Pacaraima: when hope catches on fire

On the 18th of January, I got on a bus that took me from Boa Vista to Pacaraima. I didn’t know what to expect but felt compelled by the heart to go and understand how life worked on the Brazil-Venezuela border. Now, looking back, I understand exactly what brought me there.

In a crazy way, when I was at the border, what I felt the most was hope. I thought that I would find only the devastation of a people who really could not take the situation they were living anymore. I thought I would find xenophobia in its purest form on the Brazilian side. Instead, I found the strength to keep on going and start afresh in a new country from the Venezuelans that had just arrived. Instead, I found the army, the UNHCR and a lot more other NGOs and individuals ready to welcome our neighbours with open arms, open hearts.


With all the problems that Brazil may have, going to Pacaraima gave me hope that there was still love and humanity in this country lately corrupted by hate. Being in Pacaraima in January restored my pride in being Brazilian in a time where our flag is often used to reinforce the idea that you only belong in the country if you voted for a certain candidate.


I spoke with strong and incredible people who fought with everything they had just to be there and escape the hunger in another country that, unfortunately, has already been on the edge of the cliff for a long time. Pacaraima has taught me to value life in a way that I had never imagined it would possible to. It made me understand what real resilience is. There is nothing like looking at the eyes of those who lived the humanitarian crisis. There is nothing like truly listening to them and knowing that their lives are so much more than “x people cross the border every day” that we often read in the newspaper.


Today the border is literally on fire. The closure between the Brazilian and Venezuelan side is just cruel. There is nothing that hurts me more than to see all hope – which still springs in a crisis situation – that I lived there, burning, being completely destroyed. How many dreams have been interrupted when people were denied the right to cross from one country to the other? How many -literal and symbolical- deaths is this war for power causing? And, in the end, will there be any winners? Who is fighting for what? When did life lose completely its value over “political statements”? I can’t stand it quietly. I was not born to be quiet.

Here I share the voices I heard there. I scream with them in solidarity, in resistance and in the hope to get the message across that the border situation today is simply unacceptable. And they have to be heard all over the world for something to change.

Published by Mira.Me Project

Written by Leila Maciel, a Brazilian girl who insists on calling the world her home. Escrito por Leila Maciel, uma Brasileira que insiste em chamar o mundo de casa. Instagram: @mirameproject

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