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'It’s not easy to leave your roots': Asdrúbal Alvarado seeks better opportunities for himself in CO

Asdrubal Alvarado, left, and Edwin Jimenez, right, stand in the community meeting room at the Third Street Center in Carbondale on Nov. 19, 2023. Alvarado, Jimenez and about 50 other people, mostly from Venezuela, have been staying at the center’s temporary refugee shelter since early November.
Halle Zander
Aspen Public Radio
Asdrubal Alvarado, left, and Edwin Jimenez, right, stand in the community meeting room at the Third Street Center in Carbondale on Nov. 19, 2023. Alvarado, Jimenez and about 50 other people, mostly from Venezuela, have been staying at the center’s temporary refugee shelter since early November.

Pueden encontrar la versión en español aquí.

About 30,000 people fleeing violence and instability in Venezuela have arrived in Denver over the past year.

Many are now seeking work and opportunity in rural communities such as the Roaring Fork Valley, where over a hundred migrants have arrived in recent months.

Aspen Public Radio spent time getting to know three members of the group who have been representing their peers in meetings with local government officials and nonprofits.

Reporters Halle Zander and Eleanor Bennett produced a series of audio postcards from their conversations.

In the first installment of the three-part series, Asdrúbal Alvarado talks about his life in Venezuela, why he decided to leave his family and kids to come to the U.S., and his hopes for what might come next.

Alvarado spoke in Spanish through interpreter Claudia Pawl with Convey Language Solutions. His story below was edited for clarity and length and then re-recorded in English by Bryan Álvarez-Terrazas. The audio postcard was produced by Eleanor Bennett.

Asdrúbal Alvarado: I used to live in a place called Guárico (state), in Calabozo (city). I lived with my family, my parents, my mom, my dad, my siblings. The most beautiful thing for me was my childhood, you know, in the country, because I love horses. Since I can remember, I've been riding them. On Sundays when we were little, we would get together and we would go to run the horses, and then whoever would win would be so happy. You know, it was like this joy that made you feel like the best child around.

And then I went to university, to military school, and I was 16. After I graduated, that's when the situation in my country changed. I had a job as a supervisor and there were a lot of threats about death from higher ups. So I decided that it was for my well-being and for my family, that I had to leave and come here to look for better opportunities, for a better life.

I left February 14th this year, and the goal was to get to the United States, but I didn't have anyone here to receive me; I don't have any family. God was the only one that was with me.

It's not an easy trip because you have to go through six or seven countries: Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. The only part where you cannot communicate with your family is when you get to Panama, going through the jungle, you know, because there's nothing there, nothing at all. That's the ugliest part, that jungle. And you learn a lot of things, you know, survival, because there are some days that you have something to eat and there's some that you don't have enough money to eat that day. You have to sleep outside, you know, under water.

I left alone, but along the way, and in the jungle, you learn to share, you learn to be kind. If someone gives you a piece of bread, from that piece of bread, everybody will eat. Sometimes I don't have a blanket and he has a blanket and he gives me a piece of it. There's a lot of things that you learn on that trip because it's not easy at all.

We were able to make it together. The group that I was in, the day that we showed up, we were sent to immigration and I was like, 'My God, I was never in jail in my country and now I'm here, and now I'm going to a prison, an immigration prison.' It was three months in New Mexico, but after the three months, there's more opportunities. They gave us an ID number and a piece of paper, with which we can be here. We had to find an attorney so they can help us process, but we can't get a job so that we can pay the attorney. How are we gonna get that money for the process?

We worked five days in El Paso. We had enough money to buy the ticket to get to Denver. And when we got there, they told us about the shelter, and then we tried to find some work. But then they gave us 12 days at the shelter, and then they kicked us out.

The six that were together, you know, we went through the same process with immigration and we are here. My companion and I decided to go towards the mountains to this town. And it's been okay, they've opened doors for us. We're very grateful for this town because we've had people show up to help us to share something, 'What do you need? How can we help you?'

We're not here, you know, to be a burden. We are not here to hurt anyone. We are here with faith to move forward in our lives.

My biggest hope is that we can find jobs and that we can all just be stable. We've worked a day, two days, three days. There's people that come and find us and they're like, 'Here come, I need you for an hour, two hours, three hours, roofing, gardening, and then construction help.'

If God would allow it one day, maybe I can have my own company for, you know, yard maintenance. If I'm able to work on a ranch, I would be happy. It's in my blood, in my veins, and hopefully one day, God willing, I'll be able to have a bunch of horses, my own horses. Back in Venezuela, my child who's four, he has a horse. He's just like his dad.

You know, it's not easy to leave your roots and to just pick up and to leave your mother, your children … to leave to a place where you don't know anyone, where you're a stranger. You have to adapt yourself and, you know, keep fighting for your dreams.

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Eleanor Bennett
Halle Zander