Where do I belong? Abandoning the Venezuelan Dream.

José Sarmento Matos

2017 - Ongoing

Portugal; Venezuela; Madeira, Portugal

This is a story about a Portuguese-Venezuelan family and their reversed migration from Venezuela to Portugal. It ́s about a family that is being separated again, starting over in Madeira due to the Venezuelan crisis. With this need of emigrate again they are losing their sense of belonging and identity. They are leaving the Caribbean country in the face of a deep political, economical and humanitarian crisis, but they are also leaving their loved ones, and their love for the country where they were born or lived in for so long. The father and the mother of the family, 64-year-old Carlos Aguiar, and 55-year-old Rita Jardim Aguiar, moved to Venezuela in 1981 to chase their dream, where they had 5 kids. In August 2017, the couple moved back to Madeira Island leaving 3 of their children behind. One of their daughters, 28-year-old Carla Aguiar, born in Venezuela, got pregnant in April 2018 and moved to Portugal in August 2018. Josué Raul was born in January 2019. The son of Venezuelan parents, and grandson of a Portuguese couple (Rita and Carlos), he is the culmination of this family’s reversed diaspora. More than half a million Portuguese and Portuguese-descendants live in Venezuela today, following waves of immigration to the country during its oil-soaked boom of the 1950s and 1990s. Around 300,000 of the Portuguese diaspora in Venezuela are from the island of Madeira, an island with about 250,000 inhabitants today. When Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela in 1999, some Portuguese immigrants began moving back to Madeira, Portugal. But when Nicolás Maduro assumed the presidency in 2013, this phenomenon increased significantly. Since 2017, as the country plunged into an unprecedented economic and social crisis, Maduro steered Venezuela towards dictatorship. Struggling to gain access to food and medicine, between 5,000 and 10,000 Portuguese-Venezuelans moved to Portugal, making the opposite journey to start over once again. Now, they are like refugees in their home.

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  • Carla Aguiar (28) on her way to her parents’ home in Venezuela. On her left is Francisco Aguiar (36), Carla´s brother. Las Tunitas, Vargas District, Venezuela. 18th December 2017.

    Carla and Francisco´s parents moved back to Madeira in August 2017. They left their house, their oldest kids and their "Venezuelan Dream" behind. At this time the two siblings were taking care of the house in Venezuela. Carla and Francisco were both born in Venezuela and their parents are Portuguese. Although Carla holds a Portuguese passport too she feels more Venezuelan than Portuguese.

  • A scene in Petare, Caracas, Venezuela. A utility poles covered with spider webs. Caracas, Venezuela. 20th February 2019.

    The country has been facing ongoing total blackouts since 2014. In February and March 2019 the power outages have worsened, taking longer periods.

  • Carla Aguiar (28) and Josué Arteaga (36) are kissing each other at a beach in La Guaira, close to Caracas, with Francisco (Carla ́s brother) and his son, Francarlo. La Guaira, Venezuela. 17th December 2017.

  • An empty super market in the centre of Caracas. Caracas, Venezuela. 25th February 2019.

    The shortage of food in the country has been one of the biggest issues for the Venezuelan people and only one of the many reasons for the Venezuelan exodus to different parts of the world.

  • Hundreds of thousand of Venezuelans gathered in Chacao, East Caracas, to Celebrate National Youth Day and to call on the military to allow international aid to enter the country. Caracas, Venezuela. 12th February 2019.

    The crowd is also waiting for the appearance of Juan Guaidó, self-proclaimed acting President of Venezuela and opposition leader. The protests and marches against Maduro´s government have been taking place regularly all over the country since 2014.

  • Carla Aguiar (28) and Josué Arteaga (36) are celebrating their wedding in Catia La Mar, Venezuela. 16th December 2017.

    The only thing that spoils the couple's happiness is that the bride's parents cannot be present at the wedding. Carla was born in Venezuela, but her parents come from the Portuguese island of Madeira. They had left their homeland in 1981 hoping for a better life in the direction of South America. But since the dictator Nicolás Maduro Venezuela plunged into a crisis, many emigrants have returned, including Carla's parents: just a few months before the wedding, in August 2017, they flew to Madeira with their two youngest children. Carla and her two older siblings Liseth and Francisco stayed behind because they could not afford the plane tickets.

  • Carla Aguiar (28) and Josué Arteaga (36) were queuing in front of the Portuguese embassy to get their papers for an eventual emigration to Portugal. Caracas, Venezuela 11th January 2018.

    Both of them moved to Portugal in 2018. Where they met Carlos and Rita: Carla´s parents and her two younger siblings.

  • Josué Artiaga (36) is praying at a Church in Chacao, Caracas, Venezuela. 11th January 2018.

  • The view from the cockpit of a plane landing in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. 16th December 2017.

    Lisbon is where this reversed migration coming “back” to the Portuguese island of Madeira flies to first. They fly from Caracas to Lisbon where they transfer to Madeira Island.

  • A view of the village of São Vicente in northern Madeira. Madeira, Portugal. 12th August 2017.

