The final stretch on a harsh and sometimes deadly journey by foot to Santiago: Venezuelan migrants trek on a mountain road crossing the high-altitude Chilean Altiplano and the Atacama Desert, considered the driest place on earth. The migrants face not only severe weather, but also a "culture clash" with local populations, who have seen "inhuman" images of children "crying with hunger" as they arrive at dawn in a town on the Chile-Bolivia border. Former civil servant Anyier, her 14-year-old daughter and 26-year-old Reinaldo embark on a trying, painful journey to the Chilean capital, setting off from a Caracas suburb with just 350 US dollars and a backpack with bare essentials.
- This was the hardest bit, crossing the desert, we were freezing to death. I fell in a lagoon that was where my shoes broke. I was saying I can't go on. I can't do it. I was short of breath, and I was walking and walking in the desert. Honestly on the whole journey, this whole journey, what I am going through right now is the toughest thing I've faced since leaving Venezuela.
We paid for the wrongdoings of others, they rejected us, said that Venezuelans behaved badly, and well, we're not all the same. Some of us come to work, because we need a good future, because we came with principles.
They scared us, they actually told us that we wouldn't be able to cross. They told us that we would be arrested, that they were going to deport us, put us in a plane, and send us back to Columbia, that we wouldn't be able to do it. But here we are, Thank God, and we kept going, persisted, and here we are, still going.
We have been respectful of the difficult times they went through. For months, we have seen harsh, inhuman, subhuman images of children arriving at dawn, at sub-zero temperatures. 8, 10 degrees below zero, crying with hunger.
No one attends to them. I would block the Venezuelans, not let them enter Chile. What are they doing when they come to Chile? They are entering to steal, they open the door, and you say, "why are you opening my door?"
It's so difficult, many people think that you are here. "Foreigners are coming, get them out of my country!" But they don't see the difficulties we face. You're fine there (Venezuela) because you have your family, you have your house. But there's nothing there, there's no food and there's no work.
I'm happy here, happy because I hadn't seen my sister for a long time, and despite everything we went through, I'm here now.