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Native Unrest Sparks Venezuelan Immigrant Alicia Perez’s Journey to Rhode Island

I always say that there are so many interesting Latinos living among us with such interesting lives. I love sharing their stories a través de Qué Onda con Donna.

Les presento a Alicia Perez, madre de un miembro (Maira Pono) de nuestro gimnasio (Industrial Revolution CrossFit), y parte de la resistencia en Venezuela! I love the diversity that is our gym, and when I learned Maira was from Venezuela, we used to chat about the increasingly difficult political situation there.

Maira has been here for many years and is well-established in her own car detailing business. She remembered Venezuela’s prosperous days and would lament the fact that her mother, Alicia, and remaining family members in Venezuela did not even have access to basic necessities like food, toilet paper and medicine.

Alicia Perez and Donna Nesselbush
Alicia Perez and Donna Nesselbush

After a work out, she would ask if I had seen the news about people dying in Venezuelan hospitals because the hospital ran out of electricity. I felt badly seeing her become increasingly worried about her mother and family members, so much so that she petitioned our government for them to be able to come and live here. Fast forward several months, and allow me to introduce to you Maira’s amazing mom, Alicia Perez.

With Nicholas Maduro’s government crumbling and Juan Guaidó on the rise, I was so curious what she, a real Venezuelan living there very recently, thought about the situation.

Alicia once lived a normal, middle-class life in Venezuela, back when it was possible to live a normal, middle-class life there. She owned her own home, car and business, but life became increasingly unsettled. She is a proud Venezuelan who loves her country. Seeing it devolve bothered her so much that she, a middle-class woman, took to the streets to join the opposition to the violence, austerity and conflict in her country.

While protesting in the streets for the return of what was once a democratic, prosperous Venezuela she had been teargassed and shot at, from which she still has shards of glass in her leg. Her life was threatened and she saw the assassination of close friends, all of which gave her nightmares while living in Venezuela.

Even now that she is here, she is still bothered by the memories. She remembers well the day she decided to leave Venezuela, handing over the keys to her house, her business and her car to a friend who vowed to pay her, but Alicia knew, although sincere, the friend would never have the money to do so.

Despite losing everything and leaving everything in Venezuela, Alicia arrived in America somehow full of hope, excited to learn a new language and new customs, excited to figure out how and what she could give back to the new country which had welcomed her with open arms. That’s the America I’m proud of and Alicia is an immigrant I’m proud of.

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“¿Que Onda? con Donna” can be seen on YurView – Cox Channels 4 and 1004 – Tuesdays at 7:30pm, Wednesdays at 8:30pm, Saturdays at 2:30pm and 8pm.

The author, Donna M. Nesselbush, is a founding partner at Marasco & Nesselbush Law, a Rhode Island State Senator and Municipal Court Judge for the City of Pawtucket. She hosts a Spanish language Saturday morning radio show on Latina 100.3 FM and the “¿Que Onda? con Donna” TV show.