Transposing emblem by Veronica Cordido
¿Have you ever taken something for granted just to see it disappear right in front of your eyes? ¿Have you given a kiss you didn’t know was the last or kept a smile to yourself you wish you had given back? ¿Have you ever seen amor turn to hate or hate turn to amor or sworn you’ll love forever only to be forced to break two hearts at once? ¿Did you think of today, right at the start, and did it turn out exactly the way you thought it was going to?
If you are reading this, then you are certainly alive and your mind will take for granted that I exist, and yo espero que I will exist, but, by the time I reach you, by the time the letters on this paper dance in front of your eyes, neither you nor I will ever know if I am alive. You won’t know when I wrote this, and I won’t know when you will read it. We will both just take our existencia for granted, continually relying on mañana, while everything else just keeps swirling around, up and down, side to side.
Es imposible hablar about uncertainty without asking ourselves what is certain. ¿How aware are we of our uncertainty? Incertidumbre is the embryo of certainty, just as certainty is one realidad manifestada among a pool of infinite and indefinite posibilidades. There is always incertidumbre in certainty. Even if our parents knew the exact day we were conceived, they would never be able to tell the exact second when it happened; they were certain they would have us, or so they hoped, but uncertain what we would look like or who we would turn out to be. Incertidumbre is like the blanket of the future and a fold on our eyes, just as certainty is the veil de la ilusión that shapes nuestra realidad, un concepto we hold dear to our hearts like the skin that embraces us.
However, el universo is so mágico that most actions repeat themselves enough times to fool us into thinking that we are sure about how things en la vida will keep unfolding, and it is sensible to say, to a certain extent, that most of the time we can rest assured that what we plan to have happen will happen, and there is a solid steadiness en nuestra vida diaria which makes sure that our needs are met and that we are safe and sound, protected and in balance.
Most countries can offer a sense of security and imbue their citizens with confidence through una economía stable and strong, la garantía of their safety and a supply of goods and services that meets las demandas of their people, especially their necesidades básicas. This, in turn, gives them la oportunidad to lead a decent life, making sure human rights are observed, la libertad de expresión is protected, unemployment rates are low, life is affordable, and health care is available anytime it is required, without having any doubt that tomorrow things might not be there or might simply become inaccessible or unaffordable.
¿Now what happens in a country where uncertainty becomes our shadow, and daily worrying becomes nuestro amigo íntimo? That is la realidad lived in Venezuela right now, a country where breathing is certainly uncertain.
¿Can you imagine feeling it is una tragedia to get locked out of your house? You would probably laugh it off and think that is just weakness, but ¿what if I told you, for example, that your monthly earnings are $2,000 and that the lock and the keys that you need to replace, that is, if you are lucky enough to find them, in addition to the locksmith charges, are twelve, thirteen or even fifteen times higher than tu salario, and the price just keeps going up faster than the blink of an eye? ¿Does that still sound like un problema trivial to you? ¿What if, after años y años of effort to have a degree under your belt, you have to toss it all out to become a cab driver in order to have a better chance at making a living, barely enough to support una familia, and you suddenly crash your car or simply need a new spare part, without being able to find it for months and feeling incapable of budgeting and saving up for it because there is a controlled exchange rate in addition to la hiperinflación that, as in my previous example, makes the prices increase astronomically almost every day? ¿Doesn’t that feel tragic for the ones who live there? Let’s say you are walking around, talking on the phone and you drop and break it, or, more likely, someone snatches it out of your hand. Then imagine your monthly income is the same $2,000 and the most basic phone with no wifi is worth every single penny you earn in 17 months of hard work, and, what’s more, its price keeps increasing all the time. ¿Wouldn’t that be mortifying? El salario mínimo in Venezuela is $2 a month, which means that to replace el teléfono you broke or lost with just a basic one would cost you about $70; however, since that is not a “priority” in such caos económico, some people just have to do without it. ¿But how can people do without eating when their monthly salary is $2, and a carton of eggs costs $1.5? Claro, they live off meal tickets, but they are also worth nada.
Venezuela, a country once endowed in every possible way, has now become the crib of uncertainty. Once one of the richest countries in the world and host to one of the greatest oil reserves worldwide, in addition to having un sector agrícola y minero en expansión, livestock and pharmaceutical production, it is now one of the poorest countries, facing la hiperinflación in an economía errática on the verge of default and with a controlled exchange rate that forces everyone to rely on the price of the dollar set by the constantly fluctuating black market.
Just as you and I take for granted nuestra existencia, we Venezuelans used to take for granted that all necesidades básicas produced in the country would always be there when we needed them. We never worried that there would be no aspirin for a headache or an antipyretic for a child’s fever. It was inconcebible for us that getting sick or being wounded in a way that could be easily treated would now mean death for many. Hoy en día, in Venezuela, kids die of malnutrition and minor infections, since there is no dinero to feed them nor medicine for treatment. Wounded and sick people, who could easily be cured and saved, die due to the lack of resources at hospitals and clinics. Naturalmente, in this environment, eating well has become a memory of the past, even for the middle class. There’s a shortage of food, and whenever los productos can be found, they are unaffordable and therefore out of reach.
Furthermore, common things such as enjoying una taza de café with milk and sugar in the morning or having some toast and eggs for breakfast is something that has simply become a luxury for most people. Just as I’m writing this, I’m having una taza de café, black, no sugar, while I dream and wonder what Christmas flavored coffee will be launched by Starbucks este año.
As product prices exceed, by the thousands, los salarios earned by the average worker, and generally the minimum salary can only cover uno o dos productos per month. There has been a rise in la criminalidad to the point where walking around with your groceries or simply leaving them unattended inside your car makes you an easy target for robbery and assault. There are blackouts almost daily which tend to last for hours, and there are places that suffer water shortages lasting 10 or more days at a time. But perhaps one of the worst things that has happened as a result de la incertidumbre and inestabilidad lived daily by all venezolanos is the effect that la situación has had on our psyche.
Since everything is non-existent, unaffordable, dangerous and uncertain, we all live in fear: fear of being robbed, fear of getting sick, fear of becoming poorer and poorer every day and not being able to afford food; fear of having people pass us on the street, fear of the motociclista who stops right in front of us (as we think he will rob us), fear of taking our phone with us when we leave the house. Fear of being, fear of living, fear of breathing, fear of what’s going on and of what may be coming. So it is easy to see that la angustia and fear turn into agresión y malicia towards everyone around. Fear is our logo and our mantra, just like uncertainty is certainly our truth. We are at the mercy of what doesn’t meet the eye, clinging to a god that might not have even existed for us before. We fear for our kids as they share with Venezuela the crib of uncertainty.