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Coming to Terms with the Blackout

For about a year when I was a preteen, we had a water crisis in Venezuela. Although some days we had no water at all, things mostly settled into a predictable rhythm. We’d get water for an hour three times a day—morning, midday, and evening. My family became a well-oiled machine. The water would announce its arrival when the empty toilets’ tanks clanked away as they began to fill up. We’d drop whatever we were doing and take our places. Mine was at the kitchen sink washing dishes. My mom often had laundry to do or bathrooms to clean. We filled large containers with water to be able to wash our hands and so on when the water was gone. Strangely, these memories have a slightly romantic tinge for me. It’s hard to detach the water situation from the familial love and effort that went into resolving it, which is where the warmth comes in when I think about them.

A similar amount of love and effort went into responding to this month’s five-day nationwide blackout in Venezuela, which also resulted in water shortages. The blackout’s origins are unknown. The opposition blames it on a neglected and failing infrastructure and the government blames it on American sabotage. Unlike the water rationings of my past, however, there was no way to make this disaster bearable. As the New York Times reports, dozens died in hospitals and hundreds of stores were looted in the city of Maracaibo alone as people, whose food was rotting in refrigerators that had no power, tried to feed themselves. According to The Washington Post, this may not be an isolated incident. They report that Venezuela’s economy has shrunk by close to 50% since 2014—the fastest ever recorded deterioration of a Latin American economy—making it harder for the country’s wounded infrastructure to be maintained. My family in Venezuela took care of each other and survived the blackout. Others did not make it. If the Venezuelan situation had an easy solution, we would have found it years ago. I am not sure how Venezuela will get out of this crisis, but we have to find solutions soon because familial bonds and love are no longer enough to help the country survive.

Please Help The Weeping Season’s Venezuelan Crew Director Battle Cancer

As some of you know, because of my expired Venezuelan passport, I am able to enter Venezuela but not able to leave. The government will allow you to come in with an expired passport but will not allow you to leave the country with it. Due to a shortage in the material used to make passports, there is a major passport shortage, which makes it very risky for me to go home to try to renew mine, as I may not be able to leave again. Faced with the task of trying to film scenes in a country I cannot enter, I collaborated with the fantastic Venezuelan production company La Pandilla to film key footage for The Weeping Season last year. One of the trickiest roles went to Rober Calzadilla, who directed the scenes for me after we spoke on the phone and over Skype. Rober delivered incredibly beautiful and thoughtful scenes. He took this very delicate task and made magic with it. He is currently being treated for lung cancer, and since Venezuela’s medical infrastructure is collapsing, he needs all the help he can get to cover the cost of his treatment. Please help this brilliant, kind, and witty artist battle cancer by donating to his campaign.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

I was not raised with any particular religious affiliation, but growing up in a Catholic country, some customs enter your being and nestle themselves there alongside the face of your childhood doll and the taste of your favorite candy. I went to enough Venezuelan churches to become fond of the echoic sounds that their high ceilings create and the colored reflections the stained-glass windows leave on the pews and on the visitors that walk under them. Any time I go to a church, I find the Virgin—who for me has always been a symbol of maternal love—pay my bolivars or my euros, say a prayer, and light a candle at her feet. I become transfixed by the smell of the wax and the flames representing prayers of people I’ve never met but whose silent wishes are now bound to mine through this centuries-old ritual. In 2007, my mom and I lit candles together at the Cathedral in Le Mans when she came to visit my husband Nate and I in France. Her brother, my uncle José, was dying of cancer and together we used a blend of love, wax, and fire to send him a mystical intercontinental embrace. I never got to say goodbye to him in person, but I know he felt this faraway flame in his honor. Next time Mom and I are together again, we’ll do the same for our homeland and all the wishes burning back home.

My Essay on Feminist Editing is Published in Computers and Composition Online

One of the most marvelous things about being a professor is getting to work with teams of students on projects. “Curating a Technofeminist Space: Feminist Practices in Editing Online Publications” is a piece that blends text and video essays to discuss my collaboration with Hannah Countryman and Jessica Kukla, two undergraduate students who worked with me for years, to develop editorial strategies for our publication agnès films: supporting women and feminist filmmakers.

Presenting The Weeping Season at CCCC

I showed scenes from The Weeping Season to a full house at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in Pittsburgh earlier this month. I was honored to present with immensely talented video essayists and film theorists Crystal VanKooten, Sarah Arroyo, Bahareh Alaei, and Amy Loy.

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