Make Me A Little Miracle: Women in the Venezuelan Crisis
Maria Lionza hazme un milagrito y un ramo e flores te vo a llevar
un ramo e flores, de flores blancas cual la pureza de tu bondad
Over the past 5 years of traveling between the US and Venezuela, I’ve come to realize that oversimplified narratives have led to a total lack of understanding between the two countries. When I return to the US from Venezuela, people ask me what I eat, and how I survive, as though the country was nothing but tear gas and famine. When I return to Venezuela from the US, people ask me if Trump is really going to invade, sometimes hopeful, sometimes frightened, sometimes enraged. I first went to Venezuela in 2014, to photograph stories about civil unrest, that I soon realized sometimes reinforce a reductive understanding of the country, by making it look like chaos, violence, and hunger are things that happen in a vaccuum, not the stunning and vibrant place I know and love
Ever since, I’ve been searching for context, and trying to show the contradictions and causes that have brought a once oil rich tropical paradise to its knees. Trying to show the normalcy, and surrealism, that punctuates daily life in a failing state. From the cheerleaders performing at a bitcoin convention after a national cryptocurrency was launched to combat the cash shortages, to the Carnaval festivities inside the commune of a pro-government paramilitary, the human stories of the collapse of an egalitarian dream are stranger than fiction, and far more complex.
A country is much more than the sum of its worst moments. The word crisis doesn’t describe the joyous burst of salsa through cracked car windows running on subsidized gasoline, the pride of perfectly clean school uniforms even when there’s no water, or the blue and gold parrots crying over head in the Caribbean sunlight over the deflated metropolis of Caracas. It doesn’t evoke the impromptu dance party during the black outs, or the courage of the little league player to still dream of making it, after the scouts told him he’s too small, because he’s been eating one meal per day for his entire adolescence.
Make Me A Little Miracle references Ruben Blades’ famous salsa song about Maria Lionza, a Venezuelan saint or goddess figure, and icon of strength and the mystical beauty of the Venezuelan woman. This work attempts to reconcile the tragedy battering Venezuela, with the awe inspiring resilience of its people. The demise of a utopian vision, but not a nation of “victims.” My lens lingers on the strength and grace of women holding their world together as it tries to burst at the seams, and their struggle through daily life, sometimes quiet, sometimes violent, sometimes breathtaking. I try to center, but not isolate, the role of women in this story, in order to emphasize, rather than separate, the female experience of this historic moment, through images which celebrate strength while documenting the reality they are facing, bringing together the most difficult and most beautiful moments from one of the most difficult and beautiful places I’ve ever seen.