MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – Geisy Vizcaya still remembers the chill she felt just over two years ago as she packed to leave her home in Venezuela. It wasn’t just the cool early morning air. As she stuffed some essentials into a suitcase, her eldest daughter asked her a question: “Mummy, what if you make a little space in there and take me with you?”
Tears fill Geisy’s eyes as she recalls that conversation. She remembers the optimism she felt as she prepared for a seven-hour flight to Uruguay, the beginning of a new chapter for her family. But her hope was tempered by the uncertainty over when exactly her husband and two daughters would be able to join her. She had no idea that it would take another two years. Nor that their lives would soon be upended once again by a global pandemic.
“I still have anxiety attacks”
Between 2013 and 2018, around 55,000 immigrants entered Uruguay. Those coming to the country not only face the stress of having left loved ones behind, but also the challenges of securing the necessary immigration documents, finding a job, and integrating into their new communities.
Two days after arriving in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, Geisy was able to secure the documentation needed to work in the country. She quickly lined up an interview and was hired on the spot. But while securing a job was a relief, it wasn’t the end of her struggle – her family couldn’t afford to join her.
“I still have anxiety attacks,” she says. “The pressure of not knowing when [my family] would be able to come – I’d wake up every day thinking about it, and I’d go to bed every night thinking about it, too.”
Geisy threw herself into her work. “When you’re on your own, it’s as if you have to set all your own feelings aside so you can concentrate on what you are here to do: to work and fight for your family,” she says.
By February of this year, Geisy had saved enough money for her husband and daughters to make the journey and to be able to afford somewhere for them all to live. After two years apart, the family was finally reunited.