Colombia’s El Tiempo has published a letter today written by a Venezuelan migrant called Eli Medina. The letter expressed the melancholy that many Venezuelan families feel, specially around the holidays, about having being forced to separate due to the ongoing crisis.
There are more than three million Venezuelans living abroad, with a large percentage of them leaving the country within the last few years. That figure accounts for approximately 10% of the country’s population.
In the letter, Eli tells his parents–who are still in Venezuela–what it is like to be a migrant. Eli ends the letter with a note of thanks to Colombia for welcoming him and giving him a new home.
Below, my translation of Eli’s letter:
Father, other, you made me strong, a fighter, a warrior. If today I am far away from everything that I have known, my home, my family, and the streets of my country it is because life has placed before us a challenge. Every day of my life I work to return a little bit of what you did for me. I trust that time will put everything back in its place.
Crossing the border made me stronger, [and] believe that I was an adult, but the truth is that I am not that strong. Right now I’m crying like a child knowing that Christmas and New Year’s are coming and you are not near me. I think of you every instant, I long for your hugs, your gazes, your love, and our dinners together.
I was used to hearing the gaitas that my father played starting in the first days of December, the parties, the racket. I missed the celebration of the Spirit of Christmas on December 21. Do you remember that? Doors and windows totally open at midnight to let the Spirit fill our homes. There was incense, fruit, the customs of each home. Soon, mom and dad, soon we will see each other again and we will swear to one another that we will not split up like this ever again, we won’t run away, or escape, or miss [each other].
With a suitcase full of illusions, dreams and hopes we left our country with our hearts broken and our foreheads high, to tell the world that we will not surrender and that we will do whatever it takes to survive, that there are more good people than bad and that we left because we couldn’t take it anymore.
It hurts me deeply that these circumstances have separated us so, because we’ve always been so close, but I am keeping a promise I made to you. I am a good man, a good husband, a good father. Your values will be represented in my family even if we are not in our country.
My wife Martha and my son Julian have been my family consolation after having left my beautiful Venezuela. I would give my life for them. For them I leave my house each morning in God’s hands to bring food back to our home. It’s not easy starting from zero, meeting new people, another culture, and be apart from you these days. But we are fighting, and you know that better than anyone.
Soon, mom and dad, soon we will see each other again and we will swear to one another that we will not split up like this ever again, we won’t run away, or escape, or miss [each other].
All of us Venezuelans who live abroad are lying to ourselves if we think that everything is fine, that we don’t have any needs, but I know full well that many wake up with knots in our throats, wanting to fly back to our homes to feel once again that we’re alive.
I felt nostalgic on December 24. I’ve been outside of my country for almost two years. During this time I learned to value having your parents right by you, and I understood what it means to be with family. This will be a strange Christmas. The children won’t run around wearing their new clothes, my friends, cousins and brothers won’t be out on the street. We won’t eat the hallacas, or pan de jamon, chicken salad or pernil for dinner that my mom made. We won’t wait together for the birth of [Jesus] and hug each other at midnight.
I’m sorry to everyone for not being there, for being far away. I’m doing this for you. You are always in my beating heart. You are the engine that drives me to be patient, to wait for the day when we will meet each other again.
This was my second Christmas in Colombia, but the first with my wife and son. Thank you, thank you for welcoming us, for receiving us, for opening doors for us, for your lessons, for the new things like the Day of the Little Candles, the novenas, natilla and buñuelos. [Thank you] for being the place where I now feel safe. Thank you for putting up with me, and for the sunny days. Thank you for not turning your back to us.
Fellow walker, I know that you are tired of going and going. I promise you that one day this will end, don’t be afraid, stay standing. Your attitude is a sign of courage. You’ve made the world understand that you would do anything for your family. You are an example for the whole world.
Thank you Colombia, you are my friends. Merry Christmas to all Colombians and all Venezuelans!
Questions/Comments? E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org