Last year I started my very own Thanksgiving tradition, though I didn’t know it yet. I posted a list of random things I was thankful for -exactly 52, for no other reason than the fact that I was 52.
Seeing as the upcoming holiday has moved me to start a new list, I’ve decided to turn this gratitude list-writing into my Thanksgiving tradition.
My first of three nationalities, and my only one for the first 25 years of my life, is Venezuelan.
I’m supremely grateful for my three nationalities, but out of all three, I find myself pondering my Venezuelan-ness most frequently: the wonderful, the tragic, and the mind-boggling. This being a list of things I’m grateful for, however, it only contains the positives. And since it has been 22 years since I left my homeland, it has been cleansed of dark memories by nostalgia and romanticized by the passage of time.
Here’s my 2022 gratitude list then, starting with the primordial: food and shelter.
Arepas. Sorry Colombia. What you call arepa is not the good version of arepa. We own that version.
Hallacas. I feel really bad for all those who never got to enjoy the most incredible Christmas holiday food ever. Sorry Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and every other country where tamales are thought to be the end-all-be-all. Tamales are a sorry version of hallacas.
I know a proper home is built out of brick and mortar, the way basements and chimneys are in the U.S. The third little pig had it right. Incidentally, have you noticed the basement and chimney are what’s left after a fire and all manner of natural disasters? You’d think Americans would’ve learned by now. Also, Venezuelan houses are not the kind that, once demolished, would fit into a dumpster, the way even big houses do in my adopted country. Neither do they go up in half a day like in the U.S., where you might see a new house go up (doors, windows and all) while you were away for the weekend.
We fix the best coffee. Decades before Starbucks, we had numerous precise ways to order our coffee: café con leche grande, con leche claro, con leche oscuro, café marrón, marroncito, marroncito claro, marrón grande clarito (my fave), marron grande oscuro, café negro, negrito, guayoyo…
We have the most stunning capital city ever, geographically speaking. Ok, all bias aside, I’ll admit Caracas and Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro are tied for this distinction.
Using the Lord’s name in general conversation isn’t cursing. You can say ¡Ay Dios mío! (Oh my God!), wherever, whenever -this even though Venezuelans are predominantly Catholic. C’mon, if you can’t call on the almighty out loud, who can you invoke?
We excel at striking short-lived friendships while waiting in line or to be called in to see the doctor (or the dentist who gave you an appointment at a specific time but you both know might see you one or two hours later).
We know anything can happen politically and economically.
Related to #8, should political or economic catastrophe befall the U.S., I can always go back to Venezuela.
I’m ambivalent about this one because it used to make me cringe. I suppose nostalgia has turned it into an endearing practice. I’m talking about the use of words like mami, mi corazón, mamita, my rey, mi reina, papi, jefe, pana, catire, mi amor, to address just about anyone. (Translation: mommy, my heart, my king, my queen, daddy, boss, partner, blondie, my love…)
If an evil person sets me up for murder in the first degree, I can flee to Venezuela.
Our national tree, the Araguaney, is the color of the sun and yellow is my favorite color.
We get over small things quickly. In general. Venezuelans knew not to sweat the small stuff before not sweating the small stuff was a thing. (For the Spanish speakers: “Al mal tiempo buen cara.”)
We have an intergenerational social structure. A person who was your close friend first might end up being closer friends with your mom, or your grandmother.
We value family above almost all else.
A Final Mini Reflection
I realize my Venezuela is not the same country that many people not my age and background have experienced. Venezuela lives in my heart with the colors and feelings etched in it 22 years ago.
Plus, did you notice all the superlatives on my list? I know this is a nostalgic construction that ignores the negative stuff. I could, in fact, easily balance out this list with the 15 things I dislike about Venezuela.