HAVANA TIMES — Yesterday, I bid farewell to my best costumers: a young couple and their 9-month daughter. I did three photo shoots for them: during her pregnancy, after the baby was born, and later for the child’s baptism.
The fourth time we met was for a rather odd reason: a photo shoot for a modeling book. What’s odd about this is that none of them is a model, an actor or anything resembling that. Behind this rather humorous session was a very sad motivation: leaving the country.
To be able to travel to Mexico and take his family with him, Esteban had to fake a modeling contract. That’s why they got in touch with me again and I was told this part of the story.
When I first met Esteban and his wife Jessica, he had a small car spare-part business. The business had done well until a few years ago, when buying the spare pieces outside Venezuela became more and more difficult, as did getting one’s hand on essential dollars. Foreseeing even greater losses, Esteban sold his business and car to pay the cost of the “contract” that opened the door to a new country and to new hopes.
Who would have though Mexico could represent the hope of a better life for other Latin Americans who aren’t Cuban?
Until a few years ago, Venezuela was a country that hundreds of foreigners wanted to move to every year. The number of Venezuelans who left the country wasn’t considerable. Now, the nightmare we Cubans know too well is starting, and I won’t describe what’s left behind each new time someone is forced to emigrate.
Esteban’s is not the first family I know that leaves or has plans to leave Venezuela. What will happen when more and more small companies or businesses close down because their owners leave the country or go bankrupt?
Where will all the employees hired by these small and mid-sized companies, who are left unemployed during the profound crises Venezuela is experiencing, finally go to?
As I lose more and more customers, my mother-in-law seems to become more Chavista…or Madurista (I’ll never be able to tell). Something odd has been happening since Chavez’ death. It is more and more common to run into people who never held him high esteem and who now unconditionally support President Maduro.
I don’t know whether it’s the sense of guilt people develop after a death, or whether it’s because they realize they could lose certain benefits if Maduro left power.
As for my mother-in-law, an elderly woman who was never employed anywhere outside the home, she fears losing the pension Chavez made available to elderly housekeepers. She finds the rise in public transportation prices very fair. She has someone who stands in line to buy the basics for her and insists that, if the United States were to attack, she would go and defend her country.
There are other ways to leave Venezuela. A month ago today, Kluibert Roa, a teenager from the state of Tachira, was murdered. He was killed by a police officer while returning home from school. My mother-in-law, who always said she didn’t believe in any political party and doesn’t miss one of parliament speaker Diosdado Cabello’s shows today, said that it had been the mother’s fault, for letting him be out on the street “partying.”
She only repeats what she hears on pro-government TV programs, practically the only ones left today, where, nearly every night, the president speaks, like in those wonderful days of my adolescence and early adulthood, when Fidel Castro tried to convince us we could buy many liters of milk with a single dollar and threatened to destroy the Empire, sacrificing himself and the people in the process. That one had a beard, this one has a moustache – both create an alternative reality while the other, the one that hurts, writhes in agony behind it, like the shadow of a country that is being bled to death.