I wanted to base my memoir on Identity theft. Specifically, the kidnappings that are so constant in Venezuela. Caracas, Venezuela is the kidnapping Capital of the world. To be kidnapped is to be stripped of your identity. The kidnappers rip you from your home and family. and give you a new identity, such as a new name. They constantly remind you that you are helpless. You are no longer who you are, you are who they want you to be.
My uncle was kidnapped and held hostage for two very long years. It was an event that will stay with me forever. It felt like something was ripped away from me. When my uncle was taken, my family was torn apart. All of our identities were taken in some way or another.
After carefully recognizing the event that occurred with the kidnapping, I realized that I wanted to make it bigger. Bigger in the sense that didn’t want to focus on just my experience. People in Venezuela face these obstacles every day. This brought my next idea, Days in Venezuela.
Days in Venezuela was going to be a series of profiles; men, women, and children. I wanted to reflect the challenges they face every day living in the most dangerous country in South America. As I was doing my research, I realized that the women in Venezuela are actually the backbones in the family. When researching the lower class, the men are known for sleeping around with prostitutes. They barely work and the income they do receive from work is spent on alcohol and sex. When they return home, they usually beat their wife. The wife, on the other hand, stay home and raise the children. They make sure the children go to school to receive an education and stay out of the streets.
This research led me to focus my project just on women. Today in Venezuela, the opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez is in prison, while his wife leads on the streets. The way she speaks to the crowd is so inspiring. She holds herself together with such grace and gives hope to the people of Venezuela. When my uncle was kidnapped, my grandmother and my aunt were the ones leading the marches and protests. They organized countless events to raise awareness and attended meetings to negotiate my uncle’s freedom. To this day my grandmother, who is almost ninety years old, still attends marches in protest against the government, where she has been fired with tear gas. This is what lead me to base it on my aunt, Marena Bencomo.
I decided to sculpt the foundation around the identity women are perceived with. My aunt was crowned Miss Venezuela in 1996 and continued to compete in the Miss Universal pageant in 1997, where she was runner up. When my uncle was kidnapped, no one took her seriously at first. People would just look at her exterior. She then proved to be a leader when she took a stand for my Uncle’s freedom. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. She fought as hard as she could to win him back, even when the odds were unlikely. She never gave up. She gained her courage and took charge of the situation. She inspired women across Venezuela, including myself. Just like that, she took her identity back. She was once perceived as just a pretty face, now she’s a leader and an inspiration for women in Venezuela.