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I Learn Library

A human library inspired by the stories in the film

From Warrior to Immigrant

By Maria Eugenia Gamboa  |   From : Venezuela  |   School : Everglades High School

Maria Eugenia Gamboa

Caracas, Venezuela 04/29/2001

It Is hard when one day you start loving something with all your heart and the next day it gets taken away from you. That’s my story.

When I was 15 years old I started fighting for and falling in love with my country and 5 months later I had to leave my country behind.

My story with Venezuela wasn’t a love one but it ended up like that.

I was born in Caracas on April 29, 2001 and for as long as I can remember I always wanted to leave my country.

I always had a fortunate life, full of opportunities and possibilities, more than almost everyone in Venezuela. Both of my parents were successful in their careers, my mom as a translator and my dad as a doctor. So, thanks to that I studied in one of the best schools back then and I learned English and German without knowing that those languages would be helping me a lot one day.

But even though I had it all, I didn’t feel comfortable there…

If there’s one phrase that can describe my journey is ‘be careful with what you wish because some day it will come true’ that’s what happened to me. I was wishing to leave for 8 years, and at the time that I wanted to stay I had to get away.

My journey began on April 19 of 2017, Venezuela was going through an historic process, people were on the streets fighting for freedom, for another government. That had happened before in 2014, but this time it was massive.

I felt motivated, I wanted to do something, I was sick of living in a country where there was no food, no freedom, no security, no nothing, even though I wasn’t feeling the crisis as hard as other people. I knew that I had to do something, so I did. And that day was the beginning of my story, the day that I decided to fight for Venezuela.

So yes, I started fighting every single day until August. Breathing every single day the gas of the bombs that the police threw at us, risking my life… but sadly there was no change and a lot of people died, and sadly, I couldn’t stay until the end of that process.

Every day I went out to protest asking for a change I started falling in love with Venezuela and its people, it was beautiful to see us united, millions of people on the streets in unity for a common cause, for their country. I went to places of Caracas (my city) that I never met before, I met people and that changed me a lot, and changed the way I saw my people. On the streets it didn’t matter who you were, your status, anything, a Venezuelan was a Venezuelan.

My devotion for those protests were so hard that I spent my birthday in the streets.

June was a month that I can say, marked my life. That was the first time that I met face to face with death.  This day we were going to La Victoria a place that were on the other side of Caracas. (Caracas is divided in East and West. La Victoria is on the west side) so, it was a long but not an impossible protest. By this time the repression of the police and the army had gotten stronger, they wouldn’t let us walk more than 3 or 4 KM, we weren’t able to lead the protests to the places that we wanted to go, but even though the odds were against us, we were still going out to protest more than 3 days a week. In this protest we walked a lot, it was feeling wrong, we saw no police, no army, the streets were quiet and when we were closer to our destination, the repression started. Tear gas bombs, air gun pellets were flying above us, falling and hurting people, then the gas started affecting everyone and the chaos began. We were on a small street so there was no place to go besides the building of the Alcaldia de Baruta, so me and my mom started running to the building, but the gas already had started to make effect in our bodies, that wasn’t a nice scene.

The tear gas makes you feel dizzy, it hurts in your eyes, you can’t stop crying and you cannot breathe at all, every time you try to breath in some air it gets worse, your chest hurts until there’s a point where the lack of oxygen is so strong that all you want to do is sleep. That happened to me, I fell on the floor, all I wanted to do was to sleep. My mom was a real super hero that day, because even though she was feeling as bad as I did she did everything she could to help me. That day I met my guard angel, a young man that got me out of the building carrying me on his arms. He ran for almost 2 blocks until a couple help me to get on their motorcycle and they took me to the closest ambulance. That day I thought that it would be the end of my participation on the protest, but I kept participating until August…

August, August, August…

August definitely was a hard month, was a month of chaos and changes in my family and the month that we as a family decided to move to the United States. By that month we were still participating in the protests, but the streets were getting colder, there wasn’t the same feeling because of the many deceptions that the opposition gave us. 4 months of protests and nothing had change, it only got worse, and worse, and worse.

August 15 was the day that marked a before and an after in my story, they day that my mom stopped being a normal citizen to one of the people that was persecuted by the dictatorship in Venezuela. To make the story short, my mom was at the super market when she and a group of people saw one of the women that are responsible of this chaos, Socorro Hernandez. Socorro Hernandez is one of the rectors of the CNE, the national electoral center, the government entity that is responsible of helping the dictatorship to manipulate the votes of the elections. My mom and those people confronted her, they told her in her face everything that she has done and the woman had the guts to say that she was attacked when that wasn’t true. My mom appeared in national TV, the dictatorship was looking for her, they wanted to give her and the other people 25 years in jail because of ‘hate crimes’. We had no choice, we had to leave…

Thanks to god, I have two amazing sisters living in the United States that helped us to leave the country. My mom was the first one to leave and 10 days later, the rest of my family (My dad, my little siblings) and I left. That day that I will never forget, August 23. The day that my life changed, but for good.

Adapting to a new country that isn’t yours isn’t and will never be easy, but trust me, if the destiny, god or whatever decided that you needed a new start, it is for good.

Right now, 9 months later, I’m a sophomore in Everglades High School, achieving things faster than a regular and an ESOL student, with friends, a house and the most important of all my family together.

My journey wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

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