A Day of Fraternity and Peace
Snapshots and Conversations from Aid Live Venezuela
Photo Credit: Joshua Collins
Cucuta, Colombia- "Hey Gringo!" was a phrase I grew accustomed to hearing as I walked around alone at Venezuela Aid Live. If there were other Americans in the crowd I didn't see them. Everyone was curious about what I was doing and wanted to send messages back to the States.
"Hey Gringo! You're a gringo, right? What are you doing here? Oh Journalist, nice. I'm Venezuelan. My name is Mateo. I'm a profesor. Or maybe it's better to say I was a professor because there's no system of education now. It's a damn shame too, because, well, let me give you an example. Hey kid!" he yells at a young Venezuelan nearby. "You're Venezuelan, right? Yes, me too. Are you in school? No? Ok thanks, I hope you enjoy the concert. Yeah, down with Maduro.. that's right!"
"See? Did you hear that? I haven't worked as a professor in three years. I taught Spanish, grammar and literature. I'm 64 years old. I live in San Cristobal. Yeah the concert is great but its hot, look. What are you doing tomorrow? Because we're going to be on the other side (of the Tienditas bridge) pushing the aid through. Thousands of us. You should come. No, it's not gonna be dangerous for a foreigner. Just find me. Here, take my number. Look, you need to see this. You need to tell everyone back in the United States what is happening. You need to tell them that there's no food. There's no health system. There's no education. Where I live in San Cristobal right across the border is destroyed. There's nothing. And the world needs to know. We are ready to resist the tyrannical dictator Maduro. You tell them! You have to."
The Professor pictured right. (Photo credit: Joshua Collins)
The Trump Crew
"Hey look its a gringo! Hey, come here! Take our picture! Why is your president racist?" he laughs. "No, I'm fucking with you. He is racist though. Am I right or am I wrong?" he laughs again. "Are you a Trump supporter? No? Yeah us neither. But in reality, we need the help. Are you enjoying the concert? Yes, it's a great day. Beautiful. But really, the aid is great and all while it just sits on the border. But why doesn't Trump just let us in if he cares so much about the Venezuelan people? Because it seems like Colombia cares a lot more than Trump. Thanks for taking the picture. I hope your friends see it."
"Trump, let us enter the U.S.A without a Visa. Help us. Thats the real humanitarian Aid! (Photo credit:Joshua Collins)
The Three Gentlemen from San Antonio
"Hey Gringo! Come here! We want to talk to you! Does that name offend you? No? Good, because I don't mean it disrespectfully. Look, I'm 63 years old. I'm Venezuelan. These two guys are my friends. We live in San Antonio. Do you know where that is? Yes, right across the border. I just want to tell you thank you. From the bottom of my heart. For everything. What? Well, obviously you didn't do anything personally. I meant I want to say thank you to all the Americans. You tell them we said thank you! Tomorrow we are going to be part of the thousands of Venezuelans that will be helping to retrieve the humanitarian aid. I'm old. I don't care if someone shoots me. The usurper (Nicolas Maduro) has to go. And the Americans have put the eyes of the world on Venezuela.
The Guy with an Eyepatch
"Hey Gringo! Fuck you! And fuck your mother too! And fuck your imperialist, capitalist caravan of smashed shit! (that phrase doesn't really translate exactly into English, but is definitely an insult)
The Author of this Article Thirty Minutes after Entering Aid Live Venezuela
"Shit. Where's my phone? Oh...someone pickpocketed me. Fuck."
La Venozolana (Photo Credit: Joshua Collins)
"(Opposition leader Henrique) Capriles should be president!! But if Guiado wants to hold elections that seems ok to me. The Venezuelan people haven't had a voice in years. I feel like the Maduro regime is finally cracking. It takes a thousand strikes with a hammer to break a rock. Maybe this is the one. Maybe it's not. But the end is coming.
A Guy with lots of Tattoos
"Hey fuck you, gringo!" he laughs. "I'm just fucking with you. Are you enjoying the concert? Yeah it's great. You believed me for a minute there, right? Yeah I don't know, I thought it was funny. But really, bro, I hope you enjoy."
The two girls who thought its was funny a gringo speaks Spanish (Photo credit: Joshua Collins)
These Two Girls
"What?! You speak Spanish, gringo? Ayyyyy. That's really funny, Of course you can take our picture."
All of these things really happened to me. But the truth of the matter is that I left the concert with a stupid grin on my face. I received hugs from strangers, I danced with families of Colombians and Venezuelans, and I had people stop me just to say "Hello, how are you?" because they wanted to greet me in the little English they knew to make me feel welcome. It was one of the most positive things I have experienced in years. Everyone hopes for peace. The politics may differ, and the people may disagree. But to see such a love between Colombia and Venezuela, witnessed by the world, touched even a cynic such as myself.