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Trapped in Guatemala: The Suspended Journey of Venezuelan Migrants

Trapped in Guatemala: The Suspended Journey of Venezuelan Migrants

A Venezuelan migrant talks with other compatriots in the waiting room of Casa del Migrante, in Guatemala City, in January 2024. Simona Carneño

Jessica sits in the corner of a closed store on the capital's busy Sixth Avenue, near Central Park in Guatemala City. Seek relief from the shade on this hot January day. Beside him rest his children, Carolina, 17, Daniel, seven, and Laura, five, as they watch people come and go at noon. Jessica is 36 and already the grandmother of Valerie, a six-month-old girl that Karolina carries half-asleep in a quilt, more to protect her from the sun than to keep her warm. Jorge, Jessica's husband, walks without stopping from one traffic light to another, torn between the desire to ask for financial help from people crossing the street and the need to protect himself from the sun.

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Since the end of December, Jessica's family has been spending their days on the 6th of this month holding signs that read, “Give me a coin from your heart. God bless you,” and the Venezuelan flag drawn. They take turns walking down the street holding the sign, without adding much Words. There are people who give them something, but most look at them and avoid them.

“We left Machex, in Venezuela, in 2017. I was working in a shoe store and my husband was a construction worker, but with both salaries we couldn’t even cover 50% of the monthly expenses,” Jessica says with a sad sigh. “Then we went to Cúcuta, in Colombia, and then to Bogotá. We were there for six years, but it was no longer possible to get a decent salary. Since October 28, we have been traveling to the United States and stopped here in Guatemala because we no longer had the money to move on.” “That is why we ask people to cooperate with us.”

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The corners of the Sixth District became small temporary homes for Venezuelans. A few meters away from Jessica, Lady, 39, sits on a cardboard board with her son and husband Enrique. Six months ago, they left Peru, where they lived for a year. “Inhale, exhale” is written on her shirt, but Lady knows she can never relax. “I want to go back to Barquisimeto, Venezuela. The American dream no longer exists for me,” he laments. Upon leaving Honduras, Guatemalan police stole the $1,100 we had with us to continue the trip. “We've been on the streets now for two months,” he recalls.

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