Location: Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela
Occupation: Freelance Writer
The negligence of the Venezuelan government led to the collapse of the power grid and the entire country was plunged into a five-day blackout. We thought we had seen everything, people dying in hospitals for lack of electricity, people without gas and water service also absent during these five days. Can you imagine what it is to live without water, without electricity and without a cell signal? I did not have to imagine it, I lived it. And it was a nightmare.
But the five-day blackout was just the beginning. During the month of March there were so many power failures, that there were only ten work days and six school days. I am a university student, I am in the 9th semester, just about to finish it but thanks to the blackouts, it has been a month since I last saw class. Besides studying, I work as a freelance writer and remote personal assistant, basically jobs that require electricity and internet. Every day there was no light, I had to take my laptop and go to a shopping center to work.
The shopping centers here do not have WiFi for the public, I simply went there because I could charge all my devices and work with battery, also, my small house does not get any kind of telephone signal when the electricity goes away. If I had to make an emergency call, I could not. And yes, crime increases drastically in such a situation.
Sources close to me and very reliable have confirmed that calling 911 in Venezuela is useless since they do not dispatch help unless it is a murder, everything in between, they simply do not care. Therefore, it only remains to take care of ourselves. My neighbors have a system in which when someone hears or sees something suspicious or dangerous, that person sounds a whistle and the other neighbors do the same and come out to look out and illuminate the street. This is simply to wake up to the block and make sure that no thief enters a house hearing whistles in the night. In the darkness of the night, the silence is almost deafening and when one is without electricity, he sleeps badly and any minimal noise wakes you up, waking up at dawn by the sound of a whistle is quite disconcerting. The neighbors came out with sticks, machetes and even weapons to defend the area from whatever was happening.
Then I woke up early, I washed my teeth with water in a cup. Having water was a distant dream. Our option was to look for well water to be able to have in the house, during the blackout, the water became incredibly difficult to obtain. The queues to buy it could last more than four hours; the same with gasoline.
Every day was a race, the food could be in our cold coolers that began to smell bad after four days. My mom had to cook the meats that would have lasted a fortnight to avoid damage, but the worst part is that we had no appetite. We felt absolutely defeated, with broken spirit and morals on the ground. Candles were in high demand and therefore, expensive. We spent around ten a day until finally we could not afford it and we opted to buy kerosene and make lamps with that.
The kerosene lamp is a wonder because it lights up and lasts longer than a candle, however, there is that little detail that fills the whole house with soot and leaves an unpleasant smell, I had constant headaches because of that. Well, because of that and the fact that I had days without electricity.
The worst part for me, was having all the blackout crisis over and still having to worry about studying. Honestly, being a student in Venezuela is a feat. It is not easy to spend days without electricity, live precariously and have to sit down and study about poetry. The university felt distant, the graduation too, the only tangible thing was despair. I fantasize about the idea of leaving, leaving the country behind. However, this is impossible because in a dictatorship, obtaining a passport is impossible. I already have a year waiting for mine.
Then I spent nights sleeping badly, eating badly during the day, running to work in shopping centers and then returning to the darkness of my house and facing again the reality that I would spend another night without light. I turned on the time of my phone that was the only one that was heard. The news stations did their best to keep us informed but they themselves did not have information. The government claimed to be the victim of a cyber-attack even though it is known that Venezuela's electrical system works analogically. The solutions were not visible on the horizon. Finally, I gave up and turned off the radio, my breathing was the only one and some other dog barking in the street barking in the distance.
The cities seemed abandoned, closed places everywhere, markets full of people buying what they could to eat, vegetables and meats on offer because they were rotting. He felt apocalyptic, as if we were in the middle of a real war. Every day full of bad news, children dying in maternity hospitals, kidney patients dying too. One of the worst moments that lived in my area was when the hospital's electrical generator ran out of diesel and went out for approximately four hours, resulting in the loss of many patients. To this day we do not know the exact number of deaths in hospitals because of this, we only know that many lives were extinguished that night and many families woke up crying. But all that was only the first blackout, since then, the blackouts have become the daily bread in the country. In Venezuela you do not live, you survive.