Photos: Mariana Vincenti

Jorge Badra’s room remains exactly as he left it. The blue sheets cover the bed, the books are in a shelf by the wall, the old soccer trophy competes with papers to clutter the desk in the corner. The afternoon light and the smell of grass easily slip in through the window. His bedroom was his sanctuary, the place in the house where he spent most of his time. He abandoned it along with most of his belongings, the day he boarded a plane bound for Spain.

Migration isn’t a new topic for his family. Elisa Martínez, his mom, fled Cuba at 14 years old to make a home in Venezuela. And that’s what she did for over 40 years. She taught her two children the meaning of roots and country; the importance of family. “None of my children had the idea of leaving.” But then, the first of her descendants was left unemployed. Taking the leap wasn’t easy for the lawyer, but neither was remaining in a country were laws are vulnerable. “I convinced him because his career had no future here.” In late 2016, he made the choice and landed in Madrid in August, 2017.

Jorge Badra’s Room (30). Left to Madrid after losing his job. Caracas, Venezuela, 2018.

Elisa lives a repeated tale. She lives in two places, with her heart split in two. “It’s the last thing I would’ve wanted for my children. Stability’s lost because the family is divided.” For Jorge’s father, a university professor, the hardest part has been visiting Jorge’s bedroom, full of memories but empty without him: “It’s a space that’s always empty”.

There are no precise figures for the mass exodus of Venezuelans, because there are no official reports. On September 3, the government offered “verifiable data” for the first time in two years. Maduro stated that there are only 600.000 people who have left the country, and 90% regret ever leaving in the first place. The government dismisses one of the largest diasporas in Latin America. “It’s less than what they say,” said the president. Some studies estimate that at least two million Venezuelans have left the country, while others estimate up to four million. The most recent United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) report provides a clue: 2.328.949 Venezuelans have left. Measuring the unheard-of Venezuelan diaspora is a difficult task. But, it’s evident in classrooms without students, in hospitals without doctors and in businesses that close their doors for good. A country that drowns in silence little by little and not because of absence of noise, but because of a lack of voices.

Andrea Moreno Brana’s Room (24). Left to Spain with her boyfriend thanks to a program in Granada University that allows her to finish her career there. Caracas, Venezuela, 2018.

Nolberto Contreras and Grasibel Blanco no longer live in the house they inhabited in El Valle neighborhood in Caracas. When their children left Venezuela, over a year and a half ago, they also left their home: it was painful to be there with so many empty rooms. “We built this house for them and they left,” they lament.

Gabriela didn’t look back when she left with two suitcases. “I stood by the window to watch her leave, and she didn’t even look back to say goodbye,” says her mom, “She didn’t explain how she found the plane ticket to Chile either.” Her older brother followed her months later. The income of their parents (a motorizado and a healthcare center employee) weren’t enough to cover a double migration; so they, mysteriously, found the way. Leaving the country isn’t just for the middle class: 12% of homes with emigrants belong to low-income families.

Danuvis Padrón (49) and Carlos Lino’s Room (44). Left to Tenerife due to crime.  Caracas, Venezuela, 2018.   

For the 23-year-old, living in a country ruled by chavismo was unbearable. There was an eternally present argument with her parents, who voted for the late president Hugo Chávez in every election. They even supported Nicolás Maduro because that’s “what the commander said.” Their children were dissidents and now, so are they: “I stopped being chavista when my children left,” said Nolberto.

Their rooms now temporarily host other relatives. However, their mark is indelible: nobody has changed the calendar set on “June” in Gabriela’s room and some of her shoes are still hidden under the bed.

Although Grasibel’s eyes are flooded with sadness, having their children come back home isn’t an option. “It’s better for them to stay away. I’ll join them if something happens to me. Meanwhile, we survive for as long as we can. There’s no hope that this will change.”

Vanessa Pérez (37) and Fabiola La Corte’s House (49). One left to United States and the other one to Spain after their mother died. Caracas, Venezuela, 2018.

Venezuela is immersed in a profound crisis that affects the daily lives of its inhabitants: Hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, poverty and crime. This severe situation has intensified in the last couple of years after Nicolás Maduro came to power. Almost 80% of those who have left the country have done so between 2016 and 2017. Without options and consumed by despair, many have seen immigration as their only solution.

