The successful travel agency of Los Blanco, the Venezuelan family that arrived on foot in Peru

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The afternoon that Yulianna Blanco realized that there was no way to complete the bottles of milk that her three-year-old daughter needed each day, she made the decision to leave her home in the Negro Primero sector, in the hot Maturín, on the northeastern tip. from Venezuela. The year was 2018 and blackouts, censorship, arbitrary arrests, and shortages had forced her compatriots years ago to abandon their land so as not to abandon her dreams. Yulianna auctioned off the car of the father of her three girls for eight hundred dollars and even her bed to pack a bag and leave for Peru, a country to the south that she only knew because of the ruins of Machu Picchu, the Incas and ceviche, that fresh dish of raw fish that is eaten on many coasts of Latin America.The Blanco family in the room where they lived when they arrived in Lima six years ago. Jhonel RodríguezBut Yulianna Blanco did not undertake the journey only with Ashley, Georgina and Anabella, but with a battalion: her younger brother Kemel and her boyfriend, her grandmother who suffered from epilepsy, two brothers-in-law, a cousin, a niece and four neighbors from the neighborhood. who got on the bus at the last minute. What followed after April 5, 2018 was an experience that toughened their skin, an uncertain trip that lasted for two weeks because at each stop the fare was not enough for everyone. Neither the ticket nor the food. They sold a laptop, a gold bracelet, a clothes iron, a hair dryer, a couple of cell phones and they stretched out their hand without embarrassment when it had to be done. This journalist accompanied them during that trip, during which they slept on the floor, wrapped in blankets, after having deceived the stomach with a hard bread made of cassava flour called casabe, spread with a little mayonnaise. They queued for miles for an entire day for an immigration stamp. They ran to an aid station in search of tea or some soup to withstand the cold. And it happened that some adults fell apart while others worked hard so that the little ones always had something to play with.Kemel Blanco and Yulianna Blanco working at the agency.Kemel Blanco and Yulianna Blanco working at the agency.Sebastián Castañeda Six years have passed, and we are in a ten square meter stand, in the basement of a gallery located in Miraflores, the residential district that attracts the most tourists in Lima. It is the headquarters of Alpaca Travel Tours, the travel agency that Uncle Kemel founded two years ago after an untimely dismissal. At 27 years old, the youngest Blanco brother has created the great opportunity that the whole