“Prosperity. Equality. Hope. Love. Happiness. Thank you Peru.”
This Venezuelan man cleans and decorates a major highway overpass every morning in Lima. He sweeps and mops it daily. Other Venezuelans do the same. Lima does not have city-wide beautification programs, so many Venezuelans demonstrate their gratefulness to Peru by cleaning the streets themselves. This is one way of saying thank you for their new home. This home, however, can also be one that includes housing discrimination, worker exploitation, and extreme poverty.
For much longer than many countries, Peru opened its borders to Venezuelan refugees without reservation. Yet over time, as the number of refugees grew, so did a system of inequality, hierarchy and discrimination. Venezuelans often work seven days a week, with no sick days and no guarantee of being paid. If they miss a day due to illness or extreme circumstances, many expect to be fired. They survive in harsh and dangerous conditions, and most work far below their levels of career training in Venezuela.
These stories are unfortunately familiar to refugees all over the world, including in the United States. Yet against the odds, these Venezuelans still want to take care of their new home. They still say thank you. And no matter what happens each day, they still live with grateful attitudes and hope for something new.
His sign translates “We wish you a 2020 full of love, peace, blessings, harmony, hope, strength, faith, health, and dreams. God bless your home, to share with your family and friends one more year. Thank you Peru. There are more of us good guys.”