Get Out or Die Trying: Why are Venezuelans Leaving their Homeland?

Imagine you suddenly live in a place where the sound of everybody’s speech has a strange music, a music you have never heard before and that does not ring any bell in your memory. Imagine you wake up and the sounds of the city do not match the ones you grew up with, the food you cook is nice but it just does not have that familiar taste you were so fond of. Even the air feels different, maybe hotter, maybe drier, maybe it does not smell like the ocean anymore. Welcome, you don’t live in Venezuela anymore, you live abroad.

Leaving Venezuela

For some people traveling and living in a different country is a dream or a goal that they need to pursue. Setting our feet in a land that our legs do not recognize can be a challenge for many of us but we are positive we want to take that risk and explore new horizons. We want to… right?

Today, many Venezuelans are choosing to live abroad as their last chance to have a regular life. It is no longer a matter of chasing a dream, it is about chasing a life, a normal life in a normal country. We tend to say that in our country we don’t live, we survive (of course in Spanish it makes more sense, no vivo, sobrevivo).

Venezuela is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, more than 50 people die because of crime every day.

Protests

Besides that, the political situation has turned the streets of Venezuela into a battlefield and after more than three months of protests and more that 90 citizens killed by the armed forces of the State, we still don’t have a clue of how things will end.

When facing this uncertainty, many young people see only one possibility: leaving the country for good.

Leandro

Leandro, for example, sold everything he had and left almost four months ago. He sold his house, motorcycle and a little tattooing business to save some money and leave the country. He took his wife and his two kids — a 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy — and together they walked to Colombia.

Once there, he found out there was a problem with his bank account and could not have access to his money, he decided to sell his tablet in order to buy a thermos bottle and sell coffee in the streets so that his family could have a decent meal and a place to sleep.

He now works in a tattoo shop in a mall and makes a living as a tattoo artist. He may not have a house yet, but he is sure they will and he strongly recommends other people to do the same because he believes that Venezuela will only get worse.

Carla

Some others have more creative options when it comes to collecting money for their trip. Carla, a 30-year-old entrepreneur and sociology student, used to work as an event planner in the city of Cumana. She organized cosplay events with voice actors and special guests to promote this culture in her hometown. She was also in charge of cooking Asian food for the events and she even had her own food stand in the food court of the events.

This was a successful business until 2015, where events could not continue. Her boyfriend was the only one working because she couldn’t find a job. Things started to get more and more difficult since making end meet is nearly impossible due to the hyperinflation of the country.

Thanks to a friend in Argentina she is now planning to leave the country, she wants to travel hitchhiking. A group of friends decided to join her and they were all very enthusiastic about it, but each of them dropped out and now Carla is the only one that is still sure about her choice. She is now selling all her goods in order to save at least $300 to maintain herself while she finds a job in a small town in Argentina where jobs offer are varied and some friends are already waiting for her.

Carla has started a fundraising campaign to find people to help her since she fears that once the new Assembly is settled it will be impossible for her to leave the country (you can help her by clicking here).

She is very optimistic about her future abroad, she wants to be able to offer her future children at least half of the childhood she had, a childhood that now in Venezuela is very hard to get, she hopes to continue with her events and her food career abroad. She also wants to be able to help others who want to travel and start a new life in another country, she believes that once she is settled she will be able to offer a helping hand to those in need.

Exodus

These are two young talented Venezuelans that studied their options in the country and decided that leaving was not only the best option, it was their only option. Saying goodbye to family and friends, selling all they had and starting all over again is a hard path. Suddenly you discover that your life fits in two suitcases. You are going to miss your friends and your relatives but you not going to miss walking the streets in constant fear of not getting home safe and sound that day.

What About Me?

I am not leaving. But I know my reasons are irrational and purely emotional. I know that if I leave I will be able to find a job, work to rent a place, have food in my fridge and eat ice-cream with a friend on a regular basis. Things I cannot do in my country right now even though I have a Master´s degree and I work as a University teacher and translator.

Just like Leandro and Carla, I know things will get worse. But I cannot judge them for leaving, what would my reasons be for not wishing them the best?

Maybe I am not strong enough. Breathing a different air and not feeling the warm touch of my family is something I am not ready to accept. Not being able to smell my little nephew’s sweet hair is something I am not ready to face. Waking up and realizing everything I knew was left behind, I just can’t.

Some of us stay, some of us leave. We all fight for a better future, some from home, some from abroad until we can travel again chasing a dream and not running away from a nightmare.

About Isabel Matos

Isabel is a Venezuelan translator that struggles to find a voice and to prosper in today’s political turmoil and tension. She is also an undergraduate English teacher and is currently pursuing a Master’s in English as a Foreign Language. Translator, teacher and always student, she is interested in how language shapes reality and how women and men negotiate power through discourse.

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