Put yourself in their shoes
A particular initiative will cover up Caracas again with faces of mothers who lost their children. Behind them lies a phenomenon that is becoming more and more common: families destroyed by the Venezuelan violence
At Gerdell's house, they do not eat together anymore. "We do this so that the black void caused by Diego's death does not surface," the mom relates. The family rarely sits around the dining table, and this attitude concerns a remarkable event in the change list that they suffered since the oldest of their four children was murdered.
No more parties, for instance. Mom, Nakuwaipa Gerdell, seeks for software packs to try to wonder what the boy who died in his 18 years of existence- would look like. And beyond the sighs and the ever-lasting mornings sitting at the Attorney's General Office asking for the trial -against the murderer- to begin; she has restricted her other children when going out. She has even decided that the second child will not enter university till new living opportunities are found far from Caracas and other localities like her house in Turmero tainted by the insecurity.
Next week, Gerdell's case is one of the 54 cases that will be present again in Caracas through Proyecto Esperanza (Hope Project), a campaign which seeks to call people's attention concerning an ever-increasing phenomenon: families split by the Venezuelan violence.
A set of huge pictures covered up last year- several walls of the city. They were white and black pictures displaying the mothers' faces who buried their children due to the underworld and violence's participation. From next week, the same faces will make a new appearance but this time in company with artists, sportspeople and public figures like singer Oscar de León, Gabriel Cichero and TV presenter Maite Delgado. All of them united in the same campaign with the same motto: "Put yourself in their shoes."
Just last year, the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence measured a death toll of 19,336 in Venezuelan territory; it amounts to filling the Poliedro de Caracas with people almost in its totality. It is hard to keep track of each of these stories. That is what Carolina González and María Fernanda Pérez Rincones thought when they decided to create Proyecto Esperanza, through which they intend to warn that behind the murder rate of every weekend, lie sequels such as those that some label as "secondary victims" and "collateral damages."
"We have been mainly centered on the number of deaths that occur daily; nevertheless, what happens when someone losses a loved one?" they wonder. "They are families, mothers, and people who happen to suffer psychological, social, and legal consequences and also they are the ones who after all- remain alive."
Nakuwaipa Gerdell did not eat for 18 days subsequent to her son's murder in 2010. "On one occasion, my husband remarked: "They not only took my son away from me but also changed my wife," she relates. "At that very moment, I came to the point of realization that I had become so detached from everybody that it forced me to realize that I needed to change the situation and get closer to him and my other children."
It is quite normal that the loss of a loved one leaves an aching void. Psychologist Claudia Carrillo, coordinator of the Area of Psycho-Social Care for Victims of Cofavic, indicates that what truly makes of this process a painful and traumatic experience is the sudden and violent way in which every of these deaths take place, and become worse, when these cases are not handled by the judicial system.
"Impunity is portrayed as a re-victimizing effect," Carrillo explains. The issue not only concerns a mother having buried her son but also the feeling of being forgotten by the mass. Such pain according to Carrillo- is seen in emotional turmoil and even in small details such as the desire many mothers have to preserve their children's rooms and belongings as a tribute given to them.
Pictures where Diego Gerdell appeared, for instance, accompany his mom. The coins he collected and even the last deodorant he used are now part of the "museum" that she takes in her purse, so that everyone who approaches her, realizes that on September 18, 2010; her son was not intended to be killed during the theft occurred on a bus, that was taking him from San Juan de Los Morros municipality where he used to study- to the way back home in Turmero.
That mother's face is one of the faces that Proyecto Esperanza will display from next week together with public figures that go from baseball player Omar Vizquel to leading singer of the recognized nationwide alternative rock band Desorden Público, Horacio Blanco. They intend to warn about the little stories that are destroying people's joy in Caracas and the rest of the country; and for that reason, they make an in-depth examination on those mothers of youngsters murdered from 1989 up to now.
"The grieving and the fear of being attacked are affecting our productive capability, we witness it daily on the work level through absences, poor performance and irritability and also in schools and our children and teenagers," Psychologist Claudia Carillo concludes.
Translated by Adrián Valera Villani
María Fernanda Astudillo is a store analyst for Alimentos Polar working at the company's facilities in La Yaguara. At only 23 years of age, she has made a career in that company where she has worked for the last six years. Now, besides her responsibilities, which include overseeing shipping/receiving and warehousing of goods, she is taking part in the roundtable discussions among the other companies operating in the La Yaguara industrial park, the Government and the workers exploring possible ways of coping with the order to expropriate the land.