To me, Caracas has always been a monster. I avoid it as much as I can, but this time there was no way around it: My mother called and news were bad. A distant cousin had died and I was to attend the memorial in the capital, on behalf of my family.

I was in for a punch in the gut.

The Cementerio del Este funeral home is a calm space with a large panoramic view of the city. Its long hall has three glass chapels on each side, silver benches all along and two convenient vending machines. At first, it seemed like a good place to say goodbye. It wasn’t until I noticed the sign on my late cousin’s wake that I knew something was off:

A.R. TORRE

(08/08/17) Departure time: 3:45 p.m.

Aren’t departures for airports?

“This funeral home charges by the hour. ‘Departure time’ is the time they’ll remove the casket from the chapel and have the burial. This space will be available for another wake in 20 minutes.”

Funerals by the hour?

Turns out, demand for services here (allegedly “the safest location in Caracas”) is so high, they have waiting lists and some families may wait a whole week for a proper funeral. My folks were lucky, they only waited for three days.

I realized coffins were coming and going, because most people can only afford an hour or two. The funeral home’s resident priest, on automatic pilot, visited each chapel, phoned in a  really, really short ceremony and that was that. I guess even holy water is in short supply.

How much is it? Four hours of funeral services can cost up to 7 million bolívares (minimum wage is Bs. 97,531). If you need prayer or a song, it’s extra. Some people just get buried, as their families can’t afford the funeral. If you chose cremation, you still must rent a casket for a thirty-minute ceremony.

We started to leave, but there’s more: Our cars had to be searched.

This shit is sickening. I’m used to funerals that last a couple of days, but as funeral parlors have fallen prey to crime, normal wakes have become a luxury. You’d be grieving and confused and your car would get jacked or your family mugged.

Indignities, however, weren’t over. I was snapped out of my introspection by a familiar ringtone. “No way” I said to myself.

Way. My cousin’s sister was calling via Skype to “be at the ceremony”  on such short notice, it was impossible for her to pay for the trip and escape the obligations of the life she fled Venezuela to have. I can’t quite describe our feelings. We buried or cousin with a Skype call going on. We said farewell, placed flowers and prayed. We started to leave, but there’s more: Our cars had to be searched.

“People steal tombstones and lettering, so we must search you guys.”

It’s like La Patria is never satisfied. Nevermind the loss, the pain, the struggle to remain alive with a collapsed medical system, the regime demands more. It feeds off of your misery. It’s not enough to lose democracy, it’s not enough to break hundreds of families apart. It’s not enough that if you get a chronic disease, like my cousin’s cancer, you might as well be gone already. The beast still needs you to pay a toll when you’re at your worst.

When enough is enough? Will they burn everything to the ground and rule over the ashes of what we were?

_______________

[América fought a brave, courageous battle against breast cancer, struggling, as every cancer patient in Venezuela, to get the medications she needed. She was lionhearted, and she will always be loved. May she rest in peace.]

21 COMMENTS

  1. I’m deeply sorry about your relative, she was murdered as many others by the enchufado parasites.

    And to answer the question on the closing paragraph of your article, chavismo’s hatred for Venezuela and its people is something that might have come out from fiction, there’s even a character that says something very much like what chavistas want to do with Venezuela:

    “I will not be stopped, not by you, or the Confederates or the protoss or anyone! I WILL RULE THIS SECTOR OR I SEE IT BURNT TO ASHES AROUND ME!”

    • Arturus Mengsk is a good example of how this P.O.S in PSUV behave, in fact watching a press conference with Cabello usually go in a very similar style

  2. And if your loved one happens to be a beautiful young lady, don’t be shocked if funeral home reps take nude photos of her and pass them around on the internet.

    • Also, if the relative was buried in Cementerio del Este, there is a high probability that the grave will be broken into to steal any valuables that may have been in tombed with him. Very sorry to say under the circumstances,
      unfortunately it is the current reality.

  3. Oh Jesus. So sorry for your loss, Astrid — and your reminder.
    It rings a bell, with the exception of having my elderly aunt buried in the family plot in el Cementerio del Sur. Haven’t been back since 2001, when the chaos was just ramping up and I cleaned about ancestral plots. With entropy in full throttle, ever since, I can’t imagine the state those plots are in now.

    • probably is gone all your family plot… 2006-2007 My Mother and Uncle decided to get my grandma, grandpa,uncle, and greatgrandma (vertical tomb my grandma was the last one in 1992), out of the family plot, because of the theft and so on., around They only found my grandma, ,and unlce they were almost intact, my grandpa was bones all broken not even the casket, and my great grandma gone! They put what they found in a plot in the Cementerio del este.

  4. So sorry Astrid. This is a very sad account of what happens in your beautiful country. Nobody deserves to live under such an awful regime.

        • Back in the early 2000’s elections over 10 million Venezuelans voted for chavismo, it’s like with Nazi Germany, every family has at least someone that is or used to be a chavista. I have several in-laws that still are supporting it. Hate them with a passion and it devides the family in two opposing camps. Sad but true.

          • “over 10 million Venezuelans voted for chavismo”

            chavismo’s top vote was barely 8 million in the 2012’s electrion (Whi we know it’s a fraud, since all their smartmatic-controlled elections have been fraudulent too), in 1999 and 2000 chavismo’s votes barely went over 3-4 million.

            In fact, another factor deciding chavismo’s victory in 1998 was a high abstention percentage.

  5. Normally one would say “te acompaño en el sentimiento”, “i’m with you, feeling it” being a bad translation. And I do to you.

    But as you so elocuently said, the problem is that the other feeling is with you, always, contaminating everything, never leaving you a moment to rest, to give the other feelings their proper dues. The neverending despair at the indignities that keep piling, that keep falling like dominoes, each coming because of the other, each “rational” but in total, maddening, because what can rational answers to madness be if not maddening.

    Your family didnt deserve any of that. I’m sorry, and angry, they manage to take away even the time for grief now.

  6. My condolences first and foremost. “When is enough enough?” That’s a question I have been asking for many years. Why are Venezuelan people swallowing all this shit? How much longer will they swallow this shit? When will they stop swallowing this shit? Its beyond me, weird bunch of people those Venezuelans.

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