Voices Without Borders
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
“ Physical connection is so important. I want to hug my son, my mother, my family, my friends, my brothers, my husband.
Remember to hug everyone before everything.”
I am Maria Fernanda from Venezuela, 41 years old. I live with my husband and 5-year-old son in the suburbs of Mexico City.
I arrived in Mexico City on October 9, 2018 with my son. We applied for refuge on October 14th of the same year. One year later, my refugee status got approval.
At the beginning of the political outbreak and economic crisis in Venezuela, I was still in Venezuela. My mom and one of my brothers were in Spain, some other family members were in Miami. My family are scattered in different corners of the world. They wanted me to leave Venezuela as soon as possible, as there was a worry for my safety. I was waiting for my passport.
The days before I left Venezuela, I was extremely afraid. I have to leave my friends, my dog, and the people I know. I came from a very small town in Venezuela and now I would move to a big city. I was so scared.
This decision is for my son.
I want him to be safe and able to continue his education.
And you know, I had my own business in Venezuela — a beauty salon for 10 years! I used to travel around Venezuela during the time I operated the business.
Stylist is my ten-year profession and passion,
but I have to leave everything there.
My husband didn’t want to come with me. He didn’t want to leave Venezuela. We almost got divorced. I gave him only two options: “let me go or we end our marriage!” as many other women do.
He finally let me leave the country with my son. I didn’t go to Spain because I heard it’s harder to get asylum there compared to the process in Mexico. However, while I had my first interview for a refugee status assessment, the government changed.
Everything stopped, even the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid (COMAR). I didn’t know what to do in light of the change of the government. At the same time, my husband almost got killed in Venezuela. Now he had no choice but to leave the country. We went to the office to include my husband in the refugee application. But the officers from COMAR realised they had lost our paperwork. They were ashamed of it so they tried to speed up my application.
It was still very stressful because without a refugee status, I had to go to the office to sign once in a while, to ensure my right to stay in Mexico. My 5-year-old son, you know, he runs everywhere. Ahhh……
The officers were very kind to me. They tried their best to help. But normally it takes 3 months to get a refugee status in Mexico; it took almost a year for me. But finally, I got it a year later.
I began working as a freelance stylist, doing keratin treatment on hair for people door by door. I feel grateful to be able to continue doing my passion in Mexico. Before I tried to work at a call center. But with a fixed schedule, my son started to get sick very often. I then quit the job to look after him.
Under lockdown, people are afraid and don’t want this service due to COVID-19. I can’t continue my work. Thank God, my husband still goes to work so we can ensure an income every month. He has worked as a delivery driver at the Coca cola company since he arrived here.
My everyday life under lockdown? It’s just like this, exactly what you see in front of the phone camera. This is our living room, our kitchen, our dining room. Children schooling is a big issue. The school asked us to print out textbooks for kids but I don’t have a printer here. I need to accompany my son all the time, like this, you see.
Every day he jumps up to me and wants to play. Today he is Spiderman.
It’s very hard, and sometimes I feel very upset. It’s more tiring being under lockdown than going out to work. I don’t have my space. I need to have a break in the bathroom when I feel too overwhelmed.
Since 13 of March, I have only gone out twice as my husband got very tired after work. I was so terrified to go out. Would I get infected? Would my son and husband get infected? It was very, very heavy even just a few minutes walking outside.
Also, my brother got COVID-19 in Barcelona and my mom has had to isolate and was not able to see him. My relatives in Madrid also got infected. Meanwhile, my aunt in Venezuela has cancer, and there is a lack of medicine, gasoline, and electricity.
For us, we like to say,
“we don’t get killed by COVID-19, but by oil.”
It was a very rough time for us. But I like to use this metaphor - this vaina (slang for situation) is a roller coaster - sometimes you’re up and then you’re down. I call my family and try to encourage them when I'm in the high part of the roller coaster [laughs].
Fortunately, my brother and relatives in Madrid have recovered.
Music helps me not to see the negative side of fleeing home. I play different songs regarding my mood. There are days that I play Juan Luis Guerra, another Los Ángeles Azules, Venezuelan music, and sometimes even children's songs.
I also read and dance a lot at home under lockdown. I teach my son Venezuelan dance and we dance all around the apartment every day. Now he can recognize a few songs! I also recorded some videos of us dancing and sent them to my family.
Everyone is like wowwww, we want to dance with you two together!
You want to see my video? Oh, but I wore pajamas. Is that okay?
I believe my dance can be an emotional support for my loved ones in Spain, Miami, and Venezuela.
I love Mexico so much. Obviously, we share a similar culture and we get a lot of support from the people here, especially for my son in school. I could take my son to school soon after I arrived in Mexico. He also got a scholarship to study.
And you know, once the school held a Venezuelan week, just for my son! He is the only Venezuelan in class. He is so happy! I’m grateful for my decision. We’re Latino, people here are very kind to me.
After leaving home, I realise, we don’t have to try to be better. We don’t have to overask for ourselves, to be a better mother, or a better person.
We can be who we are.
Under lockdown in Mexico for three months, I want to say, it has been very hard, however right now I am thankful for all I have.
And we have to hug each other.
Remember to hug everyone before everything.
When we were chatting with Maria, her son interrupted the video call a few times. We ended up playing a Spiderman game with him——pointing towards each other by activating our webbing. Maria always tries to encourage her mother, who is alone in Spain, and her aunt and rest of her family in Venezuela through music, dance and words. In spite of the tough situations she has been through, Maria has a beautiful and optimistic spirit.
After the interview, she sent us a video of her dancing with her son at home, and she is so passionate about introducing Venezuelan music and culture to us.
所有事情都停滯了，也包括墨西哥難民援助機構 (Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid, COMAR)。我並不知道該怎麼辦去應對政府的換代。同時，我的丈夫差點在委內瑞拉被殺，現在他也別無選擇，只能離開委內瑞拉。我們到 COMAR ，讓我的丈夫可以被一起納入難民的申請。但是單位的人員發現他們丟了我們的文件。他們覺得很抱歉，所以試著加快我們的申請。
「我們不會被 COVID-19 殺死，而會被石油殺死。」
音樂讓我不去看見離開家鄉的黑暗面，我會依照自己的心情播放不同的歌曲。有時我會播放 Juan Luis Guerra，其他時候是 Los Ángeles Azules，都是委內瑞拉的音樂，有時我甚至會播兒歌。
當我們在和 Maria 聊天時，她的兒子打斷我們的對話好幾次。最後我們開始玩起蜘蛛人的遊戲——對著對方吐絲。Maria 總是試著鼓勵她的媽媽，她一個人獨自在西班牙，以及她的阿姨，和她其他在委內瑞拉的家人，透過音樂、舞蹈和文字。即使面對這些困難的情況，Maria 有非常美麗和樂觀的精神。