Sandra Cadiz, 51, and her daughter Angelis, 10, trekked 2,700 miles through four countries with just $6 in cash and the clothes on their backs to escape Venezuela after Angelis began showing of malnutrition and starvation. Since 2015, more than 1.9 million Venezuelans had fled the country to escape poverty, hunger, rampant crime, and hyperinflation.
Speaking to The Associated Press, Cadiz recalled the dangerous journey to Peru to meet with her son and his family, who had escaped Venezuela years earlier. They began on foot through illegal pathways where migrants frequently face robbery or extortion. After crossing the Tachira River, whose current is strong enough to sweep away unsuspecting migrants, and passing through into Colombia, the mother and daughter faced arguably the most dangerous part of their journey — a brutal climb up a mountain plateau called the Berlin paramo, often referred to locally as “the icebox,” where migrants have been known to freeze to death if they are unable to come down the mountain before nightful.
Luckily for Cadiz and Angelis, they were given a ride across the mountain and into Bucaramanga by a teacher who let them stay the night at her apartment instead of leaving them in the city’s public park, which has become filled with hundreds of homeless Venezuelans. The determined mother and daughter were walking again the next day along the road to Cali — a journey of some 500 miles — where they would take what is known as the “Sun Route” into Ecuador. Two hours in, Cadiz recalled, her daughter stopped walking.
“Don’t you want to go home?” she asked the 10-year-old.
“What home?” the despondent girl replied.
But despite the pain in her barely-clad feet, Angelis got up. It took days more of walking, hitching rides, and traveling on buses paid with money donated by sympathetic locals before the two made it to Cali. There they took a 12-hour bus ride into Ecuador. After crossing successfully, they were able to get onto another bus, this one provided by the Ecuadorian government, to help take them 1,288 miles to the Peruvian border. Eight days after they first fled Venezuela, they reunited with Cadiz’s son, Leonardo Araujo, his wife, and their 1-year-old daughter. The reunion wasn’t seamless — within a month, the reunited family was kicked out of Cadiz’s son’s apartment by their landlord for being unable to pay higher rent, and they now all live together in a shelter. But Cadiz has no regrets. Since arriving in Peru, she says, Angela has gained 11 pounds.
“I feel very happy,” she told The Associated Press, reflecting on the perilous odyssey. “And thankful to all the people who helped us.”
Watch video of Cadiz and Angelis below.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.