Venezuelan American

I am thinking of doubleness, and of migration. Considering, along the U.S. Latino spectrum, the relatively recent wave of Venezuelans arriving here. In Florida nowdays, the city of Westwood is often referred to as Westezuela. From Miami to Tampa, the past decade has seen the population of Venezuelans rise significantly in Florida. My siblings and I love this, since twenty years ago we were definitely the only Venezuelans at our school.

Because I didn't return to Caracas until 1990, I often felt in the 1980s that I was "losing" Venezuela the longer I lived in Florida and Massachusetts. A few years ago, I heard the phrase "balseros del aire" in reference to the many Venezuelans flying permanently to the US or elsewhere. My sister and brother and I must have been the pioneer balseros del aire, then. Due to complicated family circumstances, we left by avioneta from the Aeropuerto La Carlota to Jamaica, where we boarded a commercial flight to Miami, that magnificent empire city, capital of Latin America. When I wrote a poem several years ago about our arrival that day, I mocked the city: "O Miami, take three more indios / into your glittering arms, etc."

I'm asking myself a relatively minor question tonight. What is a Venezuelan American?

Later this week I'll be posting translations into English of several poems by Jacqueline Goldberg, from her collection Insolaciones en Miami Beach (Fondo Editorial Fundarte, 1995). As I've been rereading that book, I've thought of her insights regarding Miami, as seen from a visitor's eye. I also sense the impulse to leave Venezuela in some of these poems.

I always have the desire to return to Venezuela, to work and write in Caracas. In recent years that has been impossible, and now most of my immediate family has left Venezuela. Aquí no hay país, ni consuelo. But this is also a problem of the age, and it's not limited to Venezuela. Displacement and doubleness have ocurred for ages, and they continue today. César Vallejo perhaps was writing about this when he spoke of "cuatro conciencias simultáneas" in his Poemas de París, or Poemas humanos.

Much of it is learning to live with an absence, whether of family and friends or of physical places, landscapes, avenues missed. Without falling prey to a nostalgic illusion of a "homeland" or an idyllic childhood in Venezuela. It's also an awareness of the distances we might carry with us here in the North. My writing is for remembering, saving whatever pieces the words might lift.

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