To My Dear Venezuelan Comrades:
The saying goes that only once every thousand years or so, people like an Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, or a Mahatma Ghandi, or a Rosa Parks are born. Of course, it is a symbolic and rhetorical statement, but it holds an undeniable truth at its core: that these people, unlike most of us, are entirely driven by an ideal that defines and drives them, and which ultimately transcends them, liberating entire generations from backward or outdated policies and practices that otherwise would continue to burrow themselves into the cultural fabric…
I did not have the chance to personally meet President and Commander Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías – or just Chávez, as he is more widely known – when I visited Venezuela a couple of years ago. I would have liked to, but my youth and curiosity (or perhaps indiscretion) got in the way. However, though it now pains me to know that the chance to ever do so is no more, for his physical body now rests in an eternal abyss, I rejoice in feeling a devoted faith to a movement much bigger than himself, and to which the Venezuelan people have so earnestly given themselves to…a movement that never stopped since our first steps on this Earth, but which needed this kind of people – people like Chávez – to awaken us from an unknown though pleasant slumber.
Hearing, or rather seeing, the news of his death was such an abrupt shock that I felt a sickness in my stomach that could only be described as panic. I wanted to think it was a hoax, like all those other cruel ones that have tried to demoralize the President and tumble the People’s Hopes, but which of course, in the end, were always futile. But as I skimmed the name of the newspaper and every other social media news-feed, the sombre truth hit me like a sack of jagged stones. It was unreal feeling such a personal loss at hearing that a president has died. I jerked myself from my stupor and ran to tell my parents in the other room, almost feeling like I was giving them terrible news about our own family. “Chávez has died!!!” I insolently yelled, immediately feeling that I’d blasphemed…but the sick truth behind the words fell atop me once more, crushing me.
It’s impossible to think of the hard facts without tears shyly appearing in the corners of my eyes, evoking my own grandfather’s funeral all over again. But there’s an amazing feeling of hope that overtakes me as I wipe them away; a recognition of something so much bigger – so hopelessly sincere – about what the man Hugo Chávez symbolized. Suddenly my sombre look and hard lips also seem to fade away into a smile full of confidence…Yes, it’s a magnificent feeling to be able to think of Chávez not merely as a corpse now forever resting beside his and our mentors; but to simultaneously evoke the images of El Pueblo – The People – in the truest, most practical sense of the word. It is a connection with a cause that Chávez helped us remember existed.
I can almost see the quivering lips of the mother of Eduardo (a dear friend of mine) as she exclaims, “carajo! te nos fuiste mi querido Chávez!…” (“goddamn! you left us, my dear Chávez”); I can see the people gathered in the Plazas Bolivares around the country, all feeling the same personal loss; I can see the old brittle woman who feels the loss of a son who taught her to read even in her old age; I can see the factory and construction workers who now receive their pay and benefits on time, all thanks to their dear old pana and compañero who now rests forever in his grave; I can see the young kids who are now studying and preparing their minds, moulding a brighter future for everyone…And I can see that a smile hangs at the end of all our tears, for we know that his spirit lives in us forever.
And that is the Great Triumph of Leaders like Hugo Chávez . Not that they were superior, or unique in such a way that without them, their efforts and victories die as well. It’s true that men like these are not born everyday; but that is because when one is finally born, he has the ability to transcend his self- to rid himself of the idea that he is one – and in that way infuse an entire generation with Ideas – and Ideals – that will continue to challenge injustice at every step, however arduous the fight. I don’t think there is a manual or time to be a revolutionary, for the potentiality to change that which is wrong lives in all of us, and I think people like Chávez realize that. But for the bigger changes – the cultural and societal ones – we need a catalyst first; a hurricane; something to awaken that dormant sense of indignation at the obviously unjust; we need a Revolutionary.
President and Commander Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías touched the hearts and minds of millions of people in and outside of his nation. And he did this by going against that most essential malady that universally seems so obvious to deter, yet so seemingly impossible to prevent: Injustice.
Many people are speaking about the “legacy” that Chávez will leave behind. And in a certain romantic sense, it is something to consider. However, in a more real sense, Chávez left himself behind, for even as he ruled the country, he told us, “Yo soy El Pueblo” – “I am The People”. And he is. He is the face of the brittle old woman who can now read; he is the face of the workers who can now get paid. But most importantly, he is the Firm and Resolved Face of all the Venezuelans and the people of the world that have learned from him and who, like myself, feel a revival of their Faith in the Socialist Cause thanks to Commander Hugo Chávez.
The Idea of Socialism in Venezuela is something that has been implanted through the most essential yet complex human emotion: Love…Love for Humanity.
I do not share Chávez’s faith in God, though someone cited me a verse that helped my tears of pain become crystals of joy: “I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” said the Lord. Isaiah 66:9.
Now it is up to us to continue the fight. Now it is time to prove Ourselves! Now it is time to exert the confidence and faith in our own humanity and dignity, which the great leader Hugo Chávez reminded many of us about.
Hasta la Victoria Siempre, Comrades!
Luis Fernando Arce