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Tuesday 25 June 2019
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[UPDATED] MANGO MEALS

101 tired, hungry V’zuelans’ first food on arrival

TELL ME YOUR STORY: Newsday South Bureau journalist Laurel Williams interviews Venezuelan Darwin Pereira yesterday at the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. 
PHOTO BY LINCOLN HOLDER
TELL ME YOUR STORY: Newsday South Bureau journalist Laurel Williams interviews Venezuelan Darwin Pereira yesterday at the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia. PHOTO BY LINCOLN HOLDER

AFTER hiding from the Guardia Nacional as they sailed under the cover of darkness down the Orinoco River, 101 tired and hungry Venezuelans fed on juicy, ripe mangoes — their first meals on arriving on Trinidad soil earlier this week.

Since mangoes are in season, this became breakfast, lunch, and dinner for most of the illegal immigrants who spent days in the forests in Palo Seco before South Western Division police arrested them on Wednesday afternoon.

Illegal Venezuelan migrants Sandra Elena Perdomo, left, and her friend Yvolis Josefina Guevara pose for a photo at the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia.
Photo: Lincoln Holder

Yvolis Josefina Guevara, 31, told Newsday in Spanish, “We had no food. We survived on mangoes. We had to hide from Venezuelan authorities when we left home and from the police when we arrived here. We stayed a few days in the forest and drank coconut water. Our toilets were the bush. We sleep on the ground, hungry...plenty biting from insects.”

She was among scores of illegal Venezuelan immigrants at Irwin Park Sporting Complex at Siparia, where they are receiving medical care. A local doctor identified only as Dr Dubrey communicated with them in Spanish and referred Guevara and two others to the nearby district health facility for additional care. The complex is being used as a temporary shelter.
Despite the ordeal, Guevara smiled as several kind-hearted Trinis dropped off food items, toilet paper and clothing for the Venezuelans. Guevara is from Tucupita.

“I AM ALIVE”

“My hair is stink right now. I need to brush my teeth. I have no toothbrush. My skin is itching. I have no clothes. No one of us slept properly in the past few days. I don’t have a phone to contact anyone,” Guevara said. “But I am alive, thank the blessed Virgin, I am alive.”

A Venezuelan totes a large cassava inside Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia where the illegal Venezuelan migrants are receiving care.
Photo: Lincoln Holder

Also speaking in Spanish, Neomar Taran said: “We eat mangoes and drink coconuts in the forest. We also hunt fish and cook it for the group. We had no food, we had nothing. I was in the forest for about seven days. One night, the rain started to drizzle but for a short time.”

The 31-year-old said he spent about 18 hours in a bus from his hometown in Valencia, in the Carabobo State, to get to Tucupita, the capital of the Delta Amacuro State. He left his wife and extended family searching for a better life because of the ongoing political, economic and social crises in that country. He cannot speak English and it is his first visit to Trinidad.

Taran’s personal belongs fit in a small suitcase.  Looking tired, he was almost reduced to tears when asked about his family. While at the complex, he borrowed a phone and contacted them.
All but one of the illegal Venezuelans were allowed to leave police custody, according to police. Relatives and friends took many of them while about 30 overnighted at the complex. The police granted them orders of supervision which allowed them to leave custody but must report to the Immigration Department on dates in July.

Some of the Venezuelans told Newsday that the procedure is that they arrive in groups, from all over Venezuela, to Tucupita where they board boats to make the illegal trip to “somewhere in Trinidad.” Boat captains drop them off, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Siparia resident Jennifer Joan Cowie said she was at home on Wednesday evening preparing bake and sardine when someone told her of the many Venezuelans detained. She decided to “help them out” and spent hours translating for free. She returned three years ago from Venezuela where she lived for 42 years.

Up to late yesterday, she together with retired champion boxer Kim Quashie, who works at the Siparia Regional Corporation, joined in a search in a forested area off Bunsee Trace in Penal having received reports that more Venezuelans remained hiding. Newsday also joined the search, but no one was found. “Here does not look as though there are fruit trees. I am not even seeing a mango tree. They cannot survive out here in the wilderness. We are hearing there are women and children still hiding and are afraid. It is very hard for them. It’s a sad day. Venezuela was a paradise,” Cowie said.

KIM’S TEARS
Quashie, who is the personal secretary to the chairman of the corporation, wept as she related some of the hardships the illegal Venezuelan faced to reach Trinidad.

Legal Venezuelan migrant Carmen Cardinez cries as Kim Quashie, of the Siparia Regional Corporation consoles her.
Photo: Lincoln Holder

“Last night, there was a pregnant woman and two children. One family came and they could not find the rest of the family. They started to bawl.  They are humans too and I feel for them.”
She said she became angry when a man decided to treat some of the illegal women, who have no relatives in TT, as “apples and grapes”.

“He came picking and choosing who he wanted to carry home to spend the night with. He said he wanted this one and that one. I had to order him out. They are not grapes or apples. They are humans!”

This story was originally published with the title "Mangoes save V'zuelans" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.


Since mangoes are in season, they became breakfast, lunch and dinner for over 100 illegal Venezuelan immigrants who spent days in the forest in south Trinidad before being arrested on Wednesday.

Yvolis Josefina Guevara, 31, told Newsday in Spanish, “We had no food. We survived on mangoes. We had to hide from Venezuelan authorities and from police here. We stayed a few days in the forest and drank coconut water. Our ‘toilets’ were the bushes. We sleep on the ground, hungry and surrounded by insects.”

She was among scores of illegal Venezuelan immigrants at Irwin Park Sporting Complex at Siparia, where they are receiving medical care. The complex is being used as a temporary shelter.

Despite the ordeal, Guevara smiled as several volunteers dropped off food items and clothing for the Venezuelans. She is from Tucupita.

“I need to brush my teeth. My skin is itching. I have no clothes,” she said.

Also speaking in Spanish, Neomar Taran said: “We eat mangoes and drink coconuts in the forest. We also hunt fish and cook it for the group. We had no food, we had nothing. I was in the forest for about seven days. One night, the rain started to drizzle but for a short time.”

The 31-year-old said he spent about 18 hours in a bus from his hometown in Valencia, in the Carabobo State, to get to Tucupita, the capital of the Delta Amacuro State. He left his wife and extended family searching for a better life because of the ongoing political, economic and social crises in that country.

He cannot speak English and it is his first visit to Trinidad.

Siparia resident Jennifer Joan Cowie said she was at home on Wednesday evening preparing bake and sardine when someone told her of the large number of Venezuelans detained.

“They wanted me to translate. I returned from Venezuela three years ago.

"It is not about money; it is about Christ. From 8 pm to 1 am straight, I was was translating.

"It is very hard for them. It’s a sad day. Venezuela was a paradise.”

Today more Venezuelans arrive at Morne Diablo and Palo Seco.

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