Children grow up in a world of their parents' making. Life can be callous, and so they try to keep us safe. My parents did too, but that was before 2017 and before Chávez took power. It was before the looting, the crime, and the killings. It was before my own kidnapping.
Venezuela did not burst into flames. It was strangled slowly by poverty, poor leadership, and international neglect. I was born at the epicentre of this chaos. The first 16 years of my life were a blur. The world became vivid in law school as I studied and witnessed institutional collapse. It didn't take long for the fire of youth and naivety to engulf me. Soon after, I was on campus, in class, and in congress, demanding change. When you are young, you think you can change the world; that was the first fallacy that fell apart.
A protest on August 22, 2017, led to the beginning of my journey through hell. During an evening protest, the armed guard arrived from all corners, halting the students to a stop. The voices of freedom went silent. There were gunshots and moving trucks. I remember a hand pulling me to safety, or at least trying. Then it all went black. I was in a military tank with a plastic bag over my head and a cloth in my mouth. The next few days of my imprisonment were purgatory in the making.
The threats and intimidation continued after my release. Every night, my parents would receive calls from intelligence agencies demanding my silence. The fiction my parents had stitched was beginning to tear, so they got me onto a plane to America, hoping I could weave a destiny of my own.
Reality truly set in when I arrived in the United States. My parents didn't know where to go, and neither did I. Life becomes formidable when the engineers of your world lose hope. I think that feeling of loss became my first source of inspiration. It forced me to work for $4 an hour. It compelled me to share an apartment with 15 others. It led me to walk to the Canadian border hoping for refugee status.
When we are young, our parents weave tales for us. They fabricate stories that keep misery at a distance. I think reality finds a way, though, and when it does, you are forced to reconsider and reimagine your life. It's not perfect, but I thread new stories every day. I attend university and study law. I have friends and family here. We spend time together and go to dinners.
I don't think I can ever recover my lost life. That security and safety are gone, but I am trying to imagine a new one. Perhaps, that’s all one can do.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity
This story is a collaborative effort between Vipasna Nangal and Gabriela Marquez