‘They are the kids that God gave me’: Libia finds family in the U.S. after long journey from Venezuela
Pueden encontrar la versión en español aquí.
Tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants have arrived in Denver over the past year, escaping violence and instability and looking for economic opportunities.
Some are settling in rural communities like the Roaring Fork Valley, where over a hundred migrants have arrived in recent months. A few of those newcomers have elected to represent the group when meeting with community stakeholders, including Libia.
She recently spoke with reporters Halle Zander and Eleanor Bennett about fleeing Venezuela, walking to the U.S., and caring for her newfound family.
This is the second story in a series of three audio postcards and includes a story of kidnapping and murder, which may not be suitable for all listeners.
Libia spoke in Spanish through interpreters with Convey Language Solutions. Her story below was edited for clarity and length and then re-recorded in English by Claudia Pawl. The audio postcard was produced by Halle Zander.
Libia: In Venezuela, I belonged to the military forces. When you do the military service, they teach you to protect the people, not to harm the people, so I refused to do certain things. They wanted me to shoot people, to kill human beings. “No,” I said. “That is not accepted by God. God can forgive a lot but not taking another life.” So I refused. I escaped.
The Tren de Aragua organization came to get me, and my sister hid me in a farm while she was selling the house and all that. I ran to Colombia, then to Peru. And when I got to Peru, that organization arrived in Peru. So I called my nephew, who was in Chile, and I asked him to come with me and see what we could do.
So I saw on YouTube that people were crossing the jungle, Darién jungle, to come to the U.S. So I walked with my nephew, and we got to the border with Peru and Ecuador. When I arrived, there were some men that knew me, so I crossed to Ecuador [and] Colombia. I stayed five days in the jungle and after crossing the jungle with my nephew, his wife, and another guy, the Panamanian militarists took us in trucks, in different trucks, and separated us.
I didn't see my nephew anymore, and I walked 21 kilometers to a church. When I got to the church, my brother sent me $40, and I continued with the little I was able to save. I got to Guatemala. I was there [for] about three months trying to get some money because Guatemala is the last place where you can get help before getting to Mexico, because Mexico is very difficult.
So I went in a caravan of 5,000 to 6,000 people walking to cross Mexico. You have to go in a group because otherwise, immigration will send you back, and starting all over again is hard. So I walked and walked, and we got to a place that is called "el basurero," the dump, where you can take the train, “the beast.”
So I got onto “the beast,” and I was there for six days. I wished I was dead. It was like torture; I had no food. People would throw food, but I was never lucky enough to get anything. We got to the capital city of Juárez. I met my nephew in Juárez, and I was so happy.
So when we got on the bus and other people arrived with guns, they stopped the bus, and suddenly we were kidnapped. So they took the phones so they could call our families, asking us to ask them to send the money. And if they could not send the money, we had to say goodbye.
I saw them kill a boy. They did it so we would see it was true, and I felt that it was going to be my death because I had no money.
So I looked at the kidnapper in the eyes, prayed to God, and I lied to him, and I told him, “I'm pregnant. Please don't kill me.” I don't know where that idea came from, but it worked. And he asked me, “How far are you in the pregnancy?” And I said, “Four months.” So a man, their boss, I don’t know, came and told them to let us go.
I was in Texas, in El Paso. The ticket from Texas to Denver was $95. We came to Denver. When we got here, I met my girlfriend that has helped me a lot. She's from Honduras, and she's the one that has supported me and helped me. And she loaned me her car and covers so I could sleep in her car. She helped me with food, and thanks to her and her kids, that has made me feel like living.
And I want to help them. They are the kids that God gave me, and every day they make me want to live and continue to fight.
I came here because in Denver I went to an emergency shelter, but it wasn't my environment. There were many sick people with drugs, and I felt unsafe.
I would like to stay here — here in Aspen, because it's quiet. It's safe, and if there is a job, I'm fine. That's what I really want to do. I want to get a job so I can help them and start to help my family in Venezuela.
Once I can work, my dream is to be a lawyer and defend people who have no money. Because in my country, there's a lot of injustice. That's what I always wanted to do since I was a kid. I miss my nephews who are there, but I want to work and help them.
Everything is expensive. We make $15 a week, and that's not enough. For example, my nephews live in a little shack, so I want to work so I can help them with a house, help them to study, to be somebody in life.
I'm not fully legal yet, but I hope I will be. Now we're all together with the kids. They call me “mom.” If you open the door, they will run and call me “mom,” and that fills me with joy and motivation.
We are all little angels. My partner is an angel. I'm an angel. And the little kids are angels, too. And we're going to support each other.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included Libia's last name. We have removed it upon legal advice that it may put her immigration status at risk.