The Survival of Hope

It’s hard to explain what you feel when you’re 23 years old and went through your first tear gas volley 14 years ago, at age 9. Carlos Egaña explains it’s been like, growing up in our Venezuela.

I want to try and let you know what my generation’s feeling. It won’t be easy, and I want to make no false promises. I’ve talked to student leaders, young politicians, 2007 people and 2014 people, and I’ve done some real soul searching. If you yearn for that Movimiento Estudiantil of yore, it you’re scared about today’s march, if you really don’t know what to expect. Well…

Us, too.

It’s hard to explain, how you feel when you’re 23 years old and swallowed tear gas for the first time about 14 years ago. That was at age 9. That’s what it’s been like, growing up in our Venezuela.

It’s been so damn long since we’ve looked forward to anything at all, just giving us something to look forward to feels different.

And it’s hard to explain because it’s hard to live through. You get tired. You get depressed. You get fed up as all hell. You watch your friends leave, or lose interest, and see those that have stayed and kept the fight going get detained and tortured. And you’re supposed to be studying and graduating and making an impossible living while also carrying the torch for Venezuela’s future. It’s a lot to ask. But asked we are, and damned if we can’t deliver.

So today’s not just another day. I don’t promise overnight change. I don’t expect things to turn around because of a single march. But it’s not just another day. It’s been so damn long since we’ve looked forward to anything at all, just giving us something to look forward to feels different. And here’s why.

  1. You can feel it. As Emi said, This Time, It’s Different. I fully agree, and yet I refuse to go on feelings alone. But, as it seems, as many as 1,200,000 people have expressed their will to come march today. This could be one of the biggest, maybe the biggest protest in Venezuela’s history.
  2. Chavismo’s looking and acting more paranoid then ever. Never have we seen these levels of repression and flagrant disregard for Human Rights and the Law in general. YonGo wasn’t detained -he was kidnapped. Flights and drones were cancelled, which I can’t remember happening in a country outside of a war zone or terrorist alert. And thousands of other expressions of paranoia and preemptive violence. Hell, they even lit up the Cruz del Ávila to spell the word “PAZ’ (PEACE).
  3. We have a goal this time. This isn’t some random, misguided expression of what we’ve come to call Protesta Deportiva (Sports Protesting). We want something concrete, legal, and legitimate. We have real reasons to want it, and a majority of the country wants it too. CNE we’re asking nothing more or less than for you to do your one and only job, and play by the Law.

So what does the 1S itself mean?

According to each and every one of the student leaders and politicians I asked, a massive, peaceful expression of the people’s longing for change. A clear show of the majority rejection to Maduro’s government, and a public demand to the CNE to do its job. Nothing more, nothing less.

And what could happen?

I’m sorry, but no one really knows.

What we want is this: for the protest to carry on peacefully, and for a huge amount of people to show up. For the government, the CNE, and indeed the world to see the what the People want. And then, for everyone to peacefully go home without any arrests, injuries or, God forbid, deaths.

It’s been so long since we’ve felt anything but bone tired.

I understand if you don’t want to protest. Even more so if you’re scared. And —as I said in last week’s email— I judge no one who’s tired, who disagrees with me or who mocks me. But we think differently.

It’s been so long since we’ve felt anything but bone tired. So many people in Venezuela have gotten tired, or had to choose between pursuing their ideals and surviving, or have continued to hit wall after wall, that sometimes it seemed as though hope was gone. And now, suddenly, we see a glimpse of light.

It doesn’t come from a single political party or, God save us, a Messiah. It comes from having an actual goal. It comes from those everyday conversations, where it seems that maybe people are starting to understand that this is wrong, that there’s another way.

It comes from the realization that when we’re most tired is when we’re closest to our goal. From knowing that once you’ve fought so hard for so long, you owe it to yourself to see it through. It comes from the simple joy of listening to Nacho’s new song and remembering that there was a reason to dream all along.

So yeah. I won’t say that I’ve fought harder than anyone or lost more than anyone. That would be an unnecessary lie. I’ll just state the facts. Which are, if not equal, then similar to those of a large part of my generation.

I’ve lost my childhood and adolescence to this. I’ve lost untold classroom hours. I’ve had my relationships inexplicably intertwined with Chávez and Maduro. I’ve lost a whole lot of my friends to migration. And I even lost my father to crime. I’m sad, pissed off, tired, and —perhaps most of all— fucking awestruck at each and every thing that goes on.

But I haven’t lost hope.

So I, a faceless, nameless member of 2007’s, 2014’s, and 2016’s Venezuelan Student Movement, will see you today. I’ll scream and shout and remain peaceful and democratic. I’ll remember my dreams and my hopes and I’ll think about my future and give thanks for my past. But mostly, I’ll press on. I’ll keep hope and I’ll keep going. I have to. But I want to, too.

Hope to see you there.

Carlos M. Egaña

Carlos is a Law and Liberal Arts student at Universidad Metropolitana, and a teacher of Philosophy, Entrepreneurship, and Public Speaking at Instituto Cumbres de Caracas. MetroMUNer (@MetroMUN) and VOXista (@voxistas). But really, he's just an overcompensating, failed singer-songwriter.