Back then in Peru, terror and fear was part of our daily lives.
I had just graduated from law school in Lima. It was late 1993 and my beloved Peru was recovering from 12 years of internal conflict which had claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Christmas was coming and I decided it was time for my first journey abroad to visit a dear aunt.
My mother's elder sister moved to Venezuela in the late 1950s. She got married in Caracas and settled there with her husband and two sons. After my younger cousin died in a car accident, my mother and her sister strengthened their bond and never let distance deter them from staying in touch.
When I stepped foot outside Simón Bolívar International Airport [es] in Maiquetía, I was instantly struck by how different everything looked, compared with Lima.
Caracas was a shiny modern city, with high-rises, highways, flyovers, and recently repaved roads.
All the cars looked like they had just rolled off the factory assembly line, glossy and splendid. New cars was something we were just starting to get used to in Peru, after out-of-control hyperinflation [es] had made all of us billionaires with little purchasing power.
The road signs looked like they had been painted the day before.
I could feel progress everywhere I looked, and this was just on the way from the airport to my aunt's house. Rain welcomed me on this adventure, something we Limeans are not used to at all.
The next day I started my tour of the city. I didn't feel like a total outsider. My generation grew up watching Venezuelan soap operas on TV, so some popular areas were familiar to me: Chacao, Chacaíto, the Virgen of Chiquingirá. So was the rhythmic speaking that I noticed was following me everywhere.
During a visit to one museum, I saw a guy looking at a list of battles fought by Simón Bolívar, the liberator of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú and Bolivia. There were the names of the battles with no indication of the where they'd been fought, and I stood by next to this tourist and started with a lesson learnt long ago at school: Carabobo, Venezuela; Boyacá, Bogotá, Pichincha, Ecuador; and Junín and Ayacucho, Perú (country of yours truly).
On that trip, during a visit to a beach whose name I have forgotten, my toes first felt the waters of the Atlantic, I owe that to Venezuela too.
But what impressed me above all was the freedom people had, simply living their lives. We could enter any building and there was no military officer waiting to check our bags and belongings. There were no metal detectors or special machines that we had to pass through at the entrance of shopping centers or museums or anywhere for that matter.
I even walked in front of government buildings and ministries, as if that was the most normal thing to do. No one stopped me from being there, no one checked my documents, and no one made me feel like there was something to fear.
That is why I have been overwhelmed with sadness, as the recent stories and images have been trickling out of Venezuela.
Venezuelans are suffering. Venezuelans are crying. Venezuelans are mourning.
Protesters are rallying for liberty and demanding their rights be respected. Young people are dying in the streets, as police and government supporters battle protesters. Brothers are fighting brothers.
I prefer to remember the Venezuela I knew in 1993. Joyous Caribbean music mingling with traditional Christmas songs wherever I went. Smiling faces greeting me, people welcoming me with kind words and open arms, upon learning that I was Peruvian.
Venezuela, you will always be in my heart.