2011 | San Cristóbal, Venezuela | Age: 23
My mom gave me these bills the first time I travelled abroad. She was basically telling me not to forget where I came from. Things change. These have intrinsic value. They are meaningful. The U.S. currency was symbolic for her, and little did she know that the $2 bill is rare and exotic and difficult to find. At that time, in 2005, the exchange rate was 2.5 bolívares to the dollar. Right now, it’s 800,000 bolívares to the dollar. It is literally cheaper to wipe your ass with this 5 VEB bill than to buy toilet paper. That tells you a little bit about how things have changed in these last 13 years. But to me it’s symbolic, because if things get difficult here, I remember that back home they are a lot more difficult. I also appreciate that having lived abroad all this time, I’ve had the unique opportunity to study and develop myself in different environments. I’ve studied in Spain. I’m currently finishing my Master’s degree here. Through all that, it has been important to remember where I come from and what I want to do, and to use that energy to keep going.
I was able to leave Venezuela to play baseball, which I did for 4 years. Then when I couldn’t anymore, I went to Spain to find my soul and to see what I wanted to do. Actually, it was not so much my desire. It was my parents’ infinite wisdom that parents have, telling me that things were going to get ugly at home, and that it was better to start looking for a life elsewhere. This was not a novel idea. People who had the means and the luxury to travel, and foresaw what was happening, were leaving as a preventative measure. In my case, even though no one in my family had the opportunity or the means, I was able to leave through sports. My brother received political asylum for a different reason, and he got it at the same time as I came to the States in 2011 to study. Now he’s already a citizen, enjoying a free life here. As for me, I keep these old student ID’s to remind myself of my lifeline here. They are what has kept me from being forced to return home to the unrest. I keep them next to my passport, next to my important things.