5 Misconceptions about Venezuela Debunked

5 Misconceptions about Venezuela Debunked

November 14, 2017
By Leticia Calvillo
   

Don’t let the myths about Latin America lead you to false expectations when traveling to a new country or worse, deter you from traveling and having an experience of a lifetime. For this new blog series, our team has taken on the task of debunking some of the common misconceptions about various countries in Latin America through the voices of Latin American students studying in the US. This is the first blog of the series. Keep an eye out for the next blog, where we will be debunking the misconceptions the US has about Brazil!

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Name: Anna

Home City: Caracas

School: University of Massachusetts

Major: Economics and Biology

College level: Class of 2016

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Name: Heleny

Home City: Caracas

School: University of Massachusetts

Major: Biology

College level: Class of 2016

I had a chance to sit down with Anna and Heleny to speak about their experiences as Venezuelans studying in the US. During our conversation, we discussed the misconceptions about Venezuela they came across. If there was one thing that was clear after our conversation, it was that Venezuela is more than what the media presents. Though today, Venezuela mostly makes headlines about its political state, the country has more to it than its current political turmoil. Venezuela has natural beauty, like the Roques and La Gran Sabana, friendly people, and incomparable food and music.

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Meet Anna and Heleny

What was it like growing up in Venezuela?  

Anna: I grew up in Caracas which is a big city. Living in a developing country you have a harsh environment with crime. Up until high school, however, I was largely sheltered. Then the political and economic situation worsened, and I was afraid to simply be out on the street.

Heleny: I went to an international school and have always been surrounded by people from all over the world. Growing up in Venezuela my life was simple. I went to sleepovers, visited family around the country, and went to Portuguese bakeries down the street every morning with my parents to have breakfast. Venezuela is warm, in more ways than just the temperature, and when I am there I feel comfortable.

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Why did you decide to study in the US?

A: I always knew I wanted to be a vet, but that career path wasn’t offered in Caracas. I knew I had to leave to go to vet school, maybe go to another city in Venezuela or move to the US. At that time, I thought it was the same to be in a different city or in the US because either way, I would be away from my family. After I graduated high school, my parents sent me to the US to learn English. Traveling to the US was eye opening: so much freedom, so much safety. This is how I wanted things.

H: Mostly it was what was expected of kids that went to my school, and I really did not know any better. If it is what’s taught to you since you are little, you grow to have the expectation that you are going to study in the US. I know that for my parents it was a great sacrifice to send me abroad; they wanted the best for me. There are great schools in Venezuela, and maybe in another life I would have stayed. I am happy about the opportunities I have and am extremely thankful for my family for giving them to me.

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What was the most difficult aspect to navigate in the US?

A: I feel the culture and realizing things are done differently here. For example, when you’re back home you go right in and kiss and hug people to greet them, but if you try to do that here,  it’s like “what are you doing?” Also, just how to be respectful towards other people and learning social cues. It was hard to make friends. In, the beginning I surrounded myself with Latinos, because for us, we meet each other once and then we are like best friends. But in Boston, I was in the same class with people for 3 months, and I didn’t know anything about their past, all I knew was their first name. I didn’t know how to approach it.

H: It was difficult learning how to be by myself. Paperwork as an international student is difficult; you have to do so much. It was hectic. I didn’t have friends yet so it was lonely at first. But I was excited and hopeful, and I wanted to make the best of it all. Culturally I never felt uncomfortable, I always felt in sync. This was largely the result of going to an international school. However, one thing that I noticed was that our humor is different. We like dry humor, but people take things more seriously in the US.

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What do you miss most when you are in the US?

A: The people and the food. Even if someone is from Latin America, it’s not the same. For example the slang is not the same; they don’t understand certain words. But now I’ve found more Venezuelans. The food for sure, even if you try to recreate it, it’s not the same. Back home food is something so personal, a time you share with friends and family. I miss the food but also the whole interaction that comes with the food.

H: My family; I will always miss them. The Venezuelan diaspora is huge: I have family all over the world and that makes it hard. I am always nostalgic. What I had before I left I will never have again.

 

5 Misconceptions

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Venezuela is not in Africa

As I spoke to both Anna and Heleny one thing that was surprising was that many people they met, especially in areas with less Latinos, were not able to locate Venezuela on the map. Heleny recounted that, “people thought it was in Africa, they would ask me, ‘what language do you speak there?’”

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Venezuelans do not all look alike

Many people are often confused about Latino phenotypes. They expect all Latinos to have a specific skin tone, eye color, hair color, etc. The reality is that Latinos are very diverse in regards to the way they look, and Venezuelans are no exception. During our interview, Anna mentioned that people were always shocked and would say that she didn’t look Latina. To her, this statement was confusing because she herself doesn’t know what a Venezuelan looks like.

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Venezuelan women are more than pretty

A lot of people know Venezuela because of beauty pageants. This has lead many to know Venezuela for pretty women and think of Venezuelan women as vain. However, Venezuelan women are more than just pretty; they’re artist, authors, athletes and so much more. “We are capable women.”

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Venezuela is not rich

Heleny told us that many think Venezuela is rich because of oil. However, as Heleny said, “we have the resources to be a rich country, but we are not. There has been little to no growth to allow companies the liberties to use the natural resources we have. We lack developments in infrastructure and economic institutions to help develop Venezuela into the country it can be.”

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Venezuela is developing but it’s also not just dirt roads

As a developing country, Venezuela has been held to many stigmas that are completely false. As Anna emphasized, developing does not mean that there are only dirt roads and no buildings, as some erroneously thought when they met her. Anna mentioned that many would say to her, “ Oh so how is it like back home, do you have roads? And malls? How do you buy things?” Anna explained, “it is hard to explain the situation back home, its really hard because when you say it’s hard to find food, it only adds to the confusion”.  

 

Lightning Round Questions

  • What’s your favorite place in your country?
    • Anna: My house in Caracas
    • Heleny: Trujillo

 

  • What’s the greatest thing about your country?
    • Anna: The people
    • Heleny: Our people

 

  • Favorite food typical of your country?
    • Anna: Tequeños
    • Heleny: Arepas, specifically la Reina Pepiada

 

  • Favorite holiday/custom specific to your country?
    • Anna: Christmas
    • Heleny: Los Diablos Danzantes de Yare

 

  • One word to represent the essence of your country?
    • Anna: Strength
    • Heleny: Chevere

 


Categories: From the Team, Uncategorized