“A pararse, a tenerse, a trabajar pa’ mantenerse” was my Dad’s favorite way of waking me and my brothers up. Everyday at 5:30 am sharp we would hear his footsteps as he approached our rooms, chanting this marvelous popular saying.
It was the morning ritual of my entire childhood: my father would wake us up, my mother would get us ready and then he would drop us off at school, about an hour later. He’d do this so he was never late for work.
My father is never late, that’s the kind of man he is.
I’ve always been proud of where I come from and of the things we have achieved as a family. My dad taught me from a very young age that if I wanted something I’d have to work for it. It was the way we were raised, and my dad knew no other way. One time, I got great grades at school and as a reward he’d promised me a guitar. The poor guy spent a whole day walking down the streets of Cúcuta and San Antonio del Táchira looking for the one I wanted. Everything he has, he owes to hard work.
Born in a small town in Táchira (when I say small, I mean really small) my father was the son of a school teacher and a mail man. He had the kind of childhood you can only get if you grow up in the countryside. We heard countless stories about him and his 7 brothers and sisters fighting around the dinner table over their favorite piece of chicken. After high school, he did some work in carpentry and other blue collar trades, but then he decided that the only way to keep moving up in the world was to get an education. He got into the university I also call my alma mater: the Universidad de los Andes, in Mérida.
Money was tight. He spent most of his college years living in a tiny room in an attic, sharing a bathroom with an elderly man and the rest of the space with the chickens and hens his landlord kept. He didn’t have access to a refrigerator or many things I’ve never gone without. I can’t even imagine what he went through to get an education, but he always kept his chin up.
“I moved away to study, that was my only goal.”
And so he did. He didn’t get a degree. He got two.
He was the first in his family to graduate from college. That’s a Venezuelan success story. A story I’ve come to appreciate more as things get tougher in this country; it’s a story we hear less and less often.
My father is a man of principles. He taught my brothers and I the value of money and the importance of being responsible. He also made sure we knew we had it in us to achieve anything we set our minds to if we just studied, worked hard and sacrificed. He raised an Engineer, a Doctor and a Physicist to be. We all call Universidad de Los Andes our home.
I admire my dad deeply, he’s done a wonderful job at being my father. He’s the entire reason I was able to become a doctor and he’s taught me everything I know. His values are what I cling onto when living in this country gets the best of me. Whenever I feel like the crisis has me against the ropes, I can always count on him to say “Pa’lante es para allá.” And I just keep on keepin’ on. Always forward.