Far from home, immigrant women choose El Salvador to make a fresh start: ‘We keep on fighting’ | Bahia

A life full of difficulties seems to delay the beginning of a new life. But for some people, starting over is more than an opportunity, it’s a necessity. It’s March 8th g1 spoke to immigrant women who left their countries to start a new life in El Salvador.

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“We have problems in my country. I came because of the war, violence and insecurity,” says g1 Melina Cadet, a 60-year-old Haitian.

Two years ago in Bahia, Melina traded her fear of ethnic disputes for Haiti for Brazil. Her eldest daughter was already in the country and was in charge of bringing her to Bahia. Then it was the turn of the eldest son Samuel. Melina’s other two children still live in Haiti.

Immigrant women choose El Salvador to start a new life – Photo: Alan Oliveira/G1

“I miss you so much. We talk every day,” she says of her two children, who still live in the Caribbean country.

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Melina still has difficulty with Portuguese and her son Samuel helps her explain the details of her life. She works at the Malembe studio in Pelourinho. Samuel is the manager of a restaurant owned by the same Roma Negra group, also in the Historic Center.

Very dear to the members of the group, this month Melina will name a dish in one of the restaurants. “Haiti is a place for people at war, and we women continue to fight. I am fighting to bring my children to Brazil. I miss them so much,” she says.

Melina left Haiti for El Salvador – Photo: Personal collection

She remembers that she started working when she was 14 years old, and despite her son’s requests to work a little less, she believes that it is not the time to stop. “You have to let your kids fly and then stop,” he says.

Melina’s son, Samuel Cadet, says his mother is an example. “My mother is an inspiration. She never stopped working. I learned a lot from her. She is my mother and father because I was 3 years old when my father died,” he says.

While rebuilding her history away from home and missing her children, Melina also misses her former life with a video on the internet about a choir that was part of her home country. Switching to Portuguese, she regrets that she still hasn’t found a place to sing in Bahia.

In Haiti, Melina sang in the choir — Photo: Personal Collection

The desire to start over is what drives 58-year-old Venezuelan Lisette Koromoto. In Bahia, for two years, a woman who taught at a military university in Caracas and rebelled against the Venezuelan regime is now looking for a job in tourism.

“They usually say that women are weak. But what a woman does not feel as a woman is fear. Life is hard, but I was 55 when I left Venezuela with no one. A woman doesn’t have to be with a man to get what’s in her life. What I can say to other women: don’t be afraid to take responsibility for their lives. We have to put aside fear and take risks,” he told g1.

Before arriving in Brazil, Lisette explored Latin American countries where she could start a new life after the death of her parents and husband. The daughter’s move to Peru also played a role in the decision to change the country.

“Given everything that was happening in my country, I thought about going somewhere where I would have a better quality of life. I explored and stayed between Argentina or Brazil. But my aunt lived here, my father’s younger sister, and I decided to come. I started working in hotels, but the place where I worked closed (during the pandemic), so I started to survive. I have sold some, but I am still looking for a job in tourism,” he says.

Venezuelan Lisette Koromoto decided to start life anew in El Salvador — Photo: Personal collection

Lisette also says that despite being welcomed in El Salvador, it is in terms of age that she sees the biggest barriers due to prejudice.

“These days I went to an interview and the man said that I was too old to work and that I should stay at home”

“At this (age) I suffer a bit of prejudice. But in general I can’t say that I had problems (of prejudice). On the contrary. Many people help me. They help other immigrants. I have a network of friends,” he said. .

A network of friendship and solidarity is essential for those who change countries. In El Salvador, one of these networks is located in Pastoral do Imigrant, which is located in the parish of Asensão do Señor, in the capital of Bahia.

Pastoral do Imigrant helps more than 130 families currently in El Salvador – Photo: Archdiocese of El Salvador

Under the leadership of Father Manoel Filho pastoral work with migrants and refugees. Services range from listening to demands such as food, housing, employment mediation, and donations of household items. In addition to health issues.

