Posted: December 31, 2018
Night gets closer. Sandra Cadiz wraps her shivering 10-year-old daughter in a blanket. She prays for a ride up the freezing Colombian mountaintop known as “the icebox.”
The two are running away from Venezuela on foot. They must travel 2,700 miles through four countries. More than 650 people leave Venezuela on foot this way every single day! Bus or plane tickets cost too much. Ms. Cadiz knows not everyone survives the dangerous journey. But she is afraid to stay in Venezuela, where her daughter Angelis does not get enough to eat. Ms. Cadiz and Angelis sleep on the ground outside a gas station.
Ms. Cadiz and Angelis are just two people involved in one of the biggest migrations in the world today. More than 1.9 million people have fled poverty, hunger, and crime in Venezuela since 2015.
Ms. Cadiz and Angelis set out for the Colombian border. They sleep in the Colombian highlands, where temperatures dip 10 degrees below freezing during the night. Ms. Cadiz is terrified. Will they get stranded and die in the cold?
The next morning, they get up again and walk more, even though Angelis is wearing broken shoes. A stranger named Alba Camacho spots them. She wraps Angelis in her own thick blue coat. She takes the pair to her friend’s home for the night. In the morning, they start walking again. Sometimes they hitch rides. But they never get anywhere fast. By the next night, they are barely a quarter of the way from Venezuela to Peru! They spend the night on the floor beneath a mechanic’s tin roof. They weep.
The next day, Ms. Cadiz decides to try something else. Generous Colombians have given her 250,000 pesos—about $82. She buys two tickets to Ecuador.
In Ecuador, the two take a free bus to Peru. After their eight day journey, they are hungry and sick.
Ms. Cadiz pulls her documents out of a crinkled Hello Kitty folder one last time. A migration agent asks Angelis to step in front of a camera. Angelis grins from ear to ear. They have finally arrived!
By the time the two reach the Peruvian capital, they don’t have a cent in their pockets. Ms. Cadiz says, “I arrived by a miracle.”