Sophomore Isabel Blanco smiles as she talks, her bubbly laugh filling the crowded common room. The center of attention, Blanco perches on a beanbag with a friend. The Resident Assistant (RA) of the hall begins to speak, outlining health and safety inspection rules.
“Are fish allowed?” Blanco said. “Yes, they are,” the RA said. “Good, then Mr. Darcy is safe.”
It makes sense that Isabel is concerned for her loved one’s safety, as it is something the sophomore thinks about every day. As of fall 2016, Blanco is one of seven Venezuelan citizens enrolled at Elon University. Together, Venezuelans make up .001 percent of Elon students. But Blanco, the student representative for the Hispanic Latino Working Group, the director of the service committee and secretary for the Latinx-Hispanic Union, student coordinator for the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education and director of the Intersect Conference, is hoping her presence will keep the campus from overlooking the turmoil in her country.
Venezuela, a nation of more than 31 million people, has reeled in discord, protests and violence for the past 20 years, yet little conversation has surrounded the topic on campus.
“What we have in Venezuela right now is a dictatorship. They call themselves socialists, but they have been actively breaking and changing the constitution,” Blanco said. “They’ve been in power since 1998, that’s 19 years. It’s a dictatorship.”
Hugo Chavéz, Venezuela’s president from 1999 up until his death in 2013, was an advocate of the socialist party. Socialists believe that areas of production, distribution and exchange should be controlled by the community. Blanco thinks this strategy damaged Venezuela.
“It got bad when the oil prices went down. He didn’t diversify the economy. The economy was crumbling apart. So prices started going up, we started having food shortages and people were…