One of the many, many consequences of the ongoing Venezuelan tragedy is that it has split so many families apart, my own included. We are at a point where it is safe to say that around eight million Venezuelan citizens — more than a quarter of the country’s entire ~30 million population — have fled from the country.

I say that because the “estimation” as of November 2023 is that over 7.7 million have left — yet, that is an aggregated statistic that’s using now-outdated data from certain countries, such as the United States (last updated in 2021), so yeah.

Among those eight million people you may find entire families that left together towards other countries, but that is not the case for many. Perhaps in one family, the sons were the ones that left, leaving their parents behind, as is the case of one of my neighbors, a journalist that fled to another country after being kidnapped in 2014. In other cases, it is the parents that fled, leaving the children behind with relatives as they search for jobs and opportunities that allow them to send money back home. 

Some cases see families completely scatter away across other countries and different continents even, which now applies to me.

A couple years ago the sheer majority of my family resided in either Caracas or Maracaibo, with perhaps one or two cases of relatives living abroad due to work or what have you. Now, the larger bulk of my closest relatives no longer lives in Venezuela, as all of us made our own plans to start new lives away from a still collapsing country.

There was a time where we used to gather together for Christmas and New Years, and while yes, I’ve lost my mom, grandmother, and some of my uncles and aunts, those of us that remain are now so split apart across several countries that a gathering of that nature is simply impossible to achieve.

As such, the closest thing we can do for a “family get together” is a video call on WhatsApp, and schedule our birthdays, Christmas, and happy new year calls around time zone differences.

As is the case with many Latinos, I have a lot of cousins — over a dozen, just to give you a rough estimation, some of whom I haven’t met yet and some may not even remember me at all. Naturally, I’ve had a much closer relationship with some of my cousins than with others, the ones that I grew up with and all that. Out of all of them, only two of my closest cousins are now left in Venezuela, and more specifically, currently reside in our old apartment.

One of them is one of the few female cousins that I have. She, despite having had a rough childhood filled with abuse and unfavorable circumstances, always lived together with her younger brother, but now her brother resides in the United States, so her closest relative, the one she loves and cares for the most, is no longer with her.

Those two siblings are the ones that I care for the most — in addition to my brother, of course — and out of my dozen or so cousins, they are the ones that I’ll always have unrepentant favoritism towards, as the four of us have been largely scorned and derided by members of our family, and branded as as “the abnormals” or the “weirds” due to our social awkwardness and other atypical traits.

There was no way for me to be able to bring those two with me to Italy, and if you’ve known me for a while, you know how much I failed over the past six years just to find a legal solution that allowed me to get my brother out of Venezuela with me. She actually had the possibility of fleeing to the United States with some of my family, including her brother — let’s just say that she chose to stay in Caracas and live through the ongoing disaster of it all rather than spend a single more day of abuse with them.

As such, and despite me only presently having a part-time job income, I’ve been bankrolling her ongoing nursing school studies; no one else in our family seems to be willing to do so despite now being in a better financial situation than me, though.

I do it, not to seek self-gratification, good boy points, or my own salvation at the end of my life, but because I do not want her to repeat the same mistake that I did of not finishing my studies and flunking college hard, something that, to this day, I am still paying the price for.

She wrote a letter to me back in October, thanking me for always believing in her. That’s one of the few personal items I brought with me to Italy alongside the oldest picture of me and my brother, pictures of my mom, and a Totodile coffee mug my cousin gave me for my birthday in January, among some other stuff. 

Her brother, who is also my cousin and Godson, is now in Florida. I haven’t been able to talk too much with him, though. Before leaving Venezuela he, in his innocence, entrusted me with some of his most treasured possessions: His Power Rangers Samurai Megazords, my old Yu-Gi-Oh cards that I had one passed onto him, and other things that he holds dead. These are stored away in my closet back in Caracas.

I certainly miss both of them. I could visit them with my brother, as we can now literally travel to almost every country in the world — in fact, I very much would love to do so if and when I’m in a financial position that allows me to travel.

It’s still surprising how, despite now being thousands and thousands of kilometers (miles for you Americans), my cousins still manage to find ways to aggravate me, through, with thing like waiting until the last time to pay a bill, or in her case, messaging me at late midnight hours asking for help with her homework, but that’s family.

When it comes to the rest of my family — well, let’s just say that I have more than enough reasons to be upset at them due to several past misdeeds, including a rather serious family drama that irreparably broke the unity of the family long ago. 

Be that as it may, though, and at the end of the day, family is family, and I find myself in a position where I cannot let myself be consumed by past grudges. I already have enough health woes, personal problems, and responsibilities as it is to go around wasting what’s left of me in the past — nor can I go around plaguing myself with zero sum calculations to see if the good outweighs the bad.

And that’s just on my mother’s side of the family.

When it comes to my father’s side, I have a half-sister that I’ve only spoken to through the phone, and she lives with my dad, who is still in Venezuela. I do believe that while she intends to migrate (now that she has obtained Italian citizenship as well), my dad doesn’t, and he only wants to once again visit his family’s ancestral birthplace in Cosenza, among other places.

Similarly, there’s the case of an older half-brother, who I had no idea of his existence and I’ve never talked to. His name, and origin was only unceremoniously revealed to me by my father through Google Talk (lol) less than three weeks after my mother died (at a time when, 30-year old, I was recovering from chickenpox btw, so I was physically and mentally a disaster). 

Basic social media searches would confirm that he’s in a completely different Latin American country, is married, and has a kid. I still don’t know how to tackle all that. When it comes to cousins, there’s significantly fewer on that side, neither of which live in Venezuela anymore as far as I know.

And in the case of my dad, he too had to see cousins and other members of his family leave for other countries over the past years.

Like many other Venezuelan families nowadays, WhatsApp is the main platform that allows me to stay in touch with my family in lieu of being able to physically meet with them and whatnot. A call or a message here and there, the sharing of pictures and videos from distant lands, it’s all a new normal in almost every Venezuelan family now. Thank God that WhatsApp allows you to increase the speed of voice notes through… I hope whoever added that feature got a raise.

I have come to terms with the fact that, as a result of Venezuela’s ongoing migrant crisis — and despite the good and bad of the past — there are members of my family whom I simply won’t be able to see anymore, and there won’t ever another Christmas and New Years eve gathering like the ones we once had in Caracas and Maracaibo.

But that’s one of the many things that happen when 8 out of 28 million (and counting) have fled from Venezuela.