By Bianile Rivas.
José Hercilio Diusa Sinisterra wants to return home to Valle del Cauca. He wants to leave no matter what, either with help from the government or on his own. He left his country at the age of 26, once he got tired from the long crossings from Colombia Port to the United States, and he decided to stay in Venezuela.
In his teenage years, he sailed happily across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. But now, Diusa’s voice breaks, and he gets mixed feelings when he talks about traveling back home. He feels nostalgia for having lived the last 60 years in Venezuela. It is not fortuitous that he is uneasy: he wants to leave because he feels threatened. Here, in Venezuela, his life is in danger; he is afraid of dying alone or abandoned.
Mister Diusa, who is now 87 years old, has been blind for the last five years and is so thin that he admits it torments him.
“My height is 1.68 m, and my weight has always been 56 kg; now, I have had my nutritional tests, and I weigh 38 kg. Look to what I have reduced,” he confesses.
Besides the hunger, Diusa has another problem, he is scared by an order to evict from the room where he lives, in the La Importancia barrio, a very precarious area to the south-east of Guanare, the capital of the state of Portuguesa. The owners of the inn give him until December to leave the room, arguing that the property is for sale. He has five months to vacate it.
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He says he arrived at the neighborhood thanks to a gesture of solidarity from the owner, with whom he got a friendship of years, when he established himself in Guanare in 1980, 40 years ago, for work.
No money for rent
Diusa pays $1 for the rent of the room. His friend, the owner of the house, died, and the heirs want to get rid of the blind man. They raised his rent to $5 and asked him to leave the house by December.
“I can’t pay five dollars. These kids know that my payment is not enough. I can’t afford it,” Diusa reiterates while explaining that he survives because he receives two bags of subsidized food, one from the Clap and the other from the National Institute of Nutrition. In tears, Diusa told that he has had to resort to selling or exchange of these products to get personal hygiene supplies and some proteins, such as eggs, to complete a portion of rice or cheese to fill an arepa.
Diusa worries that he has five months left and that the bags of food have taken almost two months to arrive. “I have little time left and nothing to eat. I’m sick. What I need is money to leave: if I had the ticket, I would have left on my own because I have a well-off family, with the possibility of having a good time there in Buenaventura, three hours from Cali.”
According to his testimony, his family is prospered. “My family in Buenaventura, where I want to go, lives in a neighborhood called El Cristal. There, I have four nephews, sons of my brother Rosalino Diusa. I also have a sister, Graciana Diusa, who lives in the John Kennedy neighborhood. They are a good and working family. Some of them have an American ID. Sometimes they travel there. Sometimes they are in Colombia. I know that they will receive me very well,” he says.
He wants to go away to seek a better life or at least to die in peace, as he says, but without that dream overshadowing her memory. He is reluctant to forget Venezuela. He is grateful for his life in this land, which he considers his own in pain and joy.
“I am Venezuelan, and it hurts me to leave this country. I have been living in Venezuela for 60 years: I arrived in December 1959, and the following year I already had an identity card. Here I learned to be a good man. I have been a person who has defended himself. I have not done badly, what ails me now is being blind, and a blind man cannot work.”
Diusa is proud of his record of commitment and tenacity. He reveals that he lived in Caracas, the city where he arrived by Miguel Angel Burelli Rivas, the late politician and diplomatic, who was a presidential candidate in 1968 for the Democratic-Republican Union (URD) party. Also, in El Vigia, Merida state, where he was hosted by a relative of Burelli Rivas, at his request, to take care of a cattle ranch.
The gentleman recalls that he lived in Puerto Cabello and worked for years on that dock. He worked too in Pequiven, the Venezuelan state-owned petrochemical industry, and in Venepal, the Venezuelan paper company.
During his stay in Carabobo, Diusa commented that he worked hard in the Plantacentro Thermoelectric Plant, one of the most important generation systems in the country, which at one point was the largest electric power generation complex in the Central-North-Coastal Region. All these thanks to his command of the English language. Diusa also lived the experience of the mines in the state of Bolivar. There, he was in holes and quarries driven by the gold fever until, in 1980, when he arrived in Guanare.
“I fell in love, found good friends and good jobs, became a food and meat merchant until I lost my sight ten years ago,” he says.
That blindness was the reason for his decline. He ended up with what he accumulated through years of work and sacrifice, sold everything to survive. Today, he subsists on the two dollars from the pension, which is not enough to dress, eat, and live with dignity.
In his room, he gets visited by Fanny Garcia, a retired teacher from the visual impairment school Guanare. Fanny gave him food she collects for him at her prayer group from the St. Anthony of Padua Church and cleans his bedroom, a task limited by the expansion of the new coronavirus.
We found Diusa on the morning of July 14 at the door of his room. He was fine, lucid, and greeting us in English, although he was hungry for food and company. He resists going to the Good Samaritan, a Catholic Church shelter for the elderly, that her friend Fanny Garcia got him. He repeats that he just wants to go home.
“What I want is to find some help in these five months that I have left in the boarding house, between now and December, to go to Buenaventura. I have no family, I had a son, and he got killed by a car, I had a nephew, and he died too. I buried them, and I was left alone, I have no one, so I am upset. I don’t want to go to other places. I want to go back home.”