Two Journeys Crossing at an Asado in Chile

Pelican.
(Phone) Coquimbo, September 2019.

Two young women are at a community barbeque, an ‘asado’ as they are called here. They are both speaking Spanish, but neither fully understands the other’s accent. Both wear jeans and a jumper. This is a family barbeque with children running around, splashing in the paddling pool and playing something like volleyball but with a large beach ball, however, neither of these two women have family in the city. Neither have family in the country.

The taller of the two women is English. She doesn’t consider herself particularly tall, but she’s probably the tallest woman here. It took her 32 hours, three planes and three trains to move to this city. To her, this felt like an ordeal.

However, the other woman is from Venezuela. Yes, closer as the crow might fly (if they had crows in Latin America), but it took her 12 days on a bus to get here. She crossed the border into Colombia, continued through Ecuador, through Peru and down through Chile. A journey through the sorts of places the Foreign Office marks in red in its guidelines, these are no go areas. She has come to Chile alone.

Venezuela is currently in a state of crisis with 4 million people having fled its borders. Many of these people have fled to Colombia and Ecuador, but there are many here in Chile too. Chile is currently more economically stable than other Latin American countries. Although it’s revoked permission for Venezuelans to enter for up to 90 days without a visa, the country is now offering visas of ‘democratic responsibility’.

The English woman moved to Chile to improve her Spanish and have a bit of an adventure. For her, travel is fun. It’s a choice. Getting work isn’t ever so difficult because she’s well educated and speaks English as her first language. The work here was all sorted before she even booked my flights. When she landed at the airport there was a chap in a branded jacket waiting to drive her to a furnished apartment.

The Venezuelan woman, however, describes her life as being work to home and back to work again. With moments for doing the washing in between. She’s not only supporting herself but sending her money back to Venezuela so that her family have something to eat. She’s happy, she says, because they were so thin before, now, with her help, they’re a little fatter.

At the barbeque, the two women sit together, eating spicy sausages, chicken drumsticks and plates full of salad in the warm sunshine. Two women who’ve taken very different journeys to get here.