This wasn’t a country of emigrants. Years ago it was the destination of millions of people who fled their own countries in search for better conditions. The trend shifted. Now it’s Venezuelans who are leaving and the numbers have reached alarming proportions. Each day there are more and more people who choose to leave it all behind to start over abroad. Colombia, the United States and Spain are the countries that have received the most Venezuelans. But migrants aren’t just a number.

Filomena Di Martino’s Room (18) left to Tenerife to pursue a career in arts. Caracas, Venezuela, 2017.

What happens with the empty space they leave? What happens with the places that reflect a person’s life? What happens with a family forced to split?

José Ángel Uribe is 25 years old and he lives alone in a three-bedroom house, but not by choice: his mom and his stepdad emigrated. He moved to the main bedroom, but he didn’t take anything with him. The room still has some of his mother’s belongings. The corner still has the religious figures and stamps that she collected for years in the church’s choir.

Danuvis Padrón (49) and Carlos Lino’s Room (44). Left to Tenerife, Spain to find a safer place away from crime and insecurity. Caracas, Venezuela, 2018.  

Danuvis Padrón was the first to leave in June, 2017, forced by crime. She wanted to take her son with her, but he refused to leave until he’d finished his medical career. “She wouldn’t think of leaving without me, I forced her,” he says. Carlos Lino’s turn came in February, 2018.

Today, only the silent evidence of the diaspora remains. “They used to play the guitar, they rehearsed, they sang. We talked at night during dinner. My dogs barked at the neighbors and I could hear her paws scratching the floor. All of that is gone.”

Mireya Roso’s Room (57). Left to Argentina to find economical stability. Caracas, Venezuela, 2018.
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42 COMMENTS

  1. So chavistas abandon the cause only when their children flee the country. This disaster has a long life span if that is the standard.

    • That one caught me too Bill…indeed.
      Just a quick heads up that there is a commenter amongst us that likes to post under other people’s names. It’s happened under my name a few times now that I have noticed. I will post a reply to the fraudulent post from now on as I notice them.

    • Unfortunately, most here were once chavista, even taking into account the pre-emigration population. Heck, my woman once voted for the man.

      You’re right of course. This country will be screwed for generations to come.

  2. My family’s home in Caracas still stands, empty but for the memories. Every time I return it is hard to see the places that had been filled with so many family and friends, cousins and neighbors, dogs and cats, so much joy and laughter, trials and pains, now just an empty shell.

    • We gifted my wife’s family’s domicile to an elderly man who was very grateful. His intention was to sell it (eventually) and take what profit he could from it. What REALLY caught his attention was the HUGE cache of non-perishable food that came with the place. The rice and beans alone could keep a family of 4 in good shape for 6 months. For an old guy like him? YEARS.

      We have tried to contact him to see how things are going for him, but haven’t been able to get in contact. His intention was to ride it out (Chavismo) until better times, but… nothing. I hope that he up and left. He said that various Chavista communards were invading and squatting in homes that they say were “abandoned to la Patria”. There are STILL true believers all over the place in Venezuela, and in their minds eye, all of this “free housing” is just another perk of living in the Bolivarian Socialist Utopia.

  3. I have a brother in law that “was” a chavista. He worked as a head of security at a factory in Tinaquillo that was expropriated. He lived the good life getting 4 months extra salary in December, having access to all the products they made he had no problem making extra money on the side selling it for 6x the costs etc etc. That cunt went to Aruba because he couldn’t provide for his family anymore. As soon as I knew where he worked and what his working hours were I informed the immigration office and he was caught that same night. He was in jail for about a week and send back to his revolution where he belongs. Fuck all chavistas that are fleeing the disaster they helped creating.

    • LOL, that’s priceless Duncanvd. Good work! That fucker deserves all he gets.

      I haven’t tried in a month or so to contact him, but I’m interested to see if my chavista contact in Margarita is still hanging in there with the revolution. He and I had many long conversations about chavismo and what it was doing to the country. Of course, it was all roses and kitten whiskers in Margarita, according to that asshat. When he’d finally get pissed off, he’d always come up with the standard line, “well if you don’t like it, you can leave”.

