Suffering through Inflation

Words like "inflation" and "hyperinflation" are thrown about causally. These are the faces and voices of hunger behind those words.

“When I was little, we were poor. My mom was a secretary and, on weekends, she sold coffee. She was a single mother of five kids. We never had toys. I remember I’d cut out all the models in the magazines and they were my paper dolls. But, even when things were really bad, we always had food on the table. Now I work, my daughter and her husband work, and we can barely feed the three kids in the house.”

In Venezuela, there’s no way to keep track of prices. Food and medicine can double up the price in a blink. Salaries are never enough for basic needs against a voracious inflation.

Rosa is 73 years old, but still works as a housekeeper with no prospects of retiring. Waiting at the drugstore, she needs medicines for her grandkid.

“She’s the baby of the house. She’ll be one year old in January, but she has been through a lot, born a little sick,” she says with tears in her eyes. Her daughter is a schoolteacher but spends most of the time taking care of her daughter. “It doesn’t matter how much we work, money is never enough. I’m not talking about luxuries, I mean the ‘oldest’ of the house only eats once a day, trying to save more for the children.”  

“We have the medicine” the drugstore manager says. “Three left, Bs.180,000 each.”

“I don’t have enough” Rosa says, leaving in a rush.

In some houses, like Mikaela’s, a 63 year old, the drama worsens by the minute and a good meal is a privilege.

Months ago, with Bs.100,000 you could buy enough food for a month. Now? That’s not even enough for a week. It’s a tragedy you can see in numbers.

“We don’t eat meat, just beans and vegetables. I miss a good arepa con jamón or a hot cafe con leche. I can’t buy ham or eggs. I have six children, all grown up, two live with me, and it breaks my heart that they have to go to bed with an empty stomach sometimes. We do the best we can, we have CLAP bags and some help from my oldest daughter, but if prices rise by Bs.5,000 or Bs.10,000 each week, that’s abusive. We can’t keep up.”

The future doesn’t look encouraging. With recent measures announced by Nicolás Maduro, a higher inflation (and default) is almost guaranteed. And the consequences are hitting the younger too.

For Luis, a 19-year-old student, the crisis is measured in sizes: “I’m like three sizes thinner, my mom’s around five. She tries to eat less, saying it’s more important that my brother and I eat.” He remembers that, when he was at school, his family was middle class. “You know, vacations now and then, video game consoles, new shoes at the beginning of the school year.”  

He sighs.

“Months ago, with Bs.100,000 you could buy enough food for a month. Now? That’s not even enough for a week. It’s a tragedy you can see in numbers.”

“All my money goes to medicines” says Alberto, a former PDVSA worker. “One for the heart was about Bs.10,000 at the beginning of the year, it’s now close to Bs. 200,000.”

Bitter acceptance colors his face.

“Soon I won’t be able to buy it.”