For the hermit I have become the last couple of years, a typical caraqueño might seem too invasive. This is a city where neighbors are constantly up in your business, asking all kinds of questions about your family. Go to a high school reunion and the main subject is always who got divorced or how much their aunts want to know everything they do.
People say “el mundo es un pañuelo,” but really they mean “Caracas es un pañuelo.” When you’re applying for a job, the interviewer knows a friend of yours or, at least, he studied at your same high school and quickly the conversation gets personal. Or you run into your students on a date (and, of course, that would be the first comment at your next class). The phone rings, you have to pick it up: family and friends might think you’ve been kidnapped if you dare not to answer.
Sometimes I would certainly like being alone.
But the truth is I love this part of our culture. Because all those people always willing to comment on your personal life are only too willing to offer a helping hand. I felt it when my father died and everyone was there to support us.
And in these hard times, solidarity among neighbors, family and coworkers helping with food or medicines is keeping people alive.
Last week I saw a woman giving away her food at the Metro to a mother begging for her children. I keep hearing stories like that from friends. I have been helped at the street after a car accident by an old friend I haven’t seen for years and was passing by. One time, waiting for a bus, my sister’s friend spotted me. Of course, she picked me up and gave me a ride to work.
These tiny acts of solidarity can fade into the background, into the fabric of everyday life. But as we struggle through this crisis, we can’t ever forget what it means to be able to count on so many people right here, at home.
And that’s why, really, it feels like home.