For Laura Arias, Mother's Day this year will be bittersweet. She will celebrate the day with her newborn baby, but she would only be able to see her other two children via video call. While Arias is in Trinidad, one of her children is in her homeland, Venezuela, and one is in Colombia.
Their children in different countries is a reality faced by hundreds of Venezuelan migrant women.
Arias's daughter, Fabiola Valentina, is 11; her son, Diego Alejandro is seven. The baby, Alaia Montserrat is two weeks old.
With Alaia Montserrat snugly in her arms, Arias spoke to Newsday about her decision to leave Venezuela. “Opening the fridge and seeing we only had a tomato to eat with salt was what forced me to separate my family and face the challenge to come to TT," she said.
"Five years ago, everything was going well (in Venezuela) with the father of my son, Diego Alejandro, but the protests, looting and the severe economic crisis forced many businesses to close and with that we were left without jobs," said Arias.
In the midst of economic problems, Diego Alejandro had an accident in which he hit his head. That triggered seizures, medical treatment for which was difficult for the family to get in Venezuela.
“Diego's father and I decided to go to Colombia to work and to seek medical solutions to Diego's problems. We couldn't all leave, that's why my daughter, Fabiola Valentina stayed in Venezuela with her paternal grandmother,” she said.
A few months later, Arias returned to Venezuela, because she could not be separated from her daughter for that long.
“My son...stayed with his father and his grandmother and I returned to Venezuela. But things in Venezuela were getting worse and when I saw we had nothing in my fridge, I thought of my children and decided to leave the country again, this time (I went) to Curacao,” said Arias.
In Curacao a friend told her about TT, a better economic and social destination for Venezuelan migrants.
“It was painful, my daughter (went) on her knees asked me not to leave her again, but I had to do it for her and for Diego, in order to help them. I came to TT on May 27, 2018 I remember that date as if it were yesterday. Since then three years have passed and (I see) my children only through video calls,” said Arias, tearfully.
Here, she met her current partner and father of her baby, another Venezuelan migrant. But she hopes to be reunited with her other two children.
"Now I have one more hope, a third child to fight for, although there is not a day goes that (I don't blame myself) for being separated from Fabiola and Diego. But life is...hard and we must continue to advance by ourselves," she said.
In Venezuela, Arias worked at a locksmith store; here, she is an assistant at a gyros restaurant in San Juan.
She does not lose hope of having all her children in the same place at the same time.
“I want to enjoy my three children as a united family, to be able to take them to school, to sit at the same table to eat and to be able to kiss them good night. I know God will help me as a mother,” said Arias.
She, as well as hundreds of Venezuelan migrant mothers in TT, hope for more changes in the TT's immigration policies which will support family reunification, especially for mothers who had to leave their children behind.