Exchange student reflects on crisis at home


Hannah Rabasca

Enrique Contreras serves rice and beans to Rotary International members

Amidst a presidential crisis in his home country, Venezuelan native Enrique Contreras has traveled to the United States to spend his senior year at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS).
“I left my home country of Venezuela looking for an opportunity to represent it as a Rotary International cultural ambassador, to learn a new culture, and to share my home culture,” Enrique said.
After an eight-hour flight with a bag packed for a colder climate than Venezuela’s, Enrique has embarked on a new journey in America. Here, he has had the opportunity to take advanced level classes and join both the swim and cross-country teams.
He said, “I’m lucky to get the chance of being surrounded by English native speakers in order to improve my English.”
Enrique has left behind his family in Venezuela. Their family has always been able to depend on their business selling milk and beef from their farm, and milk is one of the products being rationed in supermarkets due to the crisis, which is making it very valuable.
The declarations of presidential power by both Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó in 2018 have led to an absence of a clear, globally-recognized government structure in Venezuela. Juan Guaido has been recognized as president by some citizens and other countries, including the U.S.
China and Russia recognize Maduro as president, but the U.S. and most European countries recognize Guaido as president.
While Enrique’s family has not been as negatively impacted as Venezuelans who have found themselves in more critical financial conditions, he strongly believes that Guaido would do a better job getting the country back on track. “I’ve never met anyone that supports Maduro,” he said.
While many people and reporters in the media are unsure if the country will be able to recover in the near future, Enrique has not lost his sense of pride for Venezuela. He believes that his country can overcome its current state of political and economic crisis.
“Being a Venezuelan citizen is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Venezuela has an amazing culture and kind people,” he said. “There is a way to get out of the current corrupt government and that decision has been made by the Venezuelan people for the world to hear their voices and to express how much we want a change in our country.”