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When I think of Venezuela, I have this image in my mind of a far away country that I have only heard about but have never experienced myself.
My father was born in the capital Caracas and grew up in Maracaibo on the coast. All that I know about Venezuela has been told to me by my father and the few members of his family that I have met. I remember growing up and always having this unfailing curiosity about my fathers country and what it was like. He would always tell me, as if it was a distant but fond memory of the jungles filled with coconut trees, the many tiendas on the side of the road frying yucca, the loud people and how much everyone loved drinking scotch.
I have always had a deep love and appreciation for my Venezuelan roots, as they come from my father who is the person I admire most. My own childhood was filled with eating tequenos, arepas and chacapas whenever I could, all food that my father knew from his childhood. When I came of age, I even developed the same love for scotch and coconut water just like my family members. I would always dream of going to Venezuela to experience it myself. To be able to meet my family still living there, go to Angel Falls and most importantly to be able to see the sacred place where my grandfather was buried.
The close place that Venezuela was in my heart made it all the more painful to see it fall to ruin before my eyes. As I grew up, there was always talk of Hugo Chavez and his personal agenda for the country. Hushed voices and worried eyes would always be the result of reading the never ending news articles. Long phone calls between relatives became more frequent and filled with more alarming news.
Today everyone always has an opinion about how the country came to ruin. Everyone always has the same pity in their eyes for me when they learn of the other part of my heritage. Despite it all, and all that the country has gone through, my father is the exception. He could have been one of the many protesting the government. He could have been one of the many struggling to feed himself and his family. He could have been one of the many oppressed under Chavez and Maduro. He could have been one of the many killed for no reason other than to "maintain order." But he is not.
My father immigrated to the United States to go to college during the 80s, fell in love with a Mexican woman named Marcela Borrego and married her. He gained his citizenship and today is the most extreme activist for the American Dream I know, as it came true for him all those years ago. Even when Venezuelas' currency began to fail and my grandparents could no longer support him, he stayed in the United States and worked as hard as humanly possible. I will forever be proud of my father for all he has accomplished and he truly is my inspiration. When I think of my Venezuelan heritage I could never feel ashamed or embarrassed about it just because the country is on the verge of civil war. I feel resilience, perseverance and pride as I know other Venezuelans share my feelings despite everything they and the country has been through. Through my father chasing his own American Dream, I am able to do the same and for that I will be eternally grateful.