“Pastoral started five years ago on demand. Immigrants appeared, and we were demanded in every possible way and it was necessary to give answers. We started to formulate. Now we have 130 families registered. They’ve been through a lot more. When a family moves or moves to another state, it goes off the register,” says the priest.

Religious also highlights the importance of this cooperation network. “We mainly work with humanitarian aid, with donations of clothes, food, referrals to authorities that can help with health and care, from a humanitarian point of view. In addition to the prospect of fighting for rights with articulation with other institutions such as the Catholic University and Namir UFBA,” he said.

Father Manoel Filho commands the pastoral care of immigrants in El Salvador — Photo: Archdiocese of El Salvador

The priest also points out the importance of donations in maintaining the pastoral care network. “We receive donations to our parish every day. Right at the entrance to the temple there is a large place for donations that you can put there. Both food and items that do not have a use, but are in good condition,” he said.

The Venezuelan Lisette sees the pastoral as a place of emotional help for people coming from other countries.

Lizze lives in the Rio Vermelho area of ​​El Salvador. — Photo: Personal collection

“The immigrant pastoral helped me a lot. And I want to reciprocate. I have a degree in human rights, in addition to other degrees, so I want to help other immigrants through the process. I want to make some contribution, because I get a lot. But it’s not just material help, it’s emotional help, it’s something to count on,” says Lisette.

According to Father Manoel, Cubans, Yemenis, Paraguayans, Africans from different countries and Haitians have already passed through the pastoral care, which currently serves 130 Venezuelan families.

Pastoral care also played a decisive role in the story of Janet Patricia Gallo Girbau, a Cuban who, with the support of Father Manoel, managed to reunite her family in El Salvador.

“Pastoral do Migrante means a lot to me. When we arrived here, we didn’t know anyone. We are not going to return to Cuba because life was very bad there,” said Patricia.

Pastoral care has also played a decisive role in the history of the Cuban Yanet Patricia Gallo Girbau — Photo: Archdiocese of El Salvador

The Support Center for Migrants and Refugees (NAMIR) also serves people from other countries in vulnerable situations in Bahia. The program, created by four commissions: on human rights, work, education and health, is coordinated by professor and researcher Mariangela Nascimento.

Mariangela emphasizes that “for many years women were seen as mere ‘companions’ of their husbands who migrated in search of work”, but the current profile is different. “Currently, migrant women are more involved in supporting their families and therefore need various support that helps them live in dignity,” she says.

The professor also emphasizes in his study that “the woman who migrates has taken on a fundamental role in the places she arrives, (…) breaking the stereotype of subordination that is attributed to her by most studies.”

Also, according to the researcher, the profile of immigrant and refugee women in Brazil confirms the stories of Melina and Lisette and points to a group ready to change their realities, taking advantage of the new opportunity.

“Despite the adverse situations they face, women do not feel victimized or subjugated, on the contrary, they say that leaving their country was their own decision, and that, even if their initial expectations were not met, the experience of life in Brazil was changed their way of life, and this, in their opinion, means the conquest of new relationships, new values ​​and new opportunities,” the teacher says in the work.

UFBA Professor Coordinating Bahia’s Immigrant Support Center — Photo: Disclosure/SJDHDS

Namir is currently mapping and diagnosing immigrants and refugees arriving in Bahia. Research is currently being carried out in El Salvador and Lauro de Freitas.

The program also indicates that there is no accurate data on immigrants and refugees in Bahia, but indicates that about 400 Venezuelan refugees have recently arrived in the community of Areia Branca in Lauro de Freitas. Also, according to Namir, Bahia is the northeastern state that receives the most immigrants not only from Venezuela, but also from Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Senegal, from Africa and from Asia, such as Syrians.

O g1 contacted the Federal Government’s Civic Chamber to request data on Venezuelan women in Bahia from Operação Acolhida, but had not received data as of this writing.

The Bahian government positions itself through the Secretariat of Justice, Human Rights and Social Development of Bahia (SJDHDS). The Ministry reports that it has acted on the issue of providing assistance to refugees and immigrants in social assistance institutions upon request or referral, for example, from refugee or immigrant workers who find themselves in a situation similar to slave labor.

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