While reading Valentina’s letter, I felt a true invitation for us to look within ourselves. Valentina is our mirror.
By Cristel Montenegro (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – I woke up, drank some coffee and was getting ready to write my thesis. Boa Vista’s heat makes you want to die. I remembered those times when I truly felt like dying. I was 20 years old in Managua, and my friends were committing suicide one by one. No one in our group was brave enough to talk about it. And no, I no longer wish to die.
While having lunch, I received news through social media about a girl, an activist, who had died. She committed suicide. And she left a letter. I felt a pain in my throat with each word that I read, because in her words, I heard myself at 20 years old.
It brought back to life some of my fears. And all I could do was repeat in a whisper, “Thank you for your bravery. I honor your life. Today you have a place in our history.”
It pained me to read Valentina Gutiérrez’s letter, but the pain was bitter when I saw that many people were blaming the (Ortega-Murillo) regime for her decision. To be clear, I am a firm opponent of the regime, but I also have a genuine desire for our current reality to not be repeated in the future.
And here I need to pause for a moment, because while reading Valentina’s letter, I felt a true invitation to look within ourselves. Valentina is our mirror, and she shows us in the clearest and cleanest way possible the pain we carry with us as a post-war generation – pain that has been accentuated since April 2018, but that accompanies us from before.
It’s not by coincidence that we are the generation with the highest rates of suicide, of drug use and abuse, of alcoholism and depression. It’s as though we are trying to live a disconnected life, avoiding putting a name to what we feel. We are a generation that became disconnected from its own life plan; the same life plan that dreams of a different Nicaragua. I ask myself what the new Nicaragua will be like. How can we construct a national plan if we don’t even have a life plan?
The romanticism, the morbidity and simplicity with which suicide in my country is approached pains me. Valentina’s case is known to the public, but many others have shared the same fate. It also pains me that it is easier to blame the State, instead of tackling, in a systemic way, the collective pain within us. At this point, I reiterate the need for psycho-social exercises/counseling for whomever has a desire to become involved in politics.
I remember that when I was working on my depression and my traumas, I realized I wasn’t the only person of my generation who had death ideation (although death isn’t inherently bad – everyone will go through it someday). Every day since then, I have come to know more youths who don’t find any meaning to life, and thus, have no life plan of their own, and/or life force for building their pathway through life.
I began to ask myself: “Why is this happening? That’s when I began to be curious about social trauma and trans-generational transmission of trauma; and especially, about the loss of any meaning to life that can end up occurring within an entire generation.
I quickly understood that one can’t separate a traumatic event from its context. Therefore, when a person decides to end her or his life, it’s best to incorporate and analyze all the variables of the context in which the event occurred (individual, family, social, economic and political histories), and not just the victim’s motives.
The following are a few elements I consider important in discussing suicide in a systemic manner:
- Everyone has an emotional biography, with cyclical grief; traumatic events that have occurred since pregnancy and early infancy, which, when not addressed in an adequate manner (which happens most of the time), are periodically and unconsciously repeated for the purpose of reliving the pain of the original trauma. This ends up becoming an emotional homeostasis mechanism of cell memory. It’s akin to an alarm within our bodies to remind us that something remains to be healed.
- We are the sum of the history of our ancestors: we incorporate their tastes, their dreams, their illnesses, their way of life, but above all, we incorporate their secrets.
- As though we were funeral crypts, as though history were a ghost, we repeat their behavior patterns. This is called the principal of pertinence. Our subconscious does everything it can to pertain to a family system, remaining loyal to that history. The more we avoid untold secrets within families, the more likely we are to repeat them in subsequent generations. The list (of secrets) is long, some examples being: abortions; murders, alcoholism; suicides; drug abuse; migrations, infidelities, illnesses, familial rejection, poverty, sexual abuse, rape, disappearances and war.
- Survivor’s Syndrome appears as a consequence of post-traumatic stress disorder when it involves the death of loved ones; when someone has witnessed the death of others; or when one has been involved in a situation in which others have died, although not necessarily being a witness to those deaths. It’s as though the soul has unconsciously gone off with those who have died. And in order to survive, it’s difficult to find meaning to life.
The above doesn’t imply interpreting Valentina’s motives in any way we choose, nor questioning her decision. That would be disrespectful and arrogant on our part.
Personally, I believe in Nicaragua’s youth and I hope that we assume with responsibility the lesson contained within this experience, especially those of us who desire to construct a different country, because the path before us is a long one.
I hope, Valentina, that because of our respect for you and your dreams, we one day take this country seriously and that we stop repeating the grave errors of the past.
*Valentina Gutiérrez supported the civic struggle in Nicaragua and prior to making that fatal decision, she left a written entry in her social network. In her final publication in stereo-romance.com she wrote: “Dying is nothing new, but neither is continuing to live.”
Gutiérrez joins a woeful list of suicides, which includes others from within the communities of released (political) prisoners, those in exile and youths living in hiding – all of them suffering from persecution by the Ortega regime