Beggars Outside Venezuelan Supermarkets Dare to be Choosers

Photo: Unision

I was at the supermarket the other day, buying ingredients for some dope pancakes when, at the exit, I met this guy. He was on his mid-thirties, had a tired, greasy face, a blue t-shirt and cargo pants.

“Hey, chamo” he said. “Can you do me a huge favor?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

He held a big backpack with both hands.

“See, I’m not gonna ask you for money, it’s just that… you know how things are. I have the kids back home, and nothing to feed them. I live in Villa Bahía, where do you live?”

He didn’t look like a street beggar to me but, in case you don’t know, Villa Bahía is a poor neighborhood of Ciudad Guayana.

“I live close, over there.”

I pointed in the opposite direction from where I live. You never know.

“I’m not going to show you a folder with a bunch of pictures” he said, referring to the evidence some beggars show of an alleged sick family member. “I prefer going person to person, and explain my situation sincerely. The truth is that we’re doing really bad at home, and I was wondering if you could give me something I could bring to my children.”

“Yeah, sure! You can have the cereal!”

You know how things are. I have the kids back home, and nothing to feed them.

I didn’t have a lot in my bag, just a kilo of sugar, the cereal, and the precious Brazilian flour. See, the reason I went to the supermarket was to buy ingredients for some dope pancakes. The Brazilian flour had been missing for months, and we’ve had some bad experiences with a cheaper, unbranded flour that’s sold on plastic bags on the street. With this, panquecas were going to taste like they should!

I thought he would be thrilled with the cereal (it was a full bag, and a good one, the Zucaritas knock off!). But he frowned.

“That doesn’t work for me, you know? I need something I can turn into dinner, something like… panquecas.

I looked at the flour.

He looked at the flour.

“But,” I mumbled, “I want panquecas too.”

The guy’s got some nerve, that’s the most important ingredient for the dope pancakes. Is he lying, or are there actual children that will starve if I don’t give up my precious flour? I won’t take the chance, I’m too familiar with hunger. Also, I’m really bad at saying no.

“All right” I sigh. “But for the record, you are leaving me without pancakes.”

“Thank you so much! Are you a Christian? Because you act like one. Do you believe in miracles?”

“That’s a very complicated question.”

I wasn’t too chatty, I was still thinking about the pancakes I wouldn’t eat.

Is he lying, or are there actual children that will starve if I don’t give up my precious flour? I won’t take the chance, I’m too familiar with hunger.

I’m not a huge believer of things. I don’t think his family deserves what’s happening to them (if he was telling the truth), their suffering has no purpose. I mean, it’s not like we’re in some trials and we’ll get rewarded after enduring; our country is collapsing because communism scammed its way in, and we’re in the middle of its full-blown metastasis. But it’s a manmade collective mistake.

That’s what I wanted to tell him, but I gave him a hug instead, I still don’t know why. I can’t imagine what it must be like, to be out of options, truly out of options. He’s a normal dude, he has no disabilities, he’s not a junkie and he’s seemingly educated, but he’s standing at the exit of a supermarket, asking for food to the people coming out. He can’t even ask for money because there’s a cash crisis.

I think he meant a miracle just happened, implying that miracles happen all the time in front of us. But I ain’t no miracle maker. I’m just the dude who sucks at saying no. The dude that’s stuck with arepas.

I guess beggars can be choosers.

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