Our country has accommodated our Venezuelan sisters as they seek assistance after fleeing from their home due to their country’s economic and political crisis. In keeping with WE Magazine’s aim to empower women, we sought to have a conversation with one woman who speaks about her life before coming to our shores for assistance.
Genesis Gelves is a 29-year-old journalist and business owner who left her home in Venezuela to seek refuge in Trinidad eight months ago. Prior to coming to Trinidad, Genesis lived in Maracai and worked as an entertainment reporter on both radio and television. During that time she also opened a spa and set up a real estate business. “The money for journalists in my country is very bad,” she told WE mag “I worked for a radio station, 98.9FM, for one year as an entertainment reporter and then went into television.” Genesis said she did not venture into the field of political reporting because “it’s a risky area”. “The politics in my country is very bad for a journalist, the government can put you in jail if you report something that they do not agree with.” She said the real estate business was doing well for her but the market collapsed under the present government in Venezuela and prices fell steeply. This is no longer her story as today, Genesis rents with her two close friends and lives a life entirely opposite to what she knew back home.
Why did she choose to come to our shores though? Genesis explained that as the times got harder in 2018, she was urged by an ex-brother-in-law in T&T to come here and practice her English. With that, she flew to T&T, got her work permit and today works as a bar attendant in two bars in the area in which she lives. Her earnings are split between paying rent and sending monies to her relatives who still live in Venezuela. She said this is the first time she has worked in a bar and isn’t accustomed to how women are being treated by patrons. Her first week was depressing since many men made sexual advances towards her and offered her money for sex. “This is something I never do. My first week in the bar, I was depressed as many customers came and asked me about sex for money. This is not my work, I have never done that in my life. After a week or so the people started to respect me.”
Genesis believes one of the biggest challenges that Venezuelan women face (in Trinidad) is the stigma that they are prostitutes because of other women who, in the past, came to T&T to work at brothels. She is also concerned about the behaviour of Venezuelan women (in public) who may do damage, not only to their character but to that of other Venezuelan women. She said the amnesty programme offered by the Government should open up some new opportunities for her and she is hopeful that she may get a job as a journalist one day. While this is so, she also does not mind returning to her homeland if the government changes, but she is still mindful that change will not come immediately. She stated that life in Trinidad has been good to her.
By Shastri Boodan