Meeting The People of Venezuela – More Than Just a News Story

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

A deeper dive into other lives.

It’s one thing to read about strife in another country. It’s another thing to see the results of that strife, first-hand. All along my South American travels, people were worried about me, especially in Colombia, because of the shared border with Venezuela and what  might, potentially, happen as more Venezuelans leave their country. 

Reading the news is nothing like experiencing it first hand.

While I had read a bit about the hardship there, I never thought about that impact. One thing that saddens me, as I travel, are all the things I learn that none of us know about. Cultures, people, incidents, problems – you will never hear about them because no media goes that deep into any country and because you’ll be more concerned with what’s happening in your daily life. You also won’t understand the depth and breadth of the problems you do hear about, or all the different angles, again, because you’re getting a snippet of the story, not the full picture.

True world travel means exposure to lives and problems at a much deeper level than you’ll see from your television.

While in Argentina, I met countless taxi drivers from Venezuela. They were living there because, apparently, in Venezuela, the monthly, yes, monthly, wage is about $6. It’s impossible to live on. Medicine can be hard to come by if not impossible. So, many people are leaving, but, many people cannot.

In Chile I met a Venezuelan couple staying at my youth hostel. Let’s call them Maria and John, to protect names. Maria and John were engaged to be married. John had been living in Chile for some time and was earning a decent living, which he could not in Venezuela. Maria was still living in Venezuela because she has aging parents, they can’t leave. One of her parents has Parkinson’s and there is no medication available for it in Venezuela. So, Maria has to leave her country every four months to get the medication for her parents. She plans to one day live with John.

In Peru there were many, many Venezuelans. They worked in the hotels and youth hostels, they drove Ubers, and did anything they could. The news there spoke about another developing problem – if a local business hires a Peruvian, they must pay that person minimum wage. If they hire someone from Venezuela, they can pay them less. So, now you have the setup for another problem if Peruvian citizens can’t find work. 

While in Peru I made a new friend from Venezuela, Amilcar. (See photo below.) He’s about 21 years old and left Venezuela with his father. His mother stayed behind to care for her parents and is working two jobs. Amilcar is looking for work so he can send some money home. His first challenge was to get an ID card (which he finally got!) and he is now looking for employment. He is one of the sweetest people I have ever met, and has such a positive outlook on his life and knows he’s doing everything he can. Imagine being really young, having to leave your home and your country, find a way to get a job, get a job, and then send part of your money home to help your family. And Amilcar considers it an honor that he can be of help to them and takes his situation in stride, rather than complaining about it.

Two things I found that all the Venezuelans I met have in common are; a desire to work hard for the money they get, and a deep desire to return to Venezuela. Every one of them described their country as a paradise they can’t wait to go back to. They hope that a new president might make things better. I feel lucky to have met the wonderful people I’ve met so far, and understand a slightly deeper slice of the lives they endure. 

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