Hugo (Chapter 1)
My name is Hugo Ojeda. I am fifteen years old.
I did not know what hyperinflation was before my mother and I were kicked out of our home. To me it is the same as everything else in Venezuela: chaos. We spent weeks on food supplies after seeing whatever money we had turn worthless overnight, the price of a banana exceeding that of the cars outsides. Even the supermarkets refuse to put the price on things anymore. My country, the one with all the oil, has given up. Worthless.
So my mother and I walked to Colombia. Like so many others did, over 1 million in fact, desperate for another chance in life. It took weeks, perhaps even months to get to the frontier near the Colombian city of Cúcuta. A small jungle outpost where we would be told to make our homes. It was here where I first met Ángel Bastardo.
He never spoke about what he was before coming here. But many people tried to guess: convict, drug dealer, government official, humanitarian…some even suggested he was an ex-Football Manager turned military dictator. But I never cared to find out, Ángel Bastardo looked after us. All of us. For me, he was our guardian angel; a gift from God.
Bastardo had the outpost secured so that raiders couldn’t get to any of us or our supplies, even if they had dared to try. It was said that the Colombian jungle now belonged to Bastardo, that he could see through the eyes of the trees and was always a step ahead of whatever came for us in the dark. He saw everything. In three months of turmoil, it was the happiest I had ever been. I slept well.
Until 06 June. The day when they came…a helicopter descending on the village at 0200 in the morning. The winds from the helicopter's blades rippled through the gymnasium's large bay windows where I, and around 50 others slept each night, my naked body exposed as the bed covers danced in the ballet of the night. I was terrified.
There was panic, as villagers raced from the hall and into the village square. A wall of people stood in front of Bastardo's offices to face the visitors from the sky. Once scantily dressed, I headed for the same square whilst loading the pistol that Bastardo had previously given to me. I remembered his words to me on receipt of this gift: "a gun in hand is better than a cop on the phone". I needed to summon what he called 'fibra', as I saw soldiers exiting from either side of the helicopter doors. They were shouting in a tongue I had never heard, neither Portuguese or Spanish. These were aliens.
One word could be made out though: "Bastardo". They wanted Bastardo, and they continued to shout it loud. With their rifles pointed towards the crowd they abruptly stopped the shouting as a smaller man, with a thick head of black hair, exited the helicopter. I remember the noise around the square quieting as the shadowy figure walked up to the crowd. This is where I brandished the pistol, facing him with him in the sights of my gun. But he was unfazed by the threat, "Bastardo comrade" he whispered to me, his accent clear enough to distinguish the two words. This man was Russian, who I now know to be Ruslan Chepiga: Superior Agent of the Russian Federal Security Service and liberator of the African world.
I was scared, like everybody else, expecting to be fired at. That's when I did something that I still can't quite fathom: "I am Bastardo" I replied proudly. The words resonated with all of us, individually we were nothing but a government statistic: 1 million unwanted Venezuelan immigrants…with Bastardo we had become something better: a community. "I am Bastardo" people started to cry out; men, women and children joined the chorus of cries. This time I cried out louder in defiance:
"I am Bastardo"
"I am Bastardo"
Notes from the Editor - So, we’re back with some creative writing to move the Bastardo storyline forward. This is the first entry of a trilogy of short posts around the same scene, but from three different viewpoints.
‘Hugo’ took a few different iterations before I finally settled on the Point Of View of a 15-year-old Venezuelan migrant. What that country is going through right now is shameful. But perhaps what is more shameful is the International Community who are not ‘doing enough’ to help in my opinion.