Samuel Alejandro, the grandson of Eduardo Rodríguez, a 44-year-old Venezuelan living in Bogotá, has just celebrated his second birthday.
He is the same age as the Temporary Protection Statute for Venezuelan Migrants.
He was born by caesarean section in a hospital in the Colombian capital the same week of February 2021 that the Government announced this massive regularization, a praised response to an unprecedented challenge of enormous dimensions.
“Truly, Colombia has never denied us anything,” Eduardo reiterates, grateful, about the country that welcomes him and almost three million Venezuelans, where he has already overcome a pandemic.
“We have had opportunities to grow, more every day,” despite having arrived “clean,” he recounts as a balance of the five years he has now been in Bogotá, where his wife, two daughters, and son-in-law also live.
None of them have traveled to Venezuela in this time, not even when his mother died, but in May they plan to visit, partly so that Samuel Alejandro can be Colombian-Venezuelan, in case they want to return one day.
"He has done well for us, all with effort and work," he adds with contagious optimism.
"I have not felt discrimination."
In Venezuela, he used to drive a tractor-trailer – or gandola, as they say on the other side of the border – but in Colombia he has not obtained a driver's license and has supported himself with various trades.
He was an assistant mechanic and security guard before dedicating himself to construction, and now he is in charge of maintaining the rental apartments in a building in the Galerías sector that he built together with other Venezuelan workers, like his countryman Armando Blanco.
Both are from Carola, in Lara state, a town an hour and a half from Barquisimeto.
With the family savings, they bought a hairdressing salon run by his wife and his eldest daughter, the only one who still faces obstacles in obtaining her papers.
“He who perseveres achieves,” he says about Armando, his countryman, who now drives a SITP vehicle, the Bogotá bus system, although he longs to be behind the wheel of a Transmilenio articulated car.
He tells it overwhelmed by the nostalgia of being
a ransom man-
, but he explains that getting the license costs a lot, and he prefers to send money to his people.
"Sometimes I need my land," he concedes.
“But Venezuela is still very hard.
You have to have a lot of dollars to survive.”
Eduardo Rodríguez, a Venezuelan construction assistant, in Bogotá, in a photo from February 2021 and another in February 2023. Camilo Rozo / Juan Carlos Zapata
The Venezuelan exodus has lost relevance in the public debate in Colombia, but the numbers continue to rise.
More than 7 million people have left the neighboring country in successive waves, driven by the political, social and economic crisis.
Although they have dispersed throughout the continent, Colombia is by far the main destination for this diaspora, with a welcoming policy at the forefront of Latin America.
The most recent figures –cut to last October– show that 2.9 million Venezuelans have crossed the moors and mountains, by bus, on foot or hitchhiking
, to settle in search of opportunities in Colombian cities.
In other words, more than 5% of the inhabitants of Colombia are recent Venezuelan migrants, most with a vocation for permanence.
Of them, 615,000 live in Bogotá, the cold capital more than 500 kilometers from the border.
The accent is heard in every corner.
There are as many stories as migrants.
In February 2021, the Government of Iván Duque launched the Temporary Protection Statute for Venezuelan Migrants (ETPV), with a validity of 10 years, with which it was proposed to regularize them all.
By then, close to a million were undocumented—they had entered through the trails, as informal steps are known, or exceeded the terms of the permit granted at first.
It is, in very broad terms, a plan to integrate them and allow them to access formal work, education and health.
A door to the offer of State services.
Two years after that milestone, EL PAÍS has revisited a group of migrants that it consulted at the time.
Until now, in the midst of the reestablishment of relations with Caracas, completely broken with Duque, the immigration issue has not emerged as a priority in the speech of President Gustavo Petro, nor in the National Development Plan.
The immigration authorities, however, have assured that they will continue with the development of the Statute and the Foreign Ministry is preparing a regional summit on migration, with a focus on labor mobility.
Lian De Gouveia, a Venezuelan political scientist, in Bogotá, in an image in February 2021 and another from February 28, 2023. Camilo Rozo / Juan Carlos Zapata
Yoleibys Pérez, a 29-year-old psychologist who is now six in Bogotá, runs a clothing store in the traditional Chapinero neighborhood.
Originally from Valencia, in the state of Carabobo, she worked for several years in a nearby local for her uncle's typical Venezuelan arepas, where she still goes at night to help out.
When she left Venezuela, as soon as she graduated from the university, she did it because they were "going through needs."
Shortly after she was followed by her partner, who passed through the trail and left Colombia.
They are still together from a distance.
Although at the time he received the announcement with shouts of emotion, he does not feel that the Statute, the reestablishment of relations or the reopening of the border have had an impact on his life, since he has always had his papers in order.
At first he suffered some discrimination, but not anymore, he affirms without bitterness.
“I do like Bogotá, a lot.
I have been fortunate to meet very kind, very warm people, but obviously I miss my country, my home, my family”.
When he went to visit in December he didn't want to go back.
“We have had to work hard to help our relatives,” he recounts.
Seized by nostalgia, she thinks "seriously" about the idea of returning, but she still hasn't decided.
Yoleibys Pérez, a Venezuelan psychologist, in downtown Bogotá, in an image in February 2021 and another from March 6, 2023. Gena Steffens / Juan Carlos Zapata
When the Statute was announced, Lian De Gouveia, a 30-year-old political scientist originally from Los Teques, Miranda state, but of Portuguese ancestry, was determined to move to Europe with her husband, José David.
She felt rejected.
They even came to have tickets to travel precisely this February.
But new opportunities have opened up since then.
“Colombia changed my life and transformed me.
For me, 2022 was one of the best years.
At times, I have improved a lot professionally,” she says.
Among others, she worked for a foundation and was close to immigration processes.
She is now a marketing coordinator for a cryptocurrency company.
“Colombia entered into a real integration process with the Venezuelans.
There comes a time when society begins to accept that we are part of it, ”she values.
Bogotá had been an emergency destination.
She is 22 kilos heavier than when she arrived, as she was far below his weight.
Lian was part of the last crop of the student movement and she wanted to do politics, but she left after the protests against the government of Nicolás Maduro in 2017. The change they sought in the streets never came.
She was diagnosed with post traumatic stress.
She married her boyfriend, José David, the day before leaving.
“The migration was in a way a honeymoon,” she recounts.
He assembled shoes, made donuts, sold cell phone minutes, attended a
, washed cars, worked in electoral campaigns and was
community manager , among many other jobs.
“It has been five years of total madness, but a lot of learning.
I would not be the professional I am today if I had not come to Colombia”.
She now feels that it is beginning to feel like home, and is in the process of organizing his own company in order to maintain a relationship with the country regardless of what the future holds.
"It's like pulling a plant from its roots and starting to grow on another piece of land, but that other piece of land has welcomed me well enough for me to be calm," she values.
Colombia, despite everything, has been a fertile land.
to the EL PAÍS newsletter on Colombia and receive all the latest information on the country.