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“A huge mountain has to be crossed to be seen, especially because of the language barrier”

My name is Patricia. I was born in Caracas Venezuela in 1984. I arrived in the neighborhood called Tussen de Vaarten in the city of Almere, Netherlands in 2018. This is my story.

I am a Venezuelan woman who grew up in a warm climate between the Tuy Valley and Caracas. I am the youngest of 3 sisters and grew up with both parents. We lived in an apartment that had enough space to play. Something nice that I remember is that from there I could see the mountains that surrounded the valley. I had many friends with whom I grew up together. 

When I was only 3 years old I was already singing in a music group called "Casa Blanca" named as our residence. My father directed the group because besides being a worker at the State Water Company he was also a musician and composer. The group consisted of only girls who were my sisters and me. I also received classes in ballet, jazz, Venezuelan folkloric dance, and music at the conservatory. I remember how I  insisted to my father teach me songs so that I could sing them with my guitar, which I carried everywhere. My mother, also a very artistic woman, was always very good at making our costumes.

Before I finished high school, I was already working as an artist in different dance companies, musicals, and acting, as well as in the world of Venezuelan television.  I finished my higher education degree in Audiovisual Sciences and Photography. In 2014, my passion for art led me to start a Ballet School. There I taught classes and produced musicals with the concept of giving professional visibility to the Ballet that was not known in the region. 

In 2015 I married a boy I met in the church. We moved into an apartment in the Valles del Tuy and later with my parents. That same year we made a trip through Europe and we came to the Netherlands as tourists for a few days. Unfortunately, in 2018 a dangerous situation broke out in Venezuela, and so we had to leave the country. We arrived at the AZC refugee center in Tussen de Vaarten Almere. This was a very different city from the ones we knew before as it is very modern and new. 

In the beginning, it was very difficult as I missed my family, my surroundings, my community at church, my school, and my work. Also was hard the lack of privacy experienced because we had to share the space with 6 other people from different countries such as Russia, Iraq, El Salvador, and Cuba among others. We tried from the beginning to learn the language through the ones given by volunteers. I am still friends with one of them. We also participated in classes outside the center where we managed to get the A2 diploma in Dutch before we got the status. Great support has been from the church in Almere Poort where we are members.

Since the day I left my country I have cried. Thanks to the initiative we had with my husband to start a Venezuelan Folkloric dance group, I have started to feel less sad. Being with people inside and outside the AZC who share our passion for Venezuelan dance meant a lot to me. I was able to bring together people who like me are in difficult situations. In this way, we support each other as it is hard to start your life again in a strange country.
Singing, dancing, and producing art as such have allowed me to be active and feel alive and useful. It has been my therapy to get ahead. It is true that the multiculturalism that exists in Almere is impressive, but it is also impressive how invisible at the same time we can be. A huge mountain has to be crossed to be seen, especially because of the language barrier.

In 2020 my husband managed to get a job as an orthodontist assistant thanks to his experience and diploma as a dentist from Venezuela.  It was not until 2021 that we received resident status and had our own place to live.

When we had just received our house I had to have emergency surgery, because I had a high-risk pregnancy where the baby could not grow. I lost the baby. It was not the first one I had lost and this fact added to the pain and sadness I already had. However, the doctor at the hospital was very good to us and encouraged us by telling us that the fertility department at the Flevoziekenhuis hospital would help us so that I could get pregnant again. Since then I have been a patient of that group of doctors. Every day I try to fill myself with hope and ask the Lord to do his will in my professional, personal, and family life. I know he has a perfect plan for me.

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Photos, Interview and Text: Lyla Carrillo Quan - van der Kaaden
Text Revision: Babette Rondón
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