      Last time I tried to contact him, he didn’t respond. I don’t know if he failed to respond because he recognized my number and was too chickenshit to answer, or if perhaps he’s actually left the country. The phone number I used was his business line, so if he’s here, I’m sure he still has it.

      I’ll try writing again via another number and be sure to let you guys know what he has to say.

      • And you know what the best part was, the little cash he had saved up he had to use to buy his own ticket. He could have waited until they payed for his ticket but that would’ve taken about 2-3 months while he waited in jail. I’ve had too many discussions with him like you did with your chavista contact. He was a true believer, as ignorant as they come. The minute he was back home I gave him a welcoming whatsapp telling him it was me that made it happen for him to sleep in his own bed that night. Because I have 2 more brothers in law that are true believers and that had the plan of going to Aruba. Now they stay out of fear of me telling on them. I got drunk celebrating that night he was caught!!

          • Eat shit Tom. Total Justice. All the hardliner Chavistas must pay dearly for the damage they have done to this country. This is their revolucion bonita, now it is time for them to eat their rotten fruit.

            Those who try to flee their revolucion bonita must be called out and shamed. I see this is a heroic act and one every family in Venezuela should follow.

        • See my post below:

          If I ever get word that the three stated relatives have flights booked into the U.S., I’m going to contact the INS that they plan to stay illegally.

          I don’t think they even have visas anyway, but your story inspired me.

    • U da man duncan!!! Honestly, that made my day. F(&k, time to drink a beer and a big toast to all those sinverguenza Chavistas eating shit.

    • That is horrible. How low can you get. A snitch!!! No matter what that person is or how dispicable they are we cant let ourselves sink to such low levels. Snitching is actually one of the most repulsive things you can do. I will never be a SAPO, no matter what or who is involved. It has to do with keeping my ethics and moral intact.

  4. Valeria, don’t worry about all the rooms/homes left behind by the emigants–they will be filled in the not-so-distant future by Chavistas, mandated by Consejos Comunales, under a forthcoming ANC manadate, as Allende did in Chile with his true-believer needy (bums/thieves/drug addicts/prostitutes).

    • I lost absolutely everything I owned a week after I got my wife and son out of Venezuela. My house fully furnished, my 2 cars and my 3 horses. This was 3 years ago. Chavistas with very young kids are living there ever since. My profound hate for Chavismo has no limits.

  5. And this is exactly why stronger immegration is needed at a country’s border.

    Imagine all these Chavista’s going to another country to ruin them as well. Does Colombia deserve some specific punishment for not becoming a socialist hell like VZ? Some Canadians who post here frequently would argue “All capitalist countries must die!!! More communism!!! We need to do it better next time!!!”

    Sorry, my tears are reserved for those who don’t fuck up their land and economies and then turn around and try it some place else.

    Cuba is a perfect example… there are so many that have fled and are productive members of society in other countries. VZ, well, since so many were “in on the take”, it is reasonable to conclude that those streaming across the border into places like Chile and such are maybe not as “poor and downtrodden” as they might appear.

    Hell, nearly the entire Chavista upper enclave have been hiding in Florida… but thanks to public records and a watchful eye, they are getting caught and their monetary theft is being returned.

  6. I have two brothers-in-law and one sister-in-law who are not welcome in my home. They’re still in VZ, and still red shirt, red hat believers. (Yes, they’ve lately tempered their Chavismo on social media, because how could one not?)

    True story, that for the last year, my mind gets occupied…and I have dreams/nightmares…that one or more of them make it to Florida, and because they’re still my wife’s siblings, she’s going to want to revel in the reunification of family. And I just won’t be able to do it. No way.

    It’s not like I’m such a fine, upstanding, principled human being (just ask Canucklehead), but faking a smile and hugs towards them is not in my DNA. And it’s going to be a major fight between my wife and me.

    Like in my favorite movie, Inglourious Basterds, Lieutenant Aldo Raines says to the Nazis, and I paraphrase from memory:

    “I bet when this war is over, you’re gonna take off that pretty little SS uniform, ain’t ya? We don’t like that.

