An Unusually Somber day

When you have a child, you have all the children of the land, the child of the house and of the whole street, you have the one who rides in the beggar’s hip and in the carriage pushed by the English governess… When you have a child, you have so many children that the street is full, and the square, and the bridge, and the market, and the church, and it’s ours any child when he crosses the street and the car runs over him … Andrés Eloy Blanco. Venezuelan poet.

Today we arrived at the Universidad Metropolitana and there was an unusual atmosphere. There were groups of students in the cafeteria, but we did not hear the usual loud chatter and laughter. There was a soft and humming noise instead. They were speaking in low voices, and wore tight faces.

We continued walking towards El Samán, a wide square with a leafy rain tree in the center, which is the site of the great celebrations of the university, like graduations, anniversaries, etc. There were more people than usual, in fact, there were more people than I remembered having seen any time in the past. However, the mood and clothes of the attendants mirrored the shadow of the rain tree, they were dark, even under the light of the scorching sun.

I walked around and noticed that in the stage usually destined for the musical groups, or for the university authorities, there was an altar. Two high flagpoles framed it. On one side, the Venezuelan flag raised to the top, on the other, the University´s, raised at half-mast. In the lower part, a big white banner had a name written in great black letters “JUAN PERNALETE”.

We were present in the posthumous tribute that the educational community of the Universidad Metropolitana had hurriedly organized to honor its pupil Juan Pablo Pernalete. Juan Pablo had been viciously assassinated the day before of a direct gas canister shot in the chest, made by one of the regime's policemen.

He had been demonstrating against the Venezuelan dictatorial regime, along with millions of other people in the country, for the opportunity to have a better future. @JuanPabloSmile once tweeted “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. But this time, I am not ready to lose. I LOVE YOU VENEZUELA”. But this time, he lost his life, and Venezuela one of her best promises.

Juan was a 20 years old prominent and beloved member of the university’s educational community. He studied Public Accounting at the Universidad Metropolitana under an “Excellence in Sports” scholarship. He was a brilliant student and athlete, and a great human being, and friend, and boyfriend, and son, and citizen of this country.

My youngest son is 20 years old, like Juan Pablo was. He is also a student and fellow of the Universidad Metropolitana, like him, but his scholarship is of “Excellence in Arts”. He has a girlfriend, like Juan Pablo had. He is a friend of his friends, like Juan Pablo was. Just as Juan Pablo belonged to the university´s basketball team, my son belongs to its music ensemble. Like Juan Pablo did, he represents not only my wife’s and my own present and future, but the country’s too. When I heard about Juan Pablo´s death, I went to comfort my son and I cried. I cried because at that moment I realized that Juan Pablo could have been my son. Rather, he was my son, as in Andres Eloy poem. The multitude of people present at El Samán that morning, was paying posthumous homage to the son of all, the friend of all, the brother of all. There was no one there who wasn’t deeply shocked by his early and senseless departure.

Juan Pablo´s passing leaves a void, a gap, a crater in everyone’s heart. The university misses one of its best students. The basketball team will not ever find a substitute for its #6. His girlfriend has lost her sweetheart. His friends will not share any more time with their “Bro”. His parents were left orphan of their only son. His departure leaves them, and his country with a disheartening void in their present and future. Because it is with the youth like Juan Pablo, that the best future of nations is made of.

Juan Pablo, everyone present in this painful gathering, represents the rest of a mourning country in its offering to your soul white flowers, like the light that you have become, and the song “Venezuela”, the land that you so much loved and died for. (Please watch the video here)

Dios te bendiga por siempre