Luisa and Carla traveled to Colombia on March 7, 2020, for a workshop their company was organizing. Just as they settled into the 40-square-meter apartment their friend offered them, the city entered quarantine little by little as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. The workshop was suspended and Luisa entered a prolonged waiting period: The problem now was how was she going to get back home.
With the borders closed, she put out calls for attention through social media for a month, requesting the Venezuelan government to organize a humanitarian flight. Carla’s parents, seniors residing in Caracas, depended on her for any and all errands, including grocery runs. The same went for Luisa’s mom. Both intended to return to their country with medications meant for their parents.
After a month, they moved into another friend’s unoccupied apartment. They were more comfortable, but couldn’t chase away the boredom. They felt like they had no purpose or prospects there. Not being Colombian residents, they could not buy a phone line; as a consequence, they had no internet. They were only able to use the few megabytes that the tourist plans offered. They joined a WhatsApp group created by other Venezuelans that were also in the same situation. Around 300 people were desperate to return home.
There were rumors. It was said that, in San Antonio del Táchira, the regime had set up a sort of concentration camp that held Venezuelans who returned from Cúcuta. A news report said that a baby, less than one year old, died of malnutrition in one of the improvised dungeons that, according to (Venezuelan leader Nicolás) Maduro, were meant to stop the spread of the virus.
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