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Venezuela on March 26th, 1994

Venezuela on March 26th, 1994

Venezuela on March 26th, 1994
March 29
09:35 2019

That morning had been planned for about two years. The black big suitcase held what was assumed necessary to live through a few months of spring and summer. The green cardigan, light imprinted jeans and green stripped button-up shirt were laid out the night before. It was early enough for it to still be dark. Paper plane tickets were on the backpack, so was the passport, the traveler checks, the U.S. currency. A small piece of paper with the address and phone numbers of the people who would be her host family. No cell phone or iPad around. Just a small dictionary, a book and a couple of magazines. No snacks. Airlines used to feed people well in those times.

The trip to the Maiquetia Airport was done before dawn. There were no cars on the highway, and it was a pleasant downhill swirly cruise. One of her friends and her brother were riding with her to the airport. As they all hugged good-bye, there were no tears. Instead, there was excitement. It was just a trip abroad to learn a bit more English, after all. She would be back in a few months with her new skills and ready for bigger opportunities. But that feeling of a fresh-new start was in the air. What adventures awaited? What kind of people would she meet? Did she know enough English to get around the airports?

She had never been to the U.S. But those around her never stopped talking about the opportunities it would bring to a young accountant in Caracas to become ‘fully bilingual’. There were plenty of international corporations hungry to hire bilingual locals to work for them. She was ready to be one of them.

When she walked out of the Stapleton Airport -no DIA yet-, she saw snow for the first time. She stood under the snow waiting for a cab. Snow felt fluffy and light, and it look exactly like it did in the movies. That was one of the reasons why she had chosen Denver to begin with: To see snow, to wear boots and coats, and to live through the seasons and step out of the scorching heat of the Venezuelan coastline. The taxi driver was wearing a cowboy hat and had a light-colored beard. He started asking questions. Where are you from? She said ‘Venezuela’. And he immediately asked if she knew Rockies’ Andres Galarraga. She didn’t know him, but she had seen him that morning at the Caracas airport, of all things. When the ride was over, he asked for sixteen dollars. She handed him sixty. He explained that it was sixteen: One-six, not six-zero. She apologized and thanked him for his honesty. He said, ‘Welcome to America’.

Learning English was fun and competitive. Thriving for a better grade was always on her mind. Going on school-sponsored field trips and hanging out with her new friends from everywhere was even better. Meeting this interesting guy was the best part. They dated, they fell in love. But one day she had to go back, as her family expected her to. They decided to part ways. But they changed their mind in 24 hours. She then called her family and gave them the worst news they could hear: She wasn’t going back, at least not to stay. Then she cried the tears she had not cried that morning of March 26th at the airport.

And their story began. They got married, they had children, they had jobs, they bought a house and a car, they had bills. Then they started a business together. They went back to Venezuela often to visit her family. Her country continued to deteriorate, and her family fled to Spain. She never went back to Venezuela. Their children never got to see the land where she came from.

Every immigrant has a story. Every venezolano has a story. This story is one of the lucky ones. She feels lucky for not having to suffer in her own skin the outrages of the ‘chavista’ regime. But she is sad for all the friends she left behind who do suffer every day. Her heart shrinks every time she meets a new Venezuelan who comes to Denver, who bears the scars of that suffering. This is my story. And I celebrate 25 years of gratitude for being in this country. And I never forget March 26th of 1994.


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