From a young age my parents have instilled in me the importance of voting. I see my family members in the US exercise their right to vote whenever an election is happening. In my circle, voting is not just a right, but an obligation, a civil duty. It is not a chore either. But that appreciation for democracy and for the right to vote came at a price: the decline of democracy in our own country.
This month, I had the privilege to vote in the Madrid elections. Although I was born in Venezuela, I have Spanish citizenship and as such, was able to vote. Having lived in Spain for three years already, I’ve grown to not only love this country, but to care deeply about its future. Spain’s future is mine now. To me voting was not up for debate and while there may be some in this country who feel uncomfortable by my right to vote as a Venezuelan or who feel threatened by my participation in this democracy, I knew heading to the polls was the right thing to do.
It’s worth noting that my own country was brought up repeatedly throughout the election campaign, most notably by Isabel Ayuso, president of the Community of Madrid and the eventual victorious winner. To have my own country’s trauma repeated back to me was tough. I couldn’t decide whether it was a cheap fear tactic or a worthy argument to make. But what was clear to me was that Venezuelans like me had a role to play in these elections. More the reason to vote.
On May 4th, I headed to vote in my neighborhood. I arrived at the poll and found a line that never seemed to end. Watching all those people wait in line made me slightly emotional. What was more emotional was joining the end of that line for the first time in my life. For many, voting means nothing or at least, very little. To me, having seen the decaying democracy in my own country, voting means survival.
Only 30 minutes later, I casted my vote and walked away from the polling station feeling a multitude of emotions. On one hand, I was grateful to have my Spanish citizenship. In the 50s my grandparents left Spain for Venezuela in search of a better life and now, I’ve done the same. I am happy to find a country that (mostly) welcomes me and other Venezuelans. Yet, I couldn’t help but wish I was voting at home. It satisfied me to know however, that Venezuela played a role in my vote.
Regardless of the result, I was proud of myself and proud of Madrid. According to El Pais, participation in these elections was above 75%. Even from the early hours on May 4th, experts predicted a record-breaking participation. Democracy is still strong in Spain and I will continue to vote so it remains that way.