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‘At least I’m not alone in this battle’: Edwin Jiménez finds camaraderie in the Roaring Fork

Edwin Jimenez, center, gets ready to meet with representatives from Latino advocacy organization Voces Unidas during a needs assessment for a group of unhoused migrants in Carbondale on Nov. 5, 2023. Jimenez is part of a group of over 100 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, who recently arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Courtesy of Voces Unidas
Edwin Jimenez, center, gets ready to meet with representatives from Latino advocacy organization Voces Unidas during a needs assessment for a group of unhoused migrants in Carbondale on Nov. 5, 2023. Jimenez is part of a group of over 100 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, who recently arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Pueden encontrar la versión en español aquí.

Over a hundred migrants, mostly from Venezuela, have arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley over recent months, seeking opportunity.

Many arrived from Denver, where work was scarce and shelter space was limited.

A number of those newcomers have elected to represent the group, including Edwin Jimenez.

Jiménez recently spoke with reporters Halle Zander and Eleanor Bennett about his financial hardship in Venezuela, his perseverance in walking to the U.S., and the community he has found in Carbondale.

This is the final story in a series of three audio postcards airing this week.

Jiménez spoke in Spanish through interpreters 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 Halle Zander.

Edwin Jiménez: Me, for example, I liked agriculture. That's my career, but because of things getting difficult, we didn't have the money to buy the fertilizers. In fact, when there was a drought, we would live from the food that came from, you know, the fields. And so when that would dry, then it would be really difficult for us to feed ourselves.

I'm also a civil engineer. I had to leave my career for a bit because we didn’t have enough, so I would earn about $100 a month legally, and that's not enough to be able to help my grandparents and my parents. The reality is in Venezuela, the money just doesn't go far.

You know, my grandpa is sick. My mother is also sick. And so with $100, you're not even able to pay for medication. And I would work Sunday to Sunday, and even then, I wasn't able to pay for things. I got really sad, and I realized that things were just slipping out of [my] hands. I was crying one night because I just couldn't. I can't help my family. I can't help my sick ones. So, I decided I have to leave.

I'm going to be sincere that it's not an easy trip. It's not an easy journey. You know, for example, I left with $100 and I was out of that by the time I got to Colombia. You know, I was working at a market unloading, sleeping on the streets. You know, the other workers would feed me until I was able to make enough money to get into a boat to start going through the jungle.

And then after the jungle, we had to stay in Panama. The U.N. had to help with a ticket to Costa Rica, and then in Nicaragua, we got a little help. Honduras helped us. Nicaragua helped us.

Through the Rio Bravo, the river. I almost drowned, actually.

Well, it was like two in the morning, you know, to get to El Paso to cross the river. And they were saying that there were crocodiles. Maybe not.

And we pay this guy that lives in Mexico. We [gave] them three phones that we had left so that he would guide us through the path and he would go ahead of us. And I say, “Why don't you go forward? I'll watch the path and then I'll follow you.” And so, he had a child on his shoulders, and I had another one.

When we were on the way, some people jumped in, and they were rushing to get through. And through the middle, the water was higher than they were. When I saw that those people were drowning, you know, I was holding on to the one with one hand to the child and with the other one, I was trying to help them. But because they were desperate, then they kind of pulled me down and kind of jumped on me. And I couldn't really defend myself because I would let go of the child, he would drown.

So, I was kind of floating and they were kind of on top of me because I didn't have the strength. How was I supposed to move five people with all that? And as we were going down river, thank God there [were] some gentlemen that were coming from Costa Rica. And so, they jumped in and were able to take the woman off me. Otherwise, if those guys wouldn't have shown up, we would all have just drowned, you know. We're hopeful all just trying to get to the edge and get out together.

I was in New York [for], like, four weeks, but that's full of people. So you end up seeing the same people, you know, the Venezuelans. Also, some people were doing bad things over there, so they started treating us all the same. Some of us do things straight, you know, like, I am somebody that follows the rules. And so I decided to leave because things were starting to get ugly over there. There was no work. They didn’t want Venezuelans and all that.

In New York, there's this place where you ask for a ticket, you know, so that you don't have to be there anymore, and they gave me the ticket to Denver.

I didn't get work there either, and I was desperate, and I was like, “God, you know, guide me, please.” And I just started going town to town from Denver to here. And we spent a day in a town. And I asked, you know, “Is there work?” I would go to another one. And they would say, "No, no, there's none." I made it all the way to Aspen.

Well, you know, honestly, I feel like I have company. I feel like at least I'm not alone in this battle. When I was here alone, I would say, “God, I am in this mountain [town] by myself.” And very few people speak Spanish. Now, as more people started showing up, now I feel like I'm not the only one, you know?

Right now, you don't know if you're going to work tomorrow or if you're not going to work, if you're going to be able to work or you'll be off for a week. What I ask God is to help me to send me the right people and to guide me. And even though we're suffering here, our family is able to eat every day.

Unfortunately, here sometimes you get really depressed. You know, you want to be in your country with your family, to share time together, to be there for birthdays, Christmas. But what matters, I guess, is that we're happy because we're able to help them from here to be okay there.

I wish in the future that I could buy a trailer, have my own company, be my own boss, you know, and be able to travel to different places in the country and to deliver merchandise of some sort.

Honestly, we don't want to be a burden for the state. In fact, we want to be able to contribute to the community. And sadly, we don't have the resources right now. But in the future, we want to be able to, you know, if we are able to, to be grateful and find a way to give back.
Editor's Note: Edwin Jimenez is no longer working with Voces Unidas to represent the newly arrived migrants when meeting with community stakeholders.
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Halle Zander
Eleanor Bennett