Exactly what causes people to leave their homeland and make a difficult trek of 3,000 miles?
A young woman I’ll call Jhovid, who came here from Venezuela, has asked me to listen to her answer, so that I and others may understand.
Her hair is neatly ponytailed, her clothes tidy, she looks composed — but her food is uneaten and tears streak her face. She tells me that people are starving to death in Venezuela. She looks at me to make sure I understand — they are starving.
We know about the dire conditions generally, and we know that our Colorado town of Fort Collins, like many, has absorbed large numbers of newly arrived immigrants who fled for their safety. But she hopes someone will bear witness to her particular journey, and so we gather with my friend, bilingual author Laura Resau, who has collaborated with other South American women to help them share their stories.
Jhovid is one of the many Venezuelan refugees who climbed off a bus months ago with no coat, food, shelter or contacts. She’s 32, she tells us, and graduated from college with a degree in business administration, but Venezuela was sinking economically as she was growing up. Jobs were scarce and gangs were everywhere.