A New Beginning

Daniela - Saint Leo, Florida
Entered on December 4, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

A New Beginning

I believe that the events that have taken place in my life have made me a stronger person. I have learned to stand up for what I believe in: freedom and justice. I remember when Hugo Chavez seized control of my homeland, Venezuela and, how my family had to flee the country in order to secure a better future.

I was fourteen and heading to school when I first noticed a negative change. “Chavistas” were burning tires in the streets and waving signs of Che Guevara. Safety did not exist for anyone. People with money were kidnapped and taken to the jungles of Colombia. The government took advantage of an unstable situation; chaos took over. Chavez’s government brought corruption, fear, and insecurity.

I was one of the “Oligarcas,” a class of educated people. We had lost our faith in any democratic solution, so we took a stand and planned a march to Miraflores, the residency of President Chavez. As we marched in the streets, we sang our hymn “Gloria al Bravo Pueblo,” carrying signs that said “Ni un paso atras.” We painted our faces with the colors of the Venezuelan flag. But, our peaceful march was shattered by bloodshed. During the march, Chavez’s people lined themselves on bridges, and when the nonviolent protesters came close, the communists opened fire. I watched the marchers stampede to get out of the shooting, and for a moment, I realized that we were on the verge of a civil war. It was a very painful revelation.

The events of March 2002 resulted in my parents’ decision to move. It was a hard decision, but one that had to be made as our family was not safe in my country. As I packed, I felt my heart break.

We have lived in the United States for five years now. My broken heart has been replaced by one that is happy and hopeful. I feel blessed to live in this country.

I have made it my mission to tell people that despite all the “wrongs,” there are so many “rights” here. I feel welcomed, and free and most importantly, I feel safe.

During the American presidential election I wished I had had the chance to vote. I wished to be part of a “real democratic process” where people have the right to vote for their leaders in an environment that supports freedom of speech. I encouraged my friends to vote and told them that democracy is fragile, but worth defending. Ultimately, I felt the election was a celebration of the greatness of this nation.

The memories of Venezuela will always be part of who I am, but the Venezuela that I love has changed, and I had to move on to stay free and alive. Even though at times I wish for the past, I look forward to the person I can become and the future I can have.