“Mom, Pedro Is the One That Was Run Over Twice by an Armored Vehicle”

Interview by Roberto Mata

Pedro Michel Yammine recovering in Clinica El Avila after having been run over by a tank. Photo by Roberto Mata ©

“At 4:45 pm there was a phone call from the El Avila Clinic.

‘Are you a family member of Pedro Yammine?’, asked a voice.

‘Yes I am his mother.’

‘Pedro, is here at the clinic. We need a representative to come.’

‘How is my son?’

‘We just need you to come.’

Pedro had been at home half an hour before to get some water. I asked him to come up and stay but he said he needed to continue. The protest had been repressed and moved from the Francisco Fajardo causeway to Altamira. He then left. It was May 3rd. We live three blocks from the Britannica Tower in Bello Campo. Too many bombs, too many gun shots, too much tear gas, too much of everything.

This morning he had had his favorite breakfast: eggs, arepas and juice. I made it for him. He cooks but he won’t forgive me if I don’t make his breakfast.

He left at 1:00 pm to protest as usual. He is a photographer but he never takes photos of the protests, he’d rather take beautiful pictures that highlight the wonders of his country. He had just finished an underwater photography workshop so he could take pictures of Venezuela’s sea corals. That’s what he always said.

I hung up the phone trembling. I couldn’t find my keys. I couldn’t find how to get there.

A neighbor took me to the clinic. It took me an hour and half to travel two kilometers. Pedro had been taken to the hospital by two brothers on motorbikes. He had seven broken ribs, fractured shoulder blades, air in his body, and his lungs were out. He also had other cuts and bruises. He was conscious when he arrived at the hospital. The nurse had asked him what he had had for lunch. He answered, ‘tear gas’.

He is 22 years old. He didn’t graduate from high school although he wished he had. He is ambidextrous, he likes to be called ‘Pedreishon’ just to make fun of me. He lives for photography. He is very loved by his friends. He protects others. He has attention deficit disorder and is myopic, very myopic.

I had asked him,

‘What happens if you drop your glasses in the middle of the protest, Pedro what will you do?’

‘Mom I will defend my glasses with my life.’

That night my daughter had told me, ‘Mother, Pedro is the one that was ran over twice by the tank. I recognized him from the video’.

Actually I didn’t know what had happened. I thought he had been run over by a motorbike.

I haven’t seen the video, neither has my husband. We just can’t.

My son was under anesthesia for two days. He didn’t move. His eyes were closed, he was swollen, breathing through a machine, and I said, ‘Wake up photographer, photography is awaiting you’. I said it, just like that, without crying because I know he doesn’t like it when I cry. He moved his lips. He had heard me. A wave of hope came over me. He would live.

The doctor that took care of him was coincidentally a diving friend. He believes in science but accepts miracles because Pedro’s lungs are a miracle. He lived that night. That is the only explanation.

I was told that that the tank ran over him for the first time when he was facing the other way. I don’t know what happened after.

María Auxiliadora Escobar de Yammine, mother of Pedro. Photo by Roberto Mata ©

Pedro is a victim but I don’t have space in me for resentment. I just want my Pedro joyfully next to me again.

Pedro is and is not Pedro. His original name is Michel. Pedro and his sister were adopted. I had him in 1996 but he was actually born in 1994. Children are not only akin, by blood, but also connected by the heart. They are still one’s children. I had mine from my heart.

At the National Institute for Assistance to Minors (INAM) , he stepped forward from a group of other kids, grabbed my hand and said, ‘This is my mother’. I didn’t have the chance to choose him, he chose me. He came with his sister that was 6 months old.

I was an older mother. I studied bilingual education in Boston and there I met my husband who is Venezuelan. I am originally from Barranquilla. I don’t have an accent. People from the coast don’t have accents.

Pedro repeated many times what Pedro Yammine, his father, had told him to say if something happened: Pedro Michel Yammine, El Avila Clinic, insurance Qualitas, his ID number, his home number, and the cel phone numbers.

In the clinic they haven’t spoken about medical bills yet to our family and the doctors decided not to charge anything from the very first day to take care of him. They have been fully supportive. So has the Chacao Municipality.

He is in intensive care. He no longer has tubes but he does have a drainage from his left lung. He is breathing on his own but I am not sure what it’s going to be like when he comes home. We don’t have a designated room so each night so I have go home to sleep even though I just want to be next to him. I am the one that feeds him. And he has a big appetite these days. I have been told his recovery will take about a year and a half.

He entered the clinic with his broken glasses, holding them tightly in his right fist. When he finally lost consciousness, his glasses were lost and all became a blur. The mother of one of his classmates ordered a new pair for him”.

María Auxiliadora Escobar de Yammine, 66, graduated in Philology and Languages from the Atlantic University in Barranquilla, Colombia. She has a Masters Degree in Bilingual Education from the University of Boston and she is the mother of Pedro Michel Yammine.

The photographs of Pedro Yammine were taken by Roberto Mata and authorized by him and is mother.

Note from the Translator:

Pedro Michel Yammine was run over twice by an armored tank from the National Guard during a protest on May 3rd, 2017. The video went viral in Venezuela and was covered by international news digital sites but it didn’t make international headlines. The videos and photographs of the incident were curated and posted on CNN digital and can be seen here but there is no photo credit available. CNN also misspelled his name. A handful of journalists and citizen journalists documented the scene.

Translated by Irene C. Herrera. Originally published by Pro Davinci in Spanish on May 9th.