It’s Sunday, but not any kind of Sunday, which is why our Sunday Best series has a different name today, and the links that usually cover this blog on this day are moving aside to tell you about the special and emotional day I had today. I wasn’t the only one, millions of Venezuelans like me gathered today at centers and cities across the globe for our presidential elections. If you’ve seen the news at all during the last 13 years or so, chances are you know where our country is and what we’ve been going through. I’m not getting into any political details in this post, I just want to tell you about something that happened to me today as I was walking towards my designated table to vote.
If you’re new to the blog, you might not know that even though I write in English, teach English, and lived in New York and now live in Madrid, I am Venezuelan. Even though I am the only person in my family to have actually been born there, I lived in Venezuela almost my entire life. No matter how many other cities I’ve lived in or where my family’s heritage is from, when asked where I’m from, the answer is always Venezuela. It’s where I grew up, where I lived the happiest memories next to my mom and grandpa, fell in love, became an artist and met my best friends. It’s where I rented my first apartment on my own and where I married the love of my life. It’s where I walked my dogs for years and years and where my hubby and I got our first little house together and painted the walls while listening to music. It’s where some of my happiest moments happened, and the saddest too. I was the last member of my family to leave my country, and I left because I was scared. It was becoming very unsafe, and I wanted to feel like my life would always be mine, and that the people I loved would be alright. So hubby, doggie and I packed our little bags said goodbye to everything we knew and loved and came to Spain. Today, three years later, it was the first time we had presidential elections since we left, and I woke up early with excitement because even though I’m so far away, I was going to be able to vote just as I did in my country so many times before.
When we were lining up to vote, a Spanish man started severely insulting the women that were working at the center, simply because the street was closed off because of the hundreds of voters that were there, and he wasn’t allowed to cross the street where he wanted to. This happened inches away from me and it shook me to the core when the man said “who do you think you are? I am Spanish, who the hell are you?”. I wanted to calmly explain how today was so important, how so many things are riding on today and how we’ve all been waiting and waiting for this day to arrive. How everyone there was so lovely and happy and friendly and smiling. I looked around and all these hopeful faces were staring at this man and suddenly I didn’t feel in Madrid, I felt I was back home, in one of so many lines I’ve been in throughout my life to be able to vote. The one hour ones, the four hour ones, and recently, the eight, nine and ten hour ones. The police finally took the man away and we went inside. Nothing prepared me for what was about to happen to me when I approached my voting table.
I reached my table, was greeted with the biggest smiles on the planet and while they were explaining what the process was like, I started to cry. It was completely impossible to avoid, and although I managed to hide it pretty well due to serious embarrassment, my eyes were bursting and my heart was pounding. When I got home I felt severely homesick. More homesick than I have ever felt since I’ve been here. I was a part of something so big today, but I wasn’t actually there. Maybe this is why my eyes filled with tears, I’ve never voted outside of my country before and I felt that I was a part of it once again in spite of the distance.
I thought of my mom first of all. Who had a disability and therefore always needed me to help her vote. I remember going into the dark curtain with her and how she would explain how it was done and how important it was to always vote. To have a voice, to always, always show up for your country. I thought of her and thought she might be proud that I’ve never forgotten what she taught me. I thought of the friends that always went to vote with me, and of my adoptive family (my hubby’s family), and what it would have been like to meet up with them afterwards and talk about the amazing things we were feeling. I thought about my childhood memories and the huge difference between the country I grew up in and the country it is now. I thought that maybe we could get that old one back, or even better, a greater one. So today for Sunday Best, while I’m biting my nails waiting for the results, I wanted to leave you with some photos of what my country means to me, of some of the bright colors, the movement, and the fun. Of why this day is so important, and why I’m feeling so happy and so sad, so excited and so nostalgic. This is the place where I am from…