    “We like our Nazis in uniform, so we can spot ’em just like THAT. If it was up to me, you’d wear that pecker-sucking uniform the rest of your life.

    “But I know that ain’t practical, that at some point, you’re gonna have to take it off.

    “So I’m gonna give you a little something you CAN’T take off.”

    Whereas he raises his knife, and carves a swatsika into their forehead, for a lifelong scar.

    I think that in the case of Venezuela, they should carve that fat, stupid portrait of Hugo. I want to be able to spot my Chavistas just like that.

    With these 3 relatives, no problem at all.

    • I just remembered, and I have a correction.

      “If it was up to me, you’d wear that fucking uniform the rest of your pecker-sucking life.”

      I forgot the “fucking” and put “pecker-sucking” in the wrong place.

      Details like this matter to me.

  7. “Nicolasno Masburro stated that there are only 600.000 people who have left the country, and 90% regret ever leaving in the first place. The Genocidal Narco-Tyranny dismisses one of the largest diasporas in Latin America. “It’s less than what they say,” said the criminal dictator. ”

    Fixed. You see, Valeria, ain’t that hard to call things and people by their proper names. Call a spade a spade. Reporters ought to be accurate, and choose words more carefully. Using the words “government” or “president” only makes things worse. In Spanish, call it at the very least DESGOBIERNO CRIMINAL. Nothing prevents the media from being perfectly truthful, more descriptive and exact.

  8. “There was an eternally present argument with her parents, who voted for the late president Hugo Chávez in every election. They even supported Nicolás Maduro because that’s “what the commander said.” Their children were dissidents and now, so are they: “I stopped being chavista when my children left,” said Nolberto.”

    They voted for Chabestia and even Nicolasno because of their Galactic Ignorance. Because of their massive lack of basic education. Like the majority of Kleptozuela’s clueless populace did. Will we ever face that fact?
    See, even in Colombia, the pueblo-people are much better educated and less clueless. They didn’t go for Petro’s lies and elected Duque. That’s called basic information, minimal education.

  9. “She wanted to take her son with her, but he refused to leave until he’d finished his medical career. ”

    Unless Klepto-Cubazuela decides to shut down the borders, just like their masters in Cuba did. Then these Bolibanana “doctors” (bogus chavistoide careers, horrific academic standards) might end up just like the Cubans: prisoners of the dictatorship, invading some other 5th world country as spies.

    I’d like to see these kids with their Chavista “Medical Careers”, try to pass an equivalency test even in the Dominican Republic or Pto Rico. They’d fail it 5 years in a row. Don’t even try the USA or Europe..

  10. ” Fuck all chavistas that are fleeing the disaster they helped creating.”

    Indeed. Especially the die-hard thieves who venerated the beast after he was dead and even voted for Masburro. They kept criticizing the “burgueses” and “sifrinos” and “escualidos”.. Until the GUISOS and Mordidas ran dry. Until they couldn’t steal anymore and the freebies stopped. Then they escape like rats, only when the ship is sinking. And they finally shut up about the “great Comandante Eterno”, suddenly they are all for capitalism, begging for help anywhere they can get it.. escualidos, burgueses, imperio,, anyone who would save their sorry, corrupt and ignorant asses.

    They’re in for a rude awakening because in civilized countries they’ll be forced to work and study to survive. For a change. Things they never had to do in Klepto-Chinazuela. That’s why they are so IGNORANT and CORRUPT. Yes, those Millions of chavistoide pueblo-people, now begging for food and anything they can get, away from their beloved Chabestia. They are the reason Chavez won and stayed in power, and even Maduro and the criminal regime of today. It’s their Corruption and massive Ignorance that created and maintained the Kleptozuelan disaster for over 2 decades now. El Pueblo, yes. Corrupt Indios, not all, but for the most part. That’s where the animalistic bus driver they called president came from: one of their own.

    • And as much as you politically correct closet lefties like to slam Poeta for being a biggot or whatever, it is the cold hard truth. This is the reality on the ground in Venezuela, and it only gets worse with more and more brain drain. Following, you got to call a spade a spade and got to throw this shit right back in their faces and rub their noses in it. Hope it is a really shitty Navidad this year and really pissed off people start dropping truth bombs on their Chavista family members.

