Part 7: El Ingeniero con Alma de Poeta

Farewell to Venezuela

The idea to immigrate to the United States was solely my mother’s.

Hugo Chavez rose to the presidency in 1999 only seven years after leading an unsuccessful coup d’état against President Carlos Andrés Pérez. Waves of protests and national strikes sought to prevent Chavez’s ascent to Venezuela’s top office, yet his presidency prevailed, fueling a series of political reforms characterized by economic mismanagement and political corruption under the misleading mirage of new wave socialism. By 2005, Chavez had eliminated presidential term limits and stripped key democratic institutions of their power, raising warning flags the free world willfully ignored.

When asked to map out her decision to leave Venezuela, my mom stressed her refusal to raise her daughter in a dictatorship. My father, on the other hand, trusted the political opposition’s capacity to steer the country back to prosperity and delayed his arrival in the United States by eight years. A subsequent decade passed before he contemplated whether the Venezuela we knew was irrecoverable.

From learning to walk on the dusty sidewalks of El Remolino to collaborating with Carlos Cruz-Diez in erecting the Cromovela Giratoria within the CIED, my father dedicated his life to that beautiful oasis nestled between the Caribbean, the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. His muse and his home were one and the same.

He tasted the simple elegance of sipping El Diplomático while gazing upon Caracas, shimmering in its cradle of lush mountains whose backs faced the ever-rolling waves of the Caribbean sea.

He rode horses across the Venezuelan grasslands and played dominos under the light of El Catatumbo, a constant stream of lighting hovering above Lake Maracaibo.

His engineering abilities charted new paths for the country and furthered collaborations across borders. Honored among men and respected by neighbors, my father bid farewell to his home and his soul at once.

Although we attempted to recreate a sense of belonging in the United States through frequent cafecitos at Deli’s Venezuelan Cafe and impromptu preparations of arroz con leche, we forfeited joy in exchange for freedom in America.

In retrospect, I lost my father twice in life. First to Chavez, second to Cancer.

My father’s hands as he painted, captured by Michelle Ayoubi

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