    For a long time, Portugal, which includes the island, was considered an emigration country. Especially during the dictatorship between 1926 and 1974, many residents left the country - often in the direction of Venezuela. Because of the oil boom, it was one of the richest countries in South America at the time. Today about 500,000 people of Portuguese descent live there, most of them from Madeira. Especially the rural regions of the island were almost deserted for a long time due to the emigration. It's different today: Between 2017 and 2019, between 5,000 and 10,000 Portuguese returned to their home country due to the Venezuelan crisis. Anyone who could buy a house near the main town of Funchal in better times will return there. For others, parents or relatives are the first point of contact.

  • On a Monday in August 2017, Rita Jardim Aguiar, 55, (seen from the front) and Carlos Aguiar, 64, (in the background) are welcomed by Rita's sister at the Funchal airport in Madeira. Madeira, Portugal. 21st August 2017.

    Carlos and Rita emigrated to Venezuela in 1981 chasing their “Venezuelan Dream”. In August 2017 they had to abandon Venezuela. They left behind all they had fought for and their 3 oldest kids, including their daughter Carla Aguiar.
    Carla´s two youngest siblings (both born in Venezuela), Stefany (14) and Jhon (18) moved with Rita and Carlos to Madeira.

    After Chávez´s death in 2013, Nicolás Maduro came to power and the number of returnees to Madeira has increased significantly since then. Maduro has transformed the country into a dictatorship and brought it into a crisis: Food and medicines are scarce, the infrastructure is dilapidated, and the electricity is always cut. Rita and Carlos saw no future in the country for themselves and their family.

  • Carla Aguiar is on a bus in Madeira Island back together with her parents after 1 year being removed split. She arrived in Madeira on August 12th 2018. Madeira, Portugal. 16th August 2018.

    In April 2018, Carla got pregnant. From that moment the family’s priority was to move her to Portugal so she could give birth in a safe place, in a public hospital with basic conditions. Medical care in Carla's homeland of Venezuela is too precarious: since Maduro's rise to power, hospitals have lacked staff and medication, and the number of mothers and children who die at birth has skyrocketed.

  • The family is gathering in their new home town. While Carlos Aguiar (64) cooks, Jhon (18) and Rita (55) are in their phones and Stefany (14) at the computer. Madeira Island, Portugal. 27th March 2018,

  • Carla Aguiar (28) is doing the laundry helping her parents at home in their new home town of Camacha, Madeira, while Jhon (18) and Stefany (14) are playing. Camacha, Madeira, Portugal. 15th August 2018. This is a year after Carla Aguiar being removed split from her parents and her two youngest siblings.

  • Carla Aguiar (28) sits pregnant, at her mattress in the lIving room at her parents home in Camacha. She is on the phone with Josué Artiaga (36), her husband, who, at that time, was still in Venezuela. Camacha, Madeira, Portugal. 16th August 2018.

    At the time the family was trying to save money to move Josué to Portugal on time before their baby ́s birth.

  • Carlos Aguiar (64) and her daughter Stefany (14) are buying food in a small market in Camacha, Madeira Island, Portugal. 23rd November 2017.

    When the family arrived in Madeira the kids were very surprised to see the supermarkets fully stocked with food, comparing to the supermarkets in Venezuela which have either repeated items or have the shelves completely empty.

  • Carla hugs her husband Josué at her parents ́ home. Camacha, Madeira, Portugal. 28th December 2018.

    Josué moved to Madeira late November to meet his wife again and to start a new life in the Portuguese Island. Both of them were born in Venezuela and neither of them speak Portuguese.

  • On Christmas Day 2018, the family gathered in their home in the town of Camacha in Madeira. The 31-year-old Liseth and the 35-year-old Francisco, who stayed in Venezuela, are connected via video chat. Camacha, Madeira, Portugal. 25th December 2018.

    The home where they are living in Madeira, Portugal, is Rita ́s mother house. It is a two bed room house and there are 8 people living in it now. The couple, Carla and Josué, sleep in the living room.

  • Carla (28) and Josué (36) are waiting patiently for the birth of their first child. Funchal, Madeira. Portugal. 31st December 2018.

    Ever since Carla's parents found out that her daughter was pregnant, they had done everything to take her to Madeira. Medical care in Carla's homeland of Venezuela is too precarious: since Maduro's rise to power, hospitals have lacked staff and medication, and the number of mothers and children who die at birth has skyrocketed. Carla arrived in Madeira in August 2018, Josué followed her in November 2018. They want to start a new life on the island.

    Carla's sister Liseth can no longer save herself to Madeira in time. She died of hepatitis in Venezuela just a few months later in May 2019 because of the lack of the necessary medication. She leaves behind a man and two little sons.

  • Carla and Josué look at their newborn son at Hospital Dr. Nélio Mendonça in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. 2nd January 2019.

    Carla and Josué look at their newborn son at Hospital Dr. Nélio Mendonça in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. 2nd January 2019.

    Medical care in Carla and Josué´s homeland of Venezuela is too precarious: since Maduro's rise to power, hospitals have lacked staff and medication, and the number of mothers and children who die at birth has skyrocketed. Carla arrived in Madeira in August 2018, Josué followed in November. They want to start a new life on the island.