Last month I had the privilege of hosting three twenty-something's from Venezuela in our home and showing them the wonders of Yosemite National Park as well as the delights that are a part of Eastern Madera County.
They loved the area and the beauty of this area and I want to share with you the reactions these three artists in training had about their experience.
The three of them are scared about having to return to Venezuela because of the lack of safety there. Melanie expressed fear for her life because of the violence in the streets and the lawlessness in her nation. She is on a visa until November and hopes that the United States will allow her to return here as soon as possible so that she may become an American citizen.
Oliver was so intrigued by the freedoms we enjoy. He watched people talking freely, going wherever they wanted, spending money they had earned, without restrictions on their movements. He loved the friendliness of the park ranger at the gate who, upon hearing they were from another country, welcomed them, offered extra maps, and wished them a great visit. This was different from how Oliver has been treated by government officials in his country.
Jorge had been here before but returned to our area to see more of Yosemite. He loves the place but loves the American lifestyle even more. He can't get over the fact that as an artist in this country he may sculpt whatever he wants, sell it and a great price, and the government doesn't censor his creativity.
They all noticed that in small town America we talk more with each other and we wave a great deal to our neighbors. The numerous greeting they heard at our local Von's when we went to buy a few items let them know that we are a friendly group. They also noticed the quantities of food, produce, varieties, and cleanliness. That isn't a commonplace factor in their home cities.
The three of them commented that the roads were wonderful here. Jorge stated it so well, "Americans know how to build things and they build them the right way." They were impressed by the fact that there was little litter on our streets and very little graffiti. Pride in our area was evident to these visitors.
They were amused by the limited knowledge of Americans about Venezuela as they routinely found folks did not know anything about that nation even not knowing it is a part of the Western Hemisphere. One lady thought Venezuela was next France or Spain or even both!
Then they started to share their perspectives about our political environment. They don't understand Americans who want to allow more governmental control over their lives. They live under a dictatorship and hate it. They see the benefits of freedom in being allowed to be artists without censorship. They see that people can be engaged in commerce to the benefit of everyone without a government rationing items. They see that private business folks are better at getting most things done than a government program.
Jorge told me that he hopes we don't mess up the country before he becomes a citizen and before his children are born. He wants his children to be born here, raised here, and educated here, as Americans.
These three are amazed that a country does such great things and while they see a need for certain government actions they are dubious of the government's role in daily lives of everyone.
One thing that did impress them has to do with President Lincoln's action in 1864 with the Yosemite Grant. Melanie said it best when she saw that Lincoln, while bearing the full weight of the Civil War and the toll it must have taken, still took time to sign the Yosemite Grant and that 150 years later we get to enjoy the fruits of that action. Melanie was impressed by Lincoln but went on to comment how great Americans were because we went along with it.
These three visitors to our country see things very clearly. They see the greatness of America in our people and not in our leaders. They see neighbors helping neighbors and they see golden opportunities for people who live and work here to succeed and they want to be a part of that. When they apply for permanent status I will write a letter of support.
When they arrived here to begin their lives as Americans they will think that their best days are ahead of them. I will know that America will be better with them as part of this great country populated by immigrants like them coming here for a better life under the Constitution which limits the government and not the citizen.