Growing up, I was always thrilled to see or hear any mention of Venezuela in movies, comics books, TV, etc. Who am I kidding? I still do. I guess when you come from a relative obscure country, you are always surprised that someone knows about it. Personally, when people ask me “You have an accent, where are you from?” the range of reactions go from “Venezuela? Isn’t that the capital of Buenos Aires?” to a horrified expression followed by “Where the hell is that?” and everything in between. Mind you, I’m no geography expert, but I'd rather ask questions than make statements. Those better informed would know it’s in South America and would talk about our numerous Miss Universes, Miss Worlds and the fact that we are one of the top crude oil producers in the world. That seems to be the extent of our international projection.
In the past decade or so, the feedback from the casual interloper inquiring about the origin of my unusual inflection went from ignorance to infamy. It is not without reason; the media–which rarely paid attention to my country–is short on niceties when reporting about Venezuela lately. Granted, the place they talk about is very different than the one I lived in close to two decades ago.
When I was about 14 years old, I decided that I would make my living as a creator (the medium was irrelevant). I wanted to help bring Venezuela out of obscurity and dispel erroneous notions that we all live in the jungle, are poorly educated, involved in some criminal activity, homogenous and indistinguishable from other Latin American nations; big thoughts in the mind of a kid living in a place where everything seems so far away.
Yes, there’s a great deal of crime, corruption and poverty in Venezuela. I’m a pragmatist; nice speeches can’t eclipse our track record. Our culture does share a common bond with our Latino brothers and sisters, but we all have our own identity. Racially and ethnically, we are lucky to have a wealth of influence from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, the Middle East, Africa and other countries (those beauty queens don’t grow on trees). In my case, I’m the first generation of my family born outside Spain. I grew up influenced by my heritage, my place of birth, and a steady diet of Japanese cartoons (Anime) and American entertainment (like the rest of the world).
Like me, the book’s protagonist is multicultural; making him the best guide for readers to experience his world, while at the same time, giving him a more objective point about his environment.
One of the main things I want to achieve with “Sleeper’s Run,” is to portray a more realistic Venezuela. In my opinion, the political climate of recent years has made my birthplace ripe for an interesting story that deals with our relation with the United States and our collective past, present and maybe even our future. Keep on running!