Dona Raimunda has lived in Boa Vista since 1983 when she moved from Manaus. Like many Manauaras, she “came to visit and never went back”. Her recount is complex and rich described in a way that only Roraimans can deeply identify with.
In an informal conversation at the city’s Crafts Center, at first she complains of how the influx of Venezuelans has changed the lives of the people in Boa Vista. “Before we even slept with the windows open in here. Now we have to hold our bags firmly to walk around the city centre”. She mentions the neglection of the Government to” the paradise” she has chosen to call home and says she hopes for improvements with “this new man who has taken over [the government] now”. She praises the presence of the army in the street and says that without them “they would rob you inside the bank”. She still talks about countless cases of violence in the capital and attributes them 100% to the new immigrants.
Ironically however, despite her disapproval, she narrated with compassion the story of the Venezuelan family that lives in her street. Mrs. Raimunda speaks tenderly of a mother, a father and three children who shared a single mattress and still struggled to meet rent. She says she donated a mattress from her house so they could sleep comfortably and helped with everything she could. Mrs. Raimunda even mentions that her son managed to get a job for the father at an ice cream shop in town.
Mrs. Raimunda also talks about the soup that the family insist on bringing to her house in appreciation for the help, coined affectionately by her grandchildren “the broth of the Venezuelan sisters”. “But their food is very different, without seasoning, I do not like it very much,” she confesses.
Mrs. Raimunda sympathises with the hunger and misery that comes from Venezuela and says she can not bear to see the mothers and infants who arrive. Notwithstanding the situation of elderly ladies who cross the border carrying everything they have in their backs. She calls Maduro “Crazy” and hopes that the situation will improve across the border. “Look, I don’t wish this even to my worst enemy.” And completes with the phrase, “Venezuela is the same as Roraima, is equally rich”.
Mrs. Raimunda is just another important fabric, a part of the portrait of those who find themselves challenged by the changes that the flow of people brings. In her own words “with progress come the consequences”. Her speech is also the crossroads of those who identify themselves in the image of the migrant who saw in Roraima a perspective of home. “The father or uncle of my neighbour came from Venezuela and went to Manaus. Then he came back here. Here it’s too good, I wouldn’t go back to Manaus myself”, she comments almost in pride to know that the land she has chosen to love is also loved by others who come from outside.
The complexity of the existence that many have come to experience in the Roraima capital cannot be made simple but explained by looking deeply into the Manauarans eyes and soul. The eyes of those who nurture a love for a land where they were not born into but still identify and feel a sense of belonging – not as migrants but people with a sense of love and appreciation. Of those who are afraid of losing their “paradise” by making room for others who have not chosen their begotten circumstances. Not because of selfishness, but precisely because they know how difficult it is to find their place in the world and a sense of belonging and inclusion.