Canada means freedom to me in many different ways. I am a Venezuelan journalist, translator and an ESL teacher trying to improve my lifestyle far from a political disaster. My country was well-known for oil production, Miss Universe winners, Hugo Chávez (former president) and having the most dangerous capital city in Latin America.
If you pay attention to point number two (misses), you can infer that Venezuelans are quite hedonistic. Our misses are totally different to yours or they used to be. Baby girls dream of taking part in our national beauty pageant. Certainly, even in the lowest stratum, people are true fashionistas. Some of them sacrificed a healthy diet in order to get “silicone balconies” (breast implants). Greying is a sin, as well as weighing more than 50 kilograms. Even during a yoga session on a Sunday morning, it was a “must” to wear make-up and long, colourful nails. Now everything is scarce due to President Maduro’s communist diet.
What a wonderful surprise when I arrived in Toronto on June 28, 2012. I saw Canadians, immigrants, everybody looking different, natural, and authentic. How marvellous was to understand that nobody would judge me for wearing shorts despite of any varicose vein, cellulitis or other common human conditions. Canadians style is fresh as lettuce.
High heels and boots at +35°C are nonsense but the daily routine in crowded Caracas, even for teens. When you wore flat shoes to be comfortable during a long day, of those in which the city collapsed, meant lacking femininity. You could get shot in my country for wearing your Nike trainers or carrying an iPhone. In Toronto, Ottawa and Gatineau-Hull, I improved my self-esteem. I dressed according to the weather conditions and my own style. The staff in a museum, store or tourist attraction served me as if I wore an Armani tailored suit.
Sadly, if you want to succeed on TV in my country, you must be an ex-miss Venezuela or close to such standard: size 0, tall, blinding white teeth, big breast implants and Rapunzel’s hair hehehe. Therefore, every miss becomes a journalist, in order to work either as an actress or a weather forecaster.
A young actress called Daniela Alvarado (34) was attacked via twitter by her fans in June 2012 because she was not a size 0 but maybe 12 or 14. She was the protagonist of a soap opera by that time. Amazingly, executives of Venevision channel supported her.
On the contrary, Canadian TV channels show diversity in both, advertisements and programs. I do admire and celebrate that, even if sometimes people may wonder who epitomizes the Canadian phenotype. Human beings come in different shapes, sizes and personalities. Our world needs tolerance, moral values and team work instead of (self) discrimination to go forward. Spontaneous generation is an obsolete body of thought. Then, it cannot explain nationalities. Nobody is genetically pure! Even First Nations all over the world are potential descendants of Asians and Africans. Conquerors came mostly from Europe. So, thank you nomads and globetrotters!
Women do not wear a lot of jewellery here. There is not the same level of sexual harassment on the streets as far as I can see. I rediscovered my prettiness! After years fighting against the chaos in Caracas, denying my right of enjoying a dress and a pair of sandals, here I am free as a bird looking forward to a brilliant future.
© Ambar Varela (text and image), July 8, 2012. Revised on October 12, 2016