THEY live in shacks made of plywood and galvanise on the shore of a beach in Icacos, but one Venezuelan family is enjoying life there and have no plans to move elsewhere in TT.
Newsday recently visited the southwestern village where Alvaro Perez, 38, his wife Milina Gonzales, 31 and his 51-year-old mother Elba Espinosa lives on the beach.
The family does not speak much English. There were eight children whose ages ranged from as young as three-years-old to 11-years-old.
Espinosa said they have been living in Icacos for exactly one year, adding that they are also registered. They previously lived in Tucupita, Venezuela.
At their new home in Icacos, there were two beds and several hammocks inside and outside of the structure.
Espinosa said she shares her bed with four of the children. A large curtain – not a door – was the only thing separating her section of the house from their kitchen area.
Fortunately, they have water and electricity which allows them to bathe, cook, wash and clean. They said their electricity bill is approximately $100 per month.
Espinosa added, though, “We only have one fan and it is usually very hot in the day. Very, very hot. And then at night, there are so many mosquitos.”
Perez said the sand can be problematic at times, especially when it is windy or when it rains.
Despite another media house referring to the beachfront community as a “Venezuelan community,” Perez told Newsday this is not the case.
“There are three Venezuelan families but there are English (TT nationals) there, there, over there…” he said as he pointed to other nearby, similarly-built structures.
He said the Venezuelans are actually the newest members of the small, beachfront community and that all their TT neighbours are “really kind people.”
Perez said he was a teacher in Venezuela. Now, he occasionally assists fishermen in the area and tries to get jobs in the field of construction.
They have a designated area for bathing made of pieces of galvanize sheets. Asked where the toilet was, Gonzales said, “We use the beach.”
But she also pointed to a latrine they built, saying, “It is a toilet but we don’t really use that a lot.”
Gonzales and Espinosa said they earn money by cleaning villagers’ houses for $20 an hour. They typically work five to six hours a day.
“It depends on the extent of the work,” Espinosa said.
They said many neighbours – and even strangers – have been assisting them a lot since they arrived. One neighbour assists by providing water and medicine. Others donate food items. They seemed to have basic food necessities in their kitchen storage area. One neighbour’s mango tree also hangs over where they live and they got permission to take whenever they want.
Asked if they like the food in TT, they all said yes, adding that they still make Venezuelan foods such as empanadas, arepas and a traditional rice dish called paella.
Perez said sometimes it can be difficult to get transport in the area.
Gonzales said here have never been any issues with police or the Coast Guard since they’ve been there. She expressed her thankfulness to the authorities for being understanding.
They said there are times where the children may feel sad as they miss their home country, they are thankful to TT for allowing them to escape the “difficult situation in Venezuela.”
And since the children cannot attend school in TT, the three adults try their best to teach them at home using the books they have.
While Icacos is a fairly remote area, they say they all enjoy living there. They said not having to pay rent is also a plus, and they don’t have to worry about crime in the area.