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Culture

The Girl Without a Country

To report a lost passport from Venezuela, a citizen must log onto www.saime.gob.ve, register an account with a “valid email address” and local “phone number”, proceed by clicking on service options: passport appointment. Each citizen must then fill out an extensive application with their personal information and, once the form is complete, one can “request an appointment.” Venezuelans should have two options: request an appointment inside the country or request an appointment in an overseas Embassy/Consulate.

Embassies/Consulates in the United States, however, have been closed “until further notice”. I, walking around Savannah—passport inside my purse— on my way to my college’s International Department, lost the document. Filing for a new passport takes “a considerate amount of time” because the Venezuelan government does not have enough “material to print new ones.” “Considerate time” has meant two and a half years. Time keeps ticking.

My freshmen year of college, after my first quarter doing arts and crafts not only inside my design classes but also before parties (alter ID’s birth date from 99 to 96, print color copy, cover with glossy lamination paper, smooth edges, and I’m 23 years old) one of my Colombian best friends got me a real I.D. with my own name, blood type, height, and stolen I.D. number. The bar code could be scanned. The algorithm shone under blue flashlights. My refined, older self shone under night clubs’ flashing reflectors. My days of fluttering eyelashes and $20 handshakes were over. “All patrons must be 21 years of age with valid photo I.D.” didn’t make me hesitate at the entrance anymore.

When waiters, at restaurants, asked if I minded if they showed my I.D. to their managers, I smiled easily and nodded. Minutes later they’d bring the document back with an apologetic smile and my drink in their hands. “Sorry,” some would say, “this one is on the house.”

After three months of owning my Colombian identity, my Venezuelan passport recently gone, $10,000 in somebody’s pocket— “I’ll make sure you get it before your graduation, reina.”  I no longer was Arantxa Hernández López. I wasn’t born in 1999, the year Chávez came to power and ruined my life. I wasn’t “la burguesa Caraqueña.” No. I became Arantxa Hernández, Colombian, born in Barranquilla in a year when wealth and prosperity was tangible enough for most people. This Arantxa didn’t make other’s eyes soften with pity. She didn’t sneak in between big crowds to walk, unnoticed, into bars. She didn’t have to ask her older friends for booze. No. She was about to be 24.

“Ma’am, I’m gonna need you to step out of the line and go talk to my friend over there.” The security guy said. He was a tall, built man that could scare anyone just by lifting a finger.

I nodded, stood a little straighter, and walked over to the other security man. He stared down at my I.D. and turned his blue flashlight on.

“Colombia, ah?” He said. Hispanic.

“Yes.” I answered in English, immediately regretting it. I’d never been good at flawlessly switching between the two languages. “I know it’s not the best,” I continued in Spanish, “but that’s all I can have until somebody teaches me how to drive.”

“This is clearly fake.” He laughed and pocketed my I.D.

“No.”

“It is not.”

“Look at it,” he said, my I.D. once again out of his pocket, “You can see where you cut and pasted your picture into somebody else’s hologram.”

“Whatever you want to say, man,” I answered. English. “If you don’t want to believe it’s real that’s fine, just give it back to me because that’s the only thing I have to get back into my country.”

He crossed his arms and didn’t move any further.

“You heard me,” I said. “Give back.”

He gestured to the big security man to come let me out of his nose.

“Ara, let’s go,” my boyfriend said. I ignore him.

“I’m not gonna move from here until you give me my fucking I.D. back. I don’t care who you call or who you bring to deal with me. Give me my thing back.”

“Arantxa,” Devin said again, grabbing my arm this time. “Let’s go.”

“No!” I yelled, about to burst into tears. “They’re a bunch of racists. I want my I.D. back.”

Devin pulled me close to him, anger flashing through his eyes. “You are going to get arrested if you keep acting like this. Let’s go.”

I finally gave up and started walking out of the parking lot, shivering. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I couldn’t feel them. I took my wallet out of my purse and walked a little faster to catch up with Devin.

I didn’t say a word on the entire way home. I felt stripped of my identity. Empty. Lost. I had lost the façade I’d been living for years— what made me feel strong, independent. I scratched my wrists until the skin was raw, try to rip the night club’s bracelet “Time Warp: V.I.P access” off my arm but it was too tight. I wrestled with it until the driver stopped — Devin begged me to stops. There was a knife out. I saw its blade catch the night lights and wondered if it had ever been dropped somewhere, drowned at the bottom of East River perhaps.

“We’re gonna cut it off now, Ara.” Devin said.  “Don’t move okay?”

The bracelet was gone and so was I. We both belonged somewhere we could be forgotten.

If you like this article, check out:https://www.harnessmagazine.com/to-the-girl-who-will-never-be-homecoming-queen/

 

 

 

 

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