Press "Enter" to skip to content

HUNGER IN VENEZUELA WILL DRIVE YOU TO THE DUMPSTERS, OR IT WILL DRIVE YOU TO TEARS

[3/9/17]  I am a normal, 50-year-old man, in relatively good physical condition, and without visible depression except for that which is caused by living hunger in Venezuela.

I scrubbed some dishes last Saturday, and as I did I felt pain for my country, for the people of the society in which I live, and how that experience has come to define what it means to be a Venezuelan right now.

My wife found me crying in the kitchen then. There was a pot at the bottom of the sink we had just used to make rice. Some of the rice that got stuck to the pot was removed with water and soap. It was a considerable portion, enough for one person, so I put it in a colander, and started to clean it with water, because in a while somebody will look in the trash, they will eat it, and I didn’t want them to eat it with soap.

It was at that moment that everything seemed so wrong. Yes, someone would eat it from the trash, but what disturbed me more was that I considered it so normal. And I burst into tears — not a few tears, but an overflow of them.

I have shared this experience with some friends, and I have received some surprising responses. A friend went to live in France a few months ago, and she is surprised at how well she eats in that country, but also pointed out that she can’t eat without feeling guilty because of the hunger many of her neighbors and relatives are suffering back home.

“I save even the last ounce of food, I don’t like to throw anything away,” she told me.

Several friends here have mentioned that they feel guilty when they eat a full meal. Another friend told me he no longer eats in public places, that if he buys food on the street he takes it to go, because he can’t bear to see the expression on people’s faces who watch him eat. And this writer can tell you that in downtown Caracas, the view, after 9 pm, is like a planet of zombies, dark streets full of people rummaging through trash bags.

Those people are not necessarily in pauper conditions. Last week I saw a couple, a man and a lady, about 70 years old, doing it as well. Believe me, it’s simply unbearable to watch. I also learned that in that area, which was formerly full of large Spanish food restaurants, have already begun to separate leftovers from the rest of the garbage to make it easier for people scavenging for food.