He left Syria at a very young age and lived for 27 years in Venezuela, where he raised a family and reinvented himself several times to overcome economic problems. Now there is the United States and she fears they will deport her
It’s still dark in Los Angeles. It’s almost 5 in the morning and Amira warms up the engine of the heavy duty truck that she will be driving for the next six hours.
She is made up and has a manicure done, wears a striped shirt, tight-fitting jeans and boots with a slight high heel with which she tries to preserve her femininity and break with the stereotype of the trucker or “troquero”, as she is called in the United States, where he has lived since 2015.
The 50-year-old woman puts her purse next to the ten-gear lever and takes to the road as she has been for two years.
“The first days I drove glued to the wheel, I came home and did not feel my arms from stress, I did not even drink water,” she tells BBC Mundo Syrian woman in perfect Spanish with a Venezuelan accent, the country that adopted her for 27 years and from which she also had to leave.
Sometimes he spends the long hours on the road in the truck to talk to his mother and sisters, who live in Syria in the middle of the civil war.
For his peace of mind, his family is in the south of the country, far from the front line.
Amira, who is not her real name and who asks to protect her identity due to her immigration status in the country, is a double immigrant. From Syria to Venezuela and from Venezuela to the United States.
Amira entered the United States in 2015 with her two teenage sons(They are now 18 and 20 years old), a few changes of clothes and a memory full of memories of a lifetime in Venezuela.
Her eldest daughter, now 30 and out a couple of years earlier, sought asylum and was waiting for her in Los Angeles.
“I left Venezuela with all the pain in my soul”, still remember.
The move to the United States led her to leave behind the wealthy merchant woman from Maracay (central Venezuela) to completely get into the “troque”, a business usually reserved for men.
Not that it hasn’t been reinvented before. She had to do it many times when she had to change the heading of her businesses to try to avoid the blows of the Venezuelan economic crisis that ended up prevailing and forcing her to leave.
“When we arrived in the United States the change was very abrupt,” said Amira, who like millions of immigrants she lives in fear that one day they will knock on her door and take her away for deportation.
Their immigration situation is complex. He talks little about her, but says that “only a miracle” would save her. “My legal status in this country is my big headache,” he said.
“In Venezuela it does not matter that your cédula (identity document) says foreign, in the United States it does.”
Like many immigrants in the United States, Amira wanted to give her children better opportunities, but cries when she sees that the youngest, an excellent student, she says, cannot study civil engineering at a good university because he cannot afford it.
And without papers, they are not eligible for financial aid.
Amira remembers how her “eldest daughter was able to graduate as a psychologist” in Venezuela.
“In Venezuela they don’t ask you if you have papers or not. Here yes. Here you can be a hard worker, very studious, but if you don’t have papers, they don’t give you the opportunity to graduate ”.
Arrival in Venezuela
Amira was 3 years when he first arrived in Venezuela. His maternal grandfather was the first in his family to travel in the mid-1960s, when the oil boom drew thousands of Arabs, who in turn wanted to leave wars and economic crises behind.
“I wanted to get to Brazil but ended up in Venezuela,” he explained. “She brought her children and my dad, and that’s how I came with two more sisters. I arrived very young ”.
Samir Azrak, university professor and author of several books on Middle Eastern migration, It is estimated that currently one million people of Arab origin, including Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians, live in Venezuela.
“The third migratory stage, from 1946 to 1970, was characterized by the beginning of Syria as an independent country, with high socio-political instability, shortages, disorder and social injustices,” he explained to BBC Mundo. “There was the largest emigration of the twentieth century.”
Amira’s family originally settled in the Venezuelan Andes.
“In Boconó (Trujillo state, west) four brothers of mine were born. Then my family moved to (the island of) Margarita (east) when Puerto Libre was opened ”.
At the age of 13 her father, very conservative, sent her back to Syria to study high school, to learn Arabic well. She says he didn’t want his daughter to “get lost” in the Venezuelan revelry either.
He lived in Sweida, a city that is curiously referred to as “little Venezuela”, where he met her husband, a Syrian born in Venezuela with whom he settled in Maracay after they were married.
Before traveling in 1988, at the age of 18, he obtained the Venezuelan nationality and passport, which he uses to this day.
“In Venezuela you work a lot but the lifestyle is very different, people are sociable. Here (in the US) one is slave to work and we are alone“, Compare.
The deterioration of Venezuela
She opened the first family business with her husband in Maracay (central Venezuela). It was an appliance store that has been very successful for almost two decades since 1994.
In those years, Amira lost her husband, murdered in a robbery in Maracay.
“When my children’s father died, I swore to them that they would not lack anything, that their lifestyle would not change.”
He assumed the reins of his trade, rebelling against the patriarchy of his family, which, following the tradition of his Druze religion, wanted to take control of the widow and the children.
“It was not used for a woman to work independently. For the Arabs, unfortunately, the children belong to the father. The duty was that I let myself be guided by my in-laws, but I wanted to take the reins ”.
The appliance store closed in 2012, affected by the difficult access to foreign currency generated by the policies of the government of then President Hugo Chávez, such as the tight control of exchange and prices.
Inflation was already beginning to get out of control then.
“The situation could not stand it anymore”, settled.
That was the year Chávez was reelected for a third term.
“Imports began to close, the dollar was not available, it imported at one price and when I was going to sell it was another, and when I wanted to replace my dollars, they cost me four times more. Then my capital began to decrease ”.
Amira, as best she could, recovered. It took him 12 months to open his second bet: a bakery, which only stayed afloat for a year, hit by food shortages in the country.
“We started very well and now there was a shortage: there was no flour, no chocolate was available, there was no chicken, there was no meat, I could not afford the workers’ expenses or the rent of premises, everything began to decline.
It closed in 2014 and about 10 people lost their jobs.
“So I dedicated myself to selling used cars,” he laughs. “And then there were no batteries, tires, spare parts.”
And that was when the “I can’t take it anymore” stage came.
“I never thought that I was going to leave Venezuela”
The United States was not in the plans: Chile was the first destination. “I had friends there, I knew people.”
But one December her daughter surprised her with the tickets so that in January 2015 he would move with her to Los Angeles. He left his apartment intact, with his furniture, paintings, vases, pots …
“I never thought that I was going to leave Venezuela, I didn’t even think about going to Syria other than visiting. My country was Venezuela and that hurt me a lot ”.
Amira is one of those who hopes to return one day. “For my old age, if Venezuela changes, I would like to return “, indicates about a future so uncertain that it practically discards.
Meanwhile, keep looking forward.
Amira started out working in a transportation company as a secretary, but saw that the payoff was driving trucks. He spent several months learning to drive in the same company parking lots.
Now he has his truck and the goal would be to have a fleet that allows him to reach that standard of living that he enjoyed in Venezuela.
Your oldest daughter doesn’t like the idea.
But Amira does not see another area in which she can grow in the United States, and the truth is that, she confesses, she likes to drive the truck, from which she has not gotten off during the pandemic.
But the plans are always overshadowed by the deportation scenario, which makes him lose sleep even more because of what may happen to his minor children, already well adapted to life in the United States.
Because Amira would have no problem reinventing herself. He has done it so many times in the past …
“I would go to Canada, there I can also drive my truck.”
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