Senior Speeches: Maria Chirinos

January 31, 2018

“I always keep in mind that I didn’t choose to be born in Venezuela. I had the honor of being born there.”

Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.

Throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.

Maria Chirinos

“Almost three years have passed since I last saw my family. Almost three years have passed and the Venezuela that I left behind when I first got here no longer exists. I know most of you might not believe me, but Venezuela is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and every day of my life I wonder why such a beautiful country is going through such a hard time.

“I am not going to lie, being Venezuelan is really painful. Our government system has taken everything away from us, including the opportunity for a better future. Inflation is out of control, food costs too much, everything costs too much. Out of desperation, citizens often move to other countries in the hope that one day they can go back to their beloved Venezuela. My family and friends back in Venezuela tell me I am lucky I am not dealing with what they have to deal with every day. It is true, I don’t have to worry about what’s there to eat for dinner, or if my instrument is going to get stolen while I am walking in the street. But only half of my heart is here. The other half is in Venezuela with my family.    

“On the other side, I am grateful to have been born in Venezuela. It is a country of endless beauty and crystal clear beaches. We have the ‘Salto Angel’ or ‘Angel Falls,’ the tallest waterfall in the world, which has inspired movies like Disney’s ‘Up.’ And I am just going to say this; I am proud to be Venezuelan. We are the kind of people who like to enjoy the present because the future is uncertain, we see the funny side of everything, even what is not supposed to be funny. This has gotten me in trouble once or twice, but it is a way to escape from all the craziness that goes down every day. We are welcoming because we are always up for having a good time, like unexpected trips to the beach or the mountains, going to the desert, which is only seven minutes away from my house, or throwing shoes at palm trees to see who can knock down the most coconuts.  

“Venezuela is colorblind. We don’t see color, we see quality. I did not have to deal with race because we are all so different-looking, Venezuela is really diverse. There are dark-skinned people like me, blond people, people with blue eyes, hazel, or green, all of us born and raised in Venezuela. One of the things I enjoyed the most as a kid was interacting with all these people with different characteristics. Whatever we looked like, we were friendly to each other.

“It is not a secret that the reason why I came to the United States was because I wanted a better future for myself. Shattuck has opened doors for me. Shattuck has also made me face real challenges that have been key to my personal growth. I’ve had to make tough decisions by myself, accept everybody for who they are, and learn to be away from the people and country I love. I am glad that I moved here because everything has been so worth it; I have learned so much, I have met amazing people that will always have a space in my heart.

“For all of those who have had an impact in my life during my Shattuck experience; teachers, coaches, friends, classmates, thank you. To my parents, thank you for all the sacrifices you have made for me, and for giving me the chance to see the world from a different perspective. Gracias!

“Finally, however, my truth is this: I hope that in the future when I have a family, I can go back and raise my kids in the place where I was raised. I always keep in mind that I didn’t choose to be born in Venezuela. I had the honor of being born there. Thank you.”

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