I was walking in Madrid this morning. As usual, I was trying to find a spot to grab a coffee, open my laptop, and work a bit on my projects.
So, I ended up finding the spot. I found a small coffee shop that seemed perfect for the task.
When the waiter came to pick up my order, it turned out she was also Venezuelan. She was not from my city, but from one not so far from mine called Valencia.
We chatted briefly as she picked up my accent. She told me how much she missed Venezuela, as well as the fact that she hadn’t seen her parents in like two or three years, though she sends them money every month.
For those not familiar with the Venezuelan diaspora in Madrid, this city has attracted hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans. Some of them came because they already had family here, as many Spaniards moved to Venezuela during the twentieth century. Others came simply because of the lack of language barrier. Etc.
So, this situation I experienced today is not unfamiliar to me. In fact, it happens multiple times per week. When I go to the supermarket, there are Venezuelans working there. When I take a cab to go to my business school, usually a Venezuelan drives me there. In general, it seems that we are everywhere here in Madrid.
What I like about my people is that we are hard-working people. Whenever I meet a fellow Venezuela, he or she is working really hard to make a living. They are working blue-collar jobs, despite not being used to doing so, as some of them used to be professionals back in Venezuela. They used to be engineers, professors, some of them even business owners.
When I think about that, I think about the wasted opportunities of my country. These people that are now working hard in Madrid could be doing the same in Venezuela. And they would be doing so without the inefficiencies of having to move to a different country, adapt to a new economy, and work on things unrelated to their previous experience.
I also think about the need to develop specific policies here in Madrid to maximize the economic contribution of our expat community. We could be establishing legal pathways to validate the degrees of these people, especially those who graduated in sectors like medicine. Overall, we should be researching the different areas where these migrants could help the local economy.
And lastly, I think about the ways we will be able to use our migrants to rebuild our nation. Because when freedom and democracy return to Venezuela, we will need our people more than ever. So, while most of our migrants will not come back – as they would have established themselves abroad – we have to think about the different ways we could use their know-how and new connections to invest in Venezuela and help us grow our economy. This is not an easy thing, but a necessary thing if we want to rebuild our country.