Reflections Of An Exile: How A New Perspective Paved Way For Hope

I’ve often found myself thinking about what my current situation would be like had my parents not made the brave decision to leave my native Venezuela when I was only 11 years old.

Would my best friends still have been those I knew since I was four years old? Where would I have gone to school? How would my family have reacted to the emerging political, social, and economic issues that have ravaged my country over the past 16 years? What type of person would I have been?

I know one thing almost for certain: I would not be here, in this nurturing environment in one of the great cities of the world, with nothing but optimism about the future.

I spent many days watching those who are dear to me struggle through their day-to-day existence, where even the simple action of buying food involves long lines and quantity restrictions that remind of Orwell’s 1984. This, coupled with the growing violent crime problem, always lingers in their minds and makes for a less-than-ideal existence.

A some point, I came to realize that what I missed from my childhood no longer existed, and that generated inside of me what can at best be described as disappointment and, at worst, a burning resentment and hatred for anything that the Venezuelan government was involved in.

Coming to Boston last year as a first-year student was more of a shock than I had initially thought, especially coming from Miami, also known as north Latin America.

Watching from afar, I saw how the economy collapsed, institutions failed, crime rose to unprecedented levels, government agencies turned a blind eye—how a family friend was murdered in broad daylight over a petty disagreement.

But I digress—back to optimism. Two and a half years ago, things began to change, as if someone who had forgotten to turn on the light finally remembered there was a switch nearby.

After years of feeling hopeless and too far removed to effect change, I saw how many in my position took to the streets of whatever adoptive city or country they took residence in, Boston included, and expressed their support for reconciliation and a new beginning for all.

Last year, during an event hosted here at Boston College by the Latin American Business Club, a prominent business and a political leader for the opposition talked about the changing mentality in the nation, spurred by support from those living abroad like us. It was a message not of conflict, but of reconciliation.

This past weekend, in a critical turn of events for the country’s history, Venezuela held congressional elections.

For the first time, the world tuned in. Secretary of State John Kerry, BC Law ‘76, expressed “a desire for change,” and Hillary Clinton, speaking at Faneuil Hall on Nov. 28, echoed the sentiment.

As a student, I previously felt helpless, but after many days spent in deep thought—that may or may not have included a cup or six of J.P. Licks ice cream—I realized that what I was doing was worthwhile.

Every walk I take down Linden Lane, every time I breathe in the cold February air, hell, every time I take an hour-long T ride into the city that should take half that time (that’s a story for another day): these are experiences unlike anything I could ever get anywhere else in the world.

Democracy made a huge leap forward this weekend, and seeing the outpouring of emotions from all over, the worst of the storm finally may have passed.

Seeing the celebrations, where previously divided families finally came together after years of tension, where those living in foreign countries may feel safe going back, even just to visit—this is just the beginning.

I may never live in Venezuela again, but at least I’ve gained an entirely new set of experiences, memories, and perspectives that have awakened inside of me the very same optimism that I have for my future and for the future of my country.

And I know from personal experience, that a visit to my loving family can brighten an otherwise gloomy day better than anything else ever could.

Featured Image by Huifeng Qian / Heights Staff


About Juan Olavarria 70 Articles
Juan Olavarria is the Metro Editor for The Heights. He is double majoring in Economics and Philosophy. He enjoys watching Liverpool FC and has to frequently remind himself to stop trying to defend the merits of a midfield diamond. You can follow him on Twitter at @Juan_Heights.