Venezuelan immigrants struggle to stay in Spain

More than 18,000 Spanish citizens have applied for the cancelation of consular registration in Caracas between 2008 and 2012

Spaniards gather at the Puerta Del Sol in Madrid demanding a referendum on monarchy (Reuters)
Spaniards gather at the Puerta Del Sol in Madrid demanding a referendum on monarchy (Reuters)

Under the shadow of the statue of Charles III of Spain, a little man wearing a Mexican sombrero hugs and plays a guitarrón. Along with four fellow-countrymen, he plays songs heard in family parties in Santa Cruz de Mora, Mérida state, southwest Venezuela. The coins thrown in the guitar case by tourists visiting the Puerta del Sol, in Madrid, allow César Granadillos to support his three children.

Granadillos (35), born in Mérida state, has worked as fish seller at the Los Mostenses market, delivery boy, call center operator, waiter, cook, swimming instructor, and barman, in order to survive in the Spanish capital. “They put me in jail with my daughter because they asked for my documents in the subway and I was illegal. I had to return to Venezuela because I had already a police record, but I came back a year later,” he remembers.

Granadillos decided to leave Venezuela after he was hit by the so-called revolution. A plot of land he was reconditioning after heavy rains wiped out coffee plantations at Valle del Mocotíes in 2005 was invaded by a group of chavistas. Now a mariachi, Granadillos sold a truck, took his wife and two children, and with USD 7,000 in his pocket started the adventure in the Spanish Kingdom.

After a year-long pause in South America, he flew back to Madrid with his family and continues to struggle for legalizing his status.

Granadillos is one of 521,000 Venezuelans who have left the country between 2005 and 2010. According to figures from the Economic and Social Research Institute of the Andrés Bello Catholic University (UCAB), the Venezuelan community in Spain climbed from 148,000 to 164,000 in the same period. However, a large number of Venezuelans who cross the pond disappears from statistics as they recover their citizenship in some European Union countries.

That is the case of Luis Alfredo Gallardo, a telecommunications engineer who lived in the flesh the takeover of telephone company Cantv by the government. “The political impact was not immediate because I was in a managerial position. Things changed when they asked me to give out a day of my salary to (ruling party) PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). I remember that my immediate supervisor had to pay my quota when I refused, otherwise she would have been kicked out,” says Gallardo.

The Spanish labor market was a pleasant surprise for Gallardo (28). He worked as a technician at telecom company Telefónica. The prejudices of unfair competition and factions Gallardo was carrying from Venezuela fell apart as he began working at the company, at the end of 2011. “At Cantv I had a good salary and work security, but what difference does it make if it is not enough for making a living, affording a house or even the groceries? I came for my future. I did not feel able to build a family in Venezuela,” he explains.

Six months upon his arrival, Luis brought his parents back to their homeland.

According to figures from the Spanish Ministry for Employment and Social Security, 18,280 Spanish citizens residing in Venezuela have applied for the cancelation of consular registration in Caracas in 2008-2012.

Escape in intensive care

The surgeon who ranked first in the 2012 class at the Luis Razetti medicine school of the Central University of Venezuela was hit by the reality of the barrio when she pursued her internship at the outpatient’s clinic Carlos Soublette in Caraballeda, Vargas state.

Besides the threats from criminals who, gun in hand, forced her to save a wounded accomplice and besides the lack of medical supplies, what really led Dr. Carmen (name has been changed) to leave Venezuela was the daily contact with patients. “One realized that many get used to line up for buying food. Conformism seems to have been imprinted on Venezuelans’ consciousness,” she remarks.

The 26-year-old surgeon reckons that around 70% of the 244 colleagues who graduated with her in 2012 decided to emigrate. “The ones who stayed tell me that they are robbed when coming out of their shift; they lack the basic equipment, and work from 5 am to 11 pm due to lack of staff,” Dr. Carmen comments.

According to statistics from the Venezuelan Medical Federation, more than 12,000 medical doctors have left the country in search for better work opportunities in the last five years. In spite of hardships, Carmen always struggled for staying in Venezuela. Now she only hopes to ace her graduate studies in X-Ray Diagnosis for not returning home.