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Dreaming in Venezuelan

When you haven’t lived in a country for 26 years, it’s hard to make sense of its convoluted politics, even if that country is your homeland. I left Venezuela in 1993 when I was 16 years old with the rudimentary understanding of the larger forces of history and politics that a studious teenager can develop. Six years after I left, Hugo Chávez was elected president and unleashed a populist revolution that resulted in mass starvation and astronomical inflation two decades later. Having relatives who support Nicolás Maduro, the successor Chávez anointed before his death, and relatives who are staunch members of the opposition, I hear how differently both sides view the same tragic situation. Although I firmly stand with the opposition, I try not to dismiss the opinions of the Chavistas I love, since unlike me, they are still in Venezuela and live through the events I can only read about and imagine.

And there is certainly a lot to read about right now. On January 23, Juan Guaidó, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself president due to the fraudulent nature of the May 2018 elections that resulted in Maduro’s reelection. Many countries—including the US, France, Britain, Germany, and Spain—have recognized Guaidó as president, while others like Russia, China, Cuba, and Iran have voiced support for Maduro. Having the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela’s fate is something that elicits more than mere humanitarian interest in world leaders. The situation has now come to a head because the US sent trucks filled with 50 metric tons of food and medicine aid to the Colombian/Venezuelan border, but Maduro will not allow them into the country. As NPR reports, the Red Cross and UN Agencies refuse to join these humanitarian efforts because the US has admitted that they are tied to a desire to topple Maduro, inviting the armed forces to defect in order to receive the shipment against his will. As a Venezuelan who, like the three million Venezuelans who have fled Chávez and Maduro’s regime, can only see what is happening from the outside, I desperately hope for the aid to be allowed in, but without bloodshed. I realize that I may be dreaming impossibilities, but I can’t wish for anything else. Some human messes are so elaborate that perhaps only childish optimism can stand up to them. And so it is with my Venezuelan childhood heart that I envision a non-violent end to this regime and to the devastation it has caused.

We Have a Rough Draft of The Weeping Season’s First Act

Editor Cristina Carrasco and I have spent weeks working non-stop on what we’re calling the first act of the documentary, a section covering the first third of the narrative as we see it right now. From the responses we’ve received from the extremely generous audience members who’ve watched our draft and provided feedback, we seem to be finding the tone, heart, and rhythm of the film. If you’re interested in providing feedback on future drafts, reply to this email letting me know, and we’ll add you to our list of those we contact when we need to figure out what is and isn’t working in a particular draft.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

At some point, most Venezuelan girls get all dolled up for a school function in which they dance the joropo, a traditional Venezuelan type of music that, like the country itself, comes from a blend of Indigenous, African, and European cultures. The outfit includes a flower skirt, a ruffled white shirt, sandals we call alpargatas, and fresh-cut flowers tucked behind your ears that rarely stay where they’re supposed to. You move your feet to the rhythm of the music and circle your arms, seductively lifting your skirt and revealing your legs. While my feminist self wants to question a tradition that is basically preparing little girls, regardless of their sexual orientation, to become wives and mothers, I don’t feel anything but joy when I look at this photo. As a kindergartener, I couldn’t contain the excitement of joining every other girl in my class on stage to move in the fragmented unison of dancing five-year-olds as we performed a ritual that Venezuelan women had performed for generations before us. Today little Venezuelan girls wear these outfits at political protests around the world. When I see them, my eyes water for what they and I have lost as this symbol of impending womanhood becomes a child’s cry for help in solving problems that none of us adults know how to fix. Still they dance and I dance for the day when we do figure it out and we can go home again.

My Video Essay on Home Videos and Motherhood

One of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on just got published in the peer-reviewed journal Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. In “Motherhood on the Screen: An Exploration of Wounds Opened and Closed Through Home Video,” I look at how digitizing dozens of video tapes recorded during my teenage years helped me better understand my relationship with my family when we moved from Venezuela to the US. It’s very accessible whether or not you’re an academic!

My Interview About Latina Filmmakers

In “MSU Professor, student resist sexualization of Latinas in media,” I was fortunate to be interviewed for the State News about harmful stereotypes of Latinas in US film and TV and why having more Latina filmmakers can help improve the situation.

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