This is the most arduous migration route from Venezuela to Perú, travelled by the most vulnerable population from the southeast region of Venezuela, many of them of indigenous descent. Most Venezuelans entering Brazil remain in refugee camps until they have the necessary resources to cross the Amazon and reach Peruvian territory.
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"I wish, from the bottom of my heart, that Venezuelan people recover their freedom."
Despite the border being closed, hundreds of Venezuelan migrants and refugees make their way to the town of Pacaraima in Brazil. The vast majority arrive on foot and with less than a dollar in their pockets.
The Brazilian army welcomes the most vulnerable refugees inside the temporary shelters installed a few meters from the border. Here they receive medical assistance, orientation and food.
Brazilian authorities have created several shelters for the exclusive use of Indigenous refugees, mainly from the Warao and Eñepa ethnic groups. They are the most marginalized and forgotten population of this exodus.
Since 2017, Boa Vista has been the epicenter of the Venezuelan migration crisis in Brazil. Refugees arrive from the border by foot and remain in makeshift shelters, waiting to be relocated to the interior of the country, in a slow and uncertain bureaucratic process.
Every day more than 5,000 lunches are distributed for Venezuelan families. For most of them, it is the only meal of the day.
After lunch, many go to the river to spend the rest of the day. Some take the opportunity to wash clothes while others have fun jumping off the abandoned boats next to the bridge.
Night falls behind the bus station, families settle in tents provided by the army. Those with enough money depart by bus to Manaus on a 12-hour journey through the heart of the Amazon.
The port of Manaus, in the center of the Amazon, is a focal point within the Venezuelan migration routes. From here, a boat ride of 3 to 4 days takes us to the next stop, Porto Velho.
Emil Figuera fractured his neck in a bus accident on his way to Manaus. His final destination was Buenos Aires and now, unable to continue with the trip, he seeks support in a shelter.
Boats to Porto Velho leave every day at 6pm. The ticket costs around US$ 80 and all meals are included. Each passenger brings their own hammock.
"The experience on the boat is a little crazy! Really! We had to sleep in hammocks, on the first day there was a storm, it rained so much, the rest of the days were more relaxed. It was a way of being disconnected from the rest of the world."
Porto Velho lies midway between Venezuela and Peru. From here, one can also go to Sao Paulo in southern Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina, both attractive destinations for Venezuelan migrants and refugees.
"It's crazy to think that people cross the Amazon on foot."
I have never collected cans in my life. I had to do it. I have never eaten from the trash in my life. I had to do it. I have never walked so much like I did here in Brazil. I walked 200km.
There are almost 800 km between Porto Velho and the Brazil-Peru border. The journey follows the BR-364 inter-state highway up to Rio Branco and from there the Interoceanic Highway to Iñapari, Peru.
"In this area there are a lot of indigenous ethnic groups. Some live on the Brazilian side of the river, others on the Peruvian side. Here you can perceive how non-indians have divided the Earth. How can you say that your father is a foreigner? If he lives on the other side of the river he's Peruvian, if my mother lives downstream then she's Bolivian, it doesn't make sense. To ignore our walls is a beautiful thing."
"Borders are such sad symbols, to divide the world into countries, if one thinks about it, makes no sense."
- Father Paco
This is the least controlled Peruvian border crossing. Most Venezuelans who enter through this border will continue their journey to other locations in Peru, such as Puerto Maldonado and Cusco. Few stay in the small town of Iñapari next to the border post.
In August 2018 up to 510 Venezuelans migrants and refugees entered Peru through this border post, every day.
We witness how organized mafias demanded bribes from Venezuelans seeking to continue their journey into Peruvian territory.
It is estimated that more than 5,000 Venezuelans live in Puerto Maldonado. They work in restaurants, as taxi drivers, and in the gold mines along the banks of the surrounding rivers.
Thousands of Venezuelans live in the tourist capital of Peru. They work as tour guides, waiters and security agents in nightclubs, among others.
"It's better to laugh than to cry." -Julia
Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, thousands of Venezuelan families have undertaken the return to their country. The vast majority have lost their jobs, others are being evicted, and since Venezuelans are not included in the Peruvian government's relief efforts, their situation in Peru is more than critical. It's our hope that the stories narrated in Ruta de Fuga serve as examples of solidarity, strength and resilience.