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Story #14 : Cristina Santana

Posted by Hugo Mendez on

My name is Cristina Santana and this is my Dig Deep Story.

Now, if you’re expecting to read about a race that tested my will and made me look deep inside of me, well, you might be disappointed. Not because I have never had a race like that, but because this experience I’m about to tell made me dig deeper than anything else I have ever experienced. And well, because it is also what led me to the sport of endurance anyways :)

I was born and raised in Venezuela. Although I did spend my first five years in Ann Arbor, Michigan while my dad pursued his Master and PhD degrees. An experience that I guess was meant to prepare us for the future, but that we saw as merely a great period of our life that was amazing, rich and full of experiences we would treasure forever. 

The next 20 or so years went by in a blink of an eye. I was faced many times with challenging moments, but then we all have, as life has a tendency to do. But these moments or situations were, for the most part, nothing unsurmountable, or at least they weren’t for me.

That is until 1998. That’s the year were life changed for most Venezuelans. The year we allowed a dictator to gain control of our beloved country.

I won’t go into the details because otherwise this story would be a book, and a very long one for that matter. But the truth is things just started to unravel. The economic and political situation kept getting worse and worse. No matter what we did or how much we protested, nothing seemed to work.

At least half of the country, if not more, seemed to find this character funny, entertaining, witty and most importantly, defiant. Defiant of the status quo. He was one of “them”. Finally, the person leading the country was not some rich politician that was out of touch with what was going on in the “barrios". Rather, he grew up in one, so he understood exactly what their life was like and what they lacked. Or so he made them believe.

And then there was the rest of us, those who were not fooled by his theatrics and who knew exactly where the country was headed if we didn’t fight back. And that’s what we did. We protested and marched, marched and protested. At first it was once a month, then every other week. Eventually it was a weekly occurrence, until it was decided the country would go on a national strike. And so we did. 

For pretty much 3 months we didn’t work. It started as a one day strike, but things developed throughout the day and a group of military officers  who had been suspended joined this strike and occupied one of the major plazas of the capital, and that was the start of it. I want to say we came very close to achieving our objective, but the truth is that the government was hurt, badly, but came out victorious. They had access to a lot of capital and were able to buy their way out of the strike. People were simply tired and couldn’t take it any longer.

Most people were able to resume their lives almost as if nothing had happened. But, in the aftermath of the strike, the government fired 18,000 employees from PDVSA, the state oil company. 40% of the company's workforce was simply let go, for "dereliction of duty" during the strike and arrest warrants were issued for six of the top executives of the company. Amongst them, my father.

To make this already long story a bit shorter, he had to hide for 3 months.

Eventually they canceled those warrants and everything seemed “ok” for about a year when they issued the warrants again when he had to go into hiding again. And this is when we made the choice, this is when we had to dig deep and make the decision, as a family, that it wasn’t worth it. The justice system was broken, so facing a trial was out of the question. It wouldn’t be fair and he would be sent to jail, no question about it. And he couldn’t spend the rest of his life hiding either. So we knew that the only choice was to get him out of the country and follow him.

I can’t go into specifics but thankfully, and with the help of angels that were put in our path, he got out. About a year later we had all followed him. We sold everything we had, packed our life in a few suitcases and arrived in the US. Extremely grateful that we had the chance to be here, that we were safe and healthy and still together. Grateful that we had a chance of starting over. But it all came at a big expense. Not only did we have to leave behind our jobs our house and our belongings. We also had to leave behind the life we knew, which included our families and friends.

A week after I arrived to the states with my kids, I quit smoking and started running. If I was going to start over I was going to do it the right way, and in that moment that meant getting healthy, for me and for my girls. Running just seemed like an easy way to keep me from thinking about smoking. The rest is history.

Don’t be afraid to dig deep. It will always be worth it, always!

Have A Dig Deep Story To Share? All you have to do is think of a particular time in your life when you had to dig deep (it doesn't necessarily have to be about racing or training, it can be about anything). Make your story as long as you want and send it to digdeepboco@gmail.com (subject : Your Instagram name if you have one). Don't forget to include a picture :) . I look forward to featuring your story! Cheers, Hugo

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