Erika, 19, a Chicana student from the Los Angeles area, was one of the more than 700 U.S. delegates to the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students, Aug. 6-13, in Caracas, Venezuela. Erika was interviewed before leaving for Venezuela in the July 30-Aug. 5 PWW. Below is the interview during the festival and next week the PWW will publish the last interview and Erika’s post-festival impressions.

What have you experienced today that you would like to share with the youth of the U.S.?

Everything! But the main thing is that I could see the delegation working together despite the differences. Even though we didn’t agree on everything, we have united to experience this Festival.

Did anything you experience today change your way of thinking?

Everything in general is beginning to change my view of things. Seeing the situations for myself has moved me in the direction of a more liberal thinker.

What was your most personally memorable experience today? What did you like most about today?

The thing I remember most of the opening ceremony was the end where the Venezuelan delegation showed their passion. Seeing them happy, enjoying themselves, makes me happy. I also like the way [President] Hugo Chavez greeted the American flag. It showed his understanding of the American people.

What questions popped into your mind that you would like to ask the Venezuelan government?

How can they be so strong and giving, knowing that they have been out here at the opening all day? They seem to have big hearts.