Llevo tu luz is the incipit of the popular song Venezuela, composed in the ’80s by two spanish authors. It’s considered an alternative national anthem in virtue of the patriotic feeling that arouses in the soul of venezuelan people. It is said that the authors wrote the text simply by taking inspiration from photo postcards and literary suggestions, having never been in Venezuela.
Between August and December 2017, I traveled along the route of Venezuelan migrants in Brazil and Colombia, with the aim of telling about one of the most serious humanitarian crises of the 21st century through the stories of those forced to leave their Country to survive.
During the ’70s, Venezuela has gone through a period of great economic well-being. Thanks to its oil resources, it was the richest country in Latin America and attracted economic migrants and political refugees from all over the world. Today its economy is collapsing, with 82% of the population below the poverty level. Food, basic necessities and medicines are scarce. The cost of living has become unsustainable due to inflation which reached 2735% in 2017 and is still constantly increasing. Added to this is the insecurity due to widespread crime, corruption at all levels and violent repression by the police. The crisis indiscriminately invests every social level and the middle class has practically disappeared.
Brazil and Colombia are the first destinations of the migratory flow due to their proximity and easy reachability by land. Since the beginning of 2017, according to the UNHCR, more than 52 thousand Venezuelans have entered Brazil between asylum seekers and temporary visa holders. In Colombia, the phenomenon has a reach far greater. A survey by the Ministry of Foreign Relations has revealed that there are more than 550 thousand Venezuelan citizens present in the colombian territory, with an increase of 62% over the previous year and an average of 37 thousand admissions per day (including so-called “commuter migrants”, those who cross the border in one day only to buy basic necessities). However, the estimates are much higher if we consider the irregularities and the difficulties for Governments in the management of a new and striking phenomenon.
Onlus and religious associations, in close collaboration with the Prefectures, are engaged in various first reception activities such as the distribution of food stocks, support in finding accommodation and job and for the compilation of paperwork. Despite humanitarian aid and the commitment of the institutions, the reality with which migrants collide is often made up of precariousness, difficulty in integration, episodes of violence and a mounting xenophobic feeling in the local population.
“Such an unexpected off grid photo reportage with an extraordinary clear cut language. The stylistic structure that lies underneath the project, while removing any unnecessary detail, gets a real blast amplifying the sense of pervasive blurring stillness all the way through.
As a matter of fact, it turns out to be a deeper inside journey where the inner self gets stuck in the middle of nowhere, in a dreadful, appalling space of the mind where there’s no sense of security, no acknowledgement nor sense of identity, because the wholeness is gone, shattered from the forced runaway, the rejection and the abuse.
It’s like floating over, in a widened suspension of time just like when you need to hold your breath before plunging into dark water and you don’t know what to expect yet.”
Maria Tilaro, Communication Manager