In My Old Suitcase
I gave up my law career in Venezuela to move to Nova Scotia with my Canadian husband. Years later, finding my forgotten black suede shoes in my old suitcase raised questions in my daughter- and me.
In May 2000, I moved to Nova Scotia from Venezuela to start a new life with my Canadian husband. I had met him only a few months before, at a private club in Maracaibo. White pool umbrellas danced to a Latin song in the warm breeze when he asked me whether I wanted to practice English with him. I said, “Yes.” We were both engaged to others, but we soon ended our engagements. I decided to give up my law career and was eager to move to Canada. It was an exciting and tumultuous period of my life.
As time went by in our home just outside Halifax, I never let myself think about what I left behind. Five years later, when showing my children my life packed in a suitcase, I discovered my black suede high-heeled shoes–my lawyer shoes. Buried under all these memories, they looked sturdy, confident but forgotten. I picked them up, feeling the soft suede. My mind flashed with memories of the courtroom–the judge’s bench, lawyers quietly preparing clients for hearings, the Venezuelan flag by the entrance.
My daughter grabbed the shoes out of my hands, put them on and flexed her arms as if she were getting ready for battle. “Whose are these shoes?” she said.
The question was not just about property. “They were mine when I was a lawyer.” I sighed.
Her smile became a look of reproach.
“Why are you not a lawyer anymore?”
My husband stepped in, and in an attempt to save me, said, “Mommy decided to stay home to raise you.” But my daughter could tell that was not the whole story. Standing tall in the lawyer shoes, she waited for the truth.
“My credentials were not recognized in Canada,” I said. “I would have needed to go to law school again and then do the articling, even though I had been one of the heads of the department for five years in Venezuela. I didn’t decide to stay home, but I enjoy being home with you.”
She jumped into my arms and hugged me so tightly I could feel her heart as my own. As I did in my closing arguments, stating the truth made me realize I was always going to be a lawyer–assertive, fiery, opinionated, resilient. At that moment, holding my daughter in my arms, I knew that I missed those black high heels. They had allowed me to walk on the path of justice in a country that was free.
Most of what I left behind is not there anymore. The government closed the corporation I worked for, and its offices were given to the Court of Justice of my city. Many of my colleagues have fled the country. A corrupted justice system and the greedy dictatorial government resulted in political, social and economic catastrophe.
There is not a day that I do not think about my Venezuela. Sometimes I close my eyes, and one of my favourite songs, called “Venezuela,” plays in my mind. “I carry your scent and your light in my skin,” it says.
Today my heart breaks knowing of all the young lives lost in the fight for freedom, all the blood in the streets, elders and children scavenging for food.
My hope is that someday I will take my children to visit the Venezuela where my lawyer shoes walked–the country of the white beaches, the rainforest, the mountains and the delicious food. The country loved by the sun once referred to as heaven on earth. My daughter would hold my hand, and I’d show her where I grew up to become the lawyer I am.
MARCELA CAMERON is a Venezuelan-Chilean lawyer living in Nova Scotia. She is a wellness and life coach, business owner and cultural interpreter. Her work also involves projects with immigrant and refugee women.