      So as much as you tire of Poetas rants, it is the cold hard truth that nobody likes to hear. Please come to Venezuela and try to employ people. Hahaha. Or try to get anything done here without corruption. Hahahaha. Impossible. There are deep cultural problems here that cannot be swept under the rug, even if there is a political change here.

  11. So by my count we got to eight comments without a personal attack on another poster. That may be a record but in any event we haf 8 posts before Tom alas denounced Duncanvd as a petty and pathetic person.

  12. This story is funny!! Because the same people that voted for him lived Great before Chavez was president, but they let themselves be fooled be him and his lies!! Then they put their trust in a person that shot and killed people, toe get power was Going to be a Great Leader!! Now that it effects their house hold NOW is serious!! To FUNNY and SAD!! All in one!!!

  13. The educated, the achievers and thinkers are not needed in Marxism. What Marxists need are automatons who do what they are told. The Marxists will do the thinking. And if thinking isn’t needed, they will do the quoting from great philosophical books written by Lenin and Trotsky and other such great high minded thinkers.

    Not that a Marxist ever created anything of value. But by golly, they sure had the “thinkin’ ’bout how things outta be” down pat!

    It is a blessing that Venezuela is allowing all the doers and thinkers to leave so other nations can prosper.

    Making lemonade out of lemons. That’s me!

  14. Let’s see if this link posts correctly here. A new Washington Post editorial:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/can-latin-america-handle-venezuelas-collapse-without-the-us/2018/09/30/58302bb4-c25e-11e8-a1f0-a4051b6ad114_story.html?utm_term=.5d3deda26318

    If you want a laugh, give it a read. It’s full of contradictions, inaccuracies, and says NOTHING. I can’t believe they actually pay someone good money to write this garbage. It’s a short read.

    Most of us here could do a better job off the top of our heads for 50 bucks.

  15. Chavistas fleeing conditions they themselves created is similar to mobsters taking over a business, skimming, robbing, fleecing (and never actually working) and gaming the place till everything valuable is gone, till the place is dreadfully in debt, trashed, ruined, then bolting for the next score in the next place. It’s the social version of a sexual predator: take what you want by any means, forget the victim, then move on.

    Sanctions against Chavismo Jefes has moved to essentially close to borders to some high ranking officials, who might bolt after the ship sinks, but in some cases (probably not nearly enough), can only go to wonderlands like Bolivia and Cuba, and won’t have burgled fortunes to live off. Perhaps the most tragic part is the apparently total lack of national pride – that the governing motive is not what you can do for your country, but what yo can get by any means. Then you abandon it on the side of the road (so to speak) like an old junked car having stripped ever usable part for whatever it was worth.

  16. Venezuela, unfortunately, has been this way forever. Ex-Presidents/other political-various luminaries largely preferred to live abroad (especially France), now the boli-burgueses in Doral/Madrid/et. al. I’ve always been amazed that Venezuelans rarely invested their (usually stolen) fortunes in their own country, while citizens of their L.A. neighbors (Colombia/Brasil/Chile/Argentina/et.al.) usually did invest in their respective countries.

  17. The year was 2005. Things not nearly as bad as now. Heck, compared to now, back then Venezuela was fucking Switzerland. I had worked for 18 months as a mid-level IT guy in a company that had 5 offices and 80 employees in Venezuela. A higher level guy in the Brazil branch was fired and I had brazilian “papeles”. A no-brainer for the company, which hadn’t finished offering me the position when I was already packing my shit to leave and make 6 times what I was making in Venezuela. Out of luck, I got to leave “before it was cool”, and became financially independent in the process, something impossible in Venezuela unless you’re a spineless enchufado. I still remember my friends telling me a couple of years later that I was missing the oil-boom back home. “Eso se va a acabar, pendejos”, I replied.

    I gave Venezuela another chance after Chavez got sick. I knew the bastard would die soon, so I returned in 2012 as a head-of-household. What I didn’t know was that not only would the “opposition” have another Socialist face him, but also that most Venezuelans would vote for more chavismo twice in a six-month span.

    Needless to say, I started planning our last and final emigration right then, and left for good in 2014. A Venezuela, de vacaciones y de vaina.

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