 50s, about the AD and PCV activists who’d risked everything to live underground, enconchaos, shifting from one safe house to another every few nights as they organized the resistance to the military dictatorship.

 
Tonight, dozens of activists immersed in our generation’s struggle for democracy are sleeping on strange beds and sofas, enconchaos, reliving in their own skin the fear we thought had been consigned to the history books.

Even then, the stories felt distant: exotic tales from a different era of struggles our generation —the beneficiaries of their sacrifice— would obviously never have to face.

The goddamn hubris.

Tonight, dozens of activists immersed in our generation’s struggle for democracy are sleeping on strange beds and sofas, enconchaos, reliving in their own skin the fear we thought had been consigned to the history books.

Tonight, Yon Goicoechea sits alone in a cell in the Helicoide at the mercy of a ruthless military elite happy to go along as evidence is fabricated against him. Tonight, dozens of political prisoners of longer standing come to grips with what it means to face down a dictatorship.

I was naïve; this generation was not spared. The freedom they’re forging comes at the cost of sacrifices most of us can scarcely imagine. I’m in awe of these people, even now.

Personally, I’m going to make sure my kids grow up hearing the stories of their bravery. You should too.

It’s easy to lose sight of it in the heat of the moment, and given the pervasive cynicism of the zeitgeist. But the fight against this military dictatorship is just as suffused with heroism as the last.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I think it was Bertold Brecht who said ‘happy the country that doesnt need heroes’ …….it seems that in todays Venezuela we need more heroes than ever ……., !! Our good fortune that we still have them …!!

  2. I am with you, Quico. In 1958 my generation thought that we would never again suffer under dictatorship … and here we are. The struggle for democracy never ends.

  3. Democary and Freedom are very fragile things, and so is progress. As such it must always be defended and guarded. The mistake of many (ignoring history i.e. see the Dark Ages) is to believe that the direction of travel is a ‘one-way’ street.

  4. Well said. For any Venezuelan looking for a reason to feel proud, to witness the human spirit at its best in their country, you don’t have to look far. It may be you.

  5. This particular dictatorship you face is much more sophisticated and brutal than any you have faced before. Don’t forget its agents and repression methods were initially developed by the Soviets, added on by the East Germans, who had many ex Gestapo in their ranks, and “tropicalized” by Castro’s G2 and Interior Ministry apparatus. Today the SEBIN also gets advice from the Belarussian KGB and electronic monitoring consulting service from freelance mercenaries.

    To make matters even worse is the reality that petrodollars and communist dogma help Maduro get help from governments beyond Cuba. From Uruguay to France to Colombia to the USA are willing to let Maduro overcome resistance. Thus, like the Cuban people, you will belong to the Castro family.

    The freedom you seek will have to be earned on your own, with little help from others.The window of opportunity is closing, and if you don’t take whatever measures are required I can see most of you in jail, dead, or living in exile.

  6. “Definition of hero. : a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities. : a person who is greatly admired. : the chief male character in a story, play, movie, etc”.

    People somehow need “heroes” and make them up. Yon Goicoechea is no hero, he is just a lawyer who was kidnapped because he is with the opposition. Brave? perhaps. Certainly with principles and good intentions. But a Hero? Heroes are people who go to war, save a bunch of people, and even die, sacrificing themselves.

    Maybe Leopoldo or Maria Corina can be considered “heroes”, for their courage, bravery and persistence. But they are not superhuman. Batman or Superman are the only true “heroes”, for children.

    That said, anyone brave enough to fight Venezuela’s criminal dictatorship nowadays sure are commendable, deserve praise and respect. But imagining “heroes” like Chavez, or Simon Bolivar, or the Founding Fathers in the USA is often a mistake and pure illusion. If you study history, they were as human and flawed as most of us are.

    Is Capriles a “hero”? Well, he’s got guts, and has the courage to hit the streets. But he’s just another politician, with good intentions. But until we see him flying with a cape, he’s just a decent guy.

  7. Maduro and Chavismo have made it very clear by their behavior that democracy and any election is but a bourgeoisie indulgence. Now, that they are real Marxist revolutionaries (and wanted criminals) they are unnecessary.

    It is clear that in the privacy of the ballot box the people were willing to take on Maduro, but it is depressingly clear that this is not enough. They will have to show their faces and expose their bodies to these criminals, but will this be enough? I have doubts.

    Fidel is their tutor and Cuba their model. It is well known that this school of thought prefers to burn the country before yielding so we are left with a path a violence one in which the military is by far the only meaningful player.

    I suspect the military as an institution is as sick and divided as the rest of Venezuela, so any action they may take is very risky. It will come down to random circumstances playing out with uncertain outcomes.

    As for the impending march, the only meaningful change will be if the ‘concentracion’ from the western part of the city comes in force. This would be an important and welcomed change in the habitual patterns these marches have had over the years. Most importantly, it will also show the fecklessness of Chavismo’s terror campaign on Venezuela.

  8. Since the use of Spanish vocabulary surpasses the number of English words in this piece of text, I wonder if the number of illegal Mexican immigrants also surpasses the English speaking population in the United States of America.

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