For the Venezuelan diaspora, a total blackout means no news from home

Imagine you were forced to live far from most of your family and friends. Imagine now that they live in one of the most dangerous countries on Earth. And now picture this: you can’t contact them because there’s no power in the whole country, for almost 24 hours.

Today I woke up to silence. After a quick look at my cell phone, my stomach turned: No messages. When home is Venezuela, absence never means normality. I frantically refreshed Twitter and Instagram, and all I found was my fellow diaspora freaking out.

“It’s a nationwide blackout“.

We knew this day could come, we’ve feared it for a long time now. Experts have been warning about the imminent collapse of the electric system for years now, but is this finally it?

Coming from a country where you have to notify your family and friends you arrived home safely -meaning you didn’t get mugged or killed-, checking in is mandatory. Lack of news from Venezuela is always, without exception, imposed by circumstances.

Picturing worst-case scenarios is so imprinted in our psyche that you’ll hardly meet a Venezuelan who’s not worried about something. Diaspora concerns are hardly empathized with because they are mostly about things the whole of the world takes for granted. Sure, having your family dismembered by a dictatorship is not something everyone can relate to. But today I saw it clearly, what we feel can only be compared to one of our most primal, earliest fears as human beings.

“What if something happens to my mom or dad?”

That question itself will send shivers down your spine. It’s something we could all relate to, and it’s exactly the question wondering our minds today.

What if something bad happens to my family? What if something bad is happening and I can’t do anything about it? How am I going to hear from them?

It only took about a minute on Twitter to find news of people in Venezuela dying as a direct consequence of the blackout.

Preterm newborns in their incubators, patients in the ICU in need of respiratory assistance, chemotherapy and vaccines, life-saving surgeries, perishable food, running water, communications, etc. Without power, all of the above is at risk. What could be worse for a country whose children are sick and starving than fourteen plus hours of complete darkness?

Imagine having no running water or no power for that long. Imagine sacrificing your life away for a few dollars a month, struggling every day to get your hands on food and other goods only to have them go to waste because it turns out the refrigerator got turned off by the incompetence of a dictatorship.

In this very moment, hundreds of hospitals and their patients are helpless victims of the power cut. Venezuelan babies are being born in the dark. And I dare to say, unfortunately, today is just another day when lives that could be spared will be lost because of to the Venezuelan regime. The ventilators are off, people are bagging their loved ones in ICU’s and NICU’s all over the country, trying to keep death’s hands away from them.

Hundreds of kilometers away, the diaspora is left to wonder. I find myself reliving the many blackouts I endured. I know for a fact that after seven hours of cursing in the shadows, it’s really easy going mad. “Are we in the middle of a coup?” “Will we ever have power again?” “Is this happening in the whole country?” “What the hell is going on?”

My family can’t communicate with each other. Even though they live in the same region, within a 400 km radius, they know as little of each other as me and my brother (both of us in Europe) know about them. I assume my sister is scared, all by herself in a city that’s not her own, because she probably has no idea of how my dad is coping with the anxiety of being in the dark and heat for so long. My mom is probably going crazy by now, wondering whether she is fine or not, dying to let us know she is fine.

My brother and I are sure the three of them are going through hell. And there is nothing we can do about it.

Diaspora is used to frustration: not getting what we expected was the reason we left in the first place. To our disbelief, the problems we hoped to solve by leaving, such as helping our family to live better through remittances, fell short: there’s nothing we can do against a massive blackout. On days like today, frustration turns to pain. Most of us have no idea of the whereabouts of our family and friends. The burden of worrying takes a toll, but one thing is for sure: We’ll never stop worrying, and we won’t forget who’s responsible for this.


Astrid Cantor

Head of the Church of Martha Stewart: I bake therefore I am. Táchirense: Almojabana and quesadilla lover, "toche" and "juemadre" user. Pastelitos de queso con bocadillo fanatic and overall gochadas supporter. Also doctor —as in proper MD— and pobresora universitaria too.