As of March 2019, Central America, North America and the Caribbean reported more than one and a half million Venezuelan refugees and migrants in countries of the region. One and a half million people who are learning to adapt to other scents, tastes, climate and lifestyles.
Some migrants in vulnerable conditions suffer from post-traumatic stress when crossing to a new country, but most will develop resilience skills, the capacity to resist, absorb knowledge, adapt and recover from the adverse effects of their transfer efficiently.
This is the case of Robinson Fereira:
Since Robinson was 23 years old, he imagined sharing the music of his native Venezuela outside his country. First, he thought of countries like Switzerland, France and Spain, but life moved him elsewhere
In Venezuela, the rental contract was about to expire. Robinson and Mariana, his wife, had to look for a new space, but no matter how hard they tried the conditions were difficult: the leases were very high, the places very small, and they were required to pay up to six months in advance in dollars, a currency that, for more than 10 years, has not been easy to acquire in Venezuela.
Before going through the ordeal of looking for a place to move, they evaluated the option of migrating in search of another future: one that offered a property with rent in accordance to the economic reality of the country, but also one that offered job opportunities, savings capacity and personal security.
"First, we tried to emigrate to the United States with the legal residency process, but it became complicated at the time. Then, at the invitation of one of my wife’s relatives, we made an exploratory trip to Panama, and that visit to this beautiful country was enough to decide that it would definitely be where we would make our life," Robinson said. On January 18, 2015, they departed from Maracaibo, Venezuela to Panama.
The adaptation process took a while, some things were complicated: open a personal bank account, get a good job as a music teacher, or find a downtown rental at a good price. But little by little, they succeeded.
Robinson and Mariana crossed paths with IOM through "Pianistmo", the first piano recital performed by Fereira’s students in Panama. Among the audience was none other than the Panamanian Roberto Delgado, musical director of Rubén Blades, and who recently invited Robinson to record in the new production "Salsa Big Band", an album that won two Latin Grammys and a Grammy Award.
Robinson considers himself very fortunate that in his early years in Panama, as a piano teacher and offering home classes, he was able to enter Panamanian homes to see how they are from the inside, in a private and familiar space.
"Without a doubt, you grow, you become strong and you learn to manage more and better resources every day, to cultivate good relationships, those that add good energy, respect and inspiration to your life," Robinson acknowledges.
We asked him what advice he would give to another Venezuelan migrant and Robinson shared the following ideas.
1. Investigate everything in relation to the country you choose as a destination, the more information you have, the better you will be able to move.
2. Create a life plan, at least for the first year in your new home.
3. Get your residence and work permit as quickly as possible, being a regular makes things much easier.
4. Open yourself up to new possibilities, do not believe that what you have is best. Every country and culture has its traits and its achievements, so if you plan to take that step it is better to have an open mind and be flexible, do not be afraid to adapt, do not be resistant to learning. Nothing bad happens if you learn another language, or if you add some phrases and expressions from the jargon of that new place to your vocabulary, you do not look bad, you're not ridiculous. It's just your mind doing the same as when you were a child, simple adaptation, survival.
5. Make friends in your new country, do not lock yourself in a bubble with other Venezuelan countrymen.
Contributor: IOM Panama