The Venezuela in my Ecuador

Holly Shankin - Ecuador


May 22, 2019

I would like to take a second and acknowledge how immigration has affected my experience in Ecuador. The crisis in Venezuela has forced roughly 3,000 Venezuelans to flee their country every day, and a lot of people were making their way through, or to Ecuador. Living in Ibarra, which the panamericana (main highway going border to border) passed though, meant a lot of people would travel through Ibarra on their way anywhere south. Due to this migration pattern a majority of my time there was characterized by Venezuelans selling small things, performing, and begging at the intersections of most streets. I could see large groups (presumably Venezuelans) walking with packs south on the highway, and I could see them sleeping on church steps.

Coupled with the actual presence of Venezuelans came the comments. Ecuadorians telling me to be safe and watch out for the dangerous immigrants, them begging me to believe that Venezuelans simply do not want to work, or that they think they are too pretty to work on farms. There was occasional violence against Venezuelans but the police and government worked to keep things peaceful. Most members in my host family believed that if they had a visa then they were a “good” Venezuelan, but the other ones were murderers or thieves and should be sent back.

From my perspective Venezuelans are slightly less conservative than Ecuadorians, whether that means occasionally wearing shorts, dancing a little bit more, or speaking a little bit louder. In reality I cannot explain where the deep rooted xenophobia against Venezuelans comes from. But seeing this resilient group of people trying to make a few coins on the side of the road, seeing them working at a burger shop even though they are a qualified dentist, or hearing them cry while they tell me about how much they miss their families, my perception of Venezuelans tends to be very different from the Ecuadorians around me.

The first Venezuelan I met was a Team Leader (leader of a group of about 7 fellows) and he had done a lot of amazing things and was a very calm and thoughtful man. After about two months in country I started meeting more and more Venezuelans, I started trying their food, and seeing the cultural differences. I started hearing their stories and caring for these individual and becoming very sad every time I heard news about the worsening of the situation there.

I will not go deeper into the xenophobia I saw, I will not try and pretend that I understand it well enough to make a blanket statement. But I will say that Venezuelans have a beautiful and rich culture. Their delicious food, and ample slang is coupled with a resilience that continues to amaze me. I push everyone who reads this blog to take a second to honor these people by learning about their stories. By educating themselves on how an entire country is in a state that mimics one of a war, without the war. One powerful thing I have been made aware of was that it is common for someone from the USA to promote Maduro simply in opposition to Trump (because Trump is against Maduro) but please do not follow this crisis from the eyes of the USA, think about the Venezuelans who are struggling.


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Me and Avry (Abril) pictured some Venezuelan street vendors who we were chatting with!!

Holly Shankin