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The never ending cycle of migration
Journal entry #22: May 8th 2023, Portomarin Spain
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Three of my grandparents migrated to America seeking a better life away from their war-torned countries. For one reason or the other they all landed in Venezuela, and they thrived there while building successful careers and large families. I had a very fortunate upbringing, surrounded by a large loving family in a warm and friendly country.
All my grandparents loved Venezuela with complete devotion until the day they died in that soil. Now many of their children and grandchildren live in the very same places my grandparents fled from, and almost none live in the country that gave them a beautiful life.
I often think about this cycle of migration and how both fortunate and unfortunate we are to be a part of it; fortunate to have somewhere we somewhat belong to “go back to”, and unfortunate to live in a world in which we must. A world caught in a cycle of wars and unrest, forcing people to flee to places far away from their homes every single day. Generation after generation of immigrants. Repeat repeat repeat.
Millions of Venezuelans have left the country in the last decade. Hundreds of thousands of them are descendants of immigrants and have returned to were their parents or grandparents where from before they got into a boat headed to the American continent. In Europe, Spain is by far the largest recipient, with around 400,000 of them settling into the country since 2000, and half of that amount arriving after 2016. In fact, Venezuelan migration has been the most intense influx of immigrants Spain has experienced in recent history.
Most of these migrants settled in the big cities, where there are more jobs, but many others returned to the actual towns were their lineage was from. Particularly interesting are places that had lots of migration towards America back in the day, and have now seen a large wave of their Venezuelan descendants return.
We spent a month and a half in the Canary Islands last year, a set of Spanish islands off the coast of West Africa, and were surprised by the amount of Venezuelans there. Arepas were sold in every corner and people would refer to passion fruit as parchita - how it’s called in Venezuela and Venezuela only - everywhere we went. The islands have historically served as a hub between Spain and Latin America, and since the 15th century many Canarians left the islands lured by the promise of the New World. Now, they are back in full force.
It’s a similar story in Galicia, which has long been one of Spains poorest regions and since the mid-19th century has seen large percentages of its population emigrate.
One of those people was my paternal grandmother, who along with her family left Vigo escaping the Spanish Civil War towards the welcoming Venezuela.
The same is true for both of my maternal grandparents, who fled from war-torned Italy to the opportunity-filled Venezuela after WWII.
Now, more than 80 years later, my family is spread all over the world, many of them living in the very same cities and countries than my grandparents fled from.
Sometimes the world just seems like a revolving door.
This was a short post as we are on our second day of walking the Camino Frances (the French Way) in Galicia Spain, a 116km/72mi multi day hike! I will share a lot more about the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in the next journal post!