I am writing from my home, Barquisimeto, the fourth largest city in Venezuela, which was, not so long ago, the most prosperous country in Latin America. In the past four years, things here have changed — utterly.
I am writing to explain how much has changed, and how quickly. I moved here as a girl in 1973 from San Cristobal in the Tachira region of the Andes, and I went on to become a university professor. My story was made possible by my country’s success. My mother, a widow who ironed laundry for a living, managed to send my three sisters and me to university. Like most Venezuelans bringing up children during the oil boom of the 1970s, she had an inbuilt sense of aspiration. After I won a government scholarship to study in New York I didn’t think twice about returning to Venezuela to work: there were plenty of job prospects and, with the Andes just across the river and the beach a short drive away, why would I want to live anywhere else?
By the time I had my own children we were a family with a way of life akin to middle-class Britain: we had two cars, a holiday home in the Andes and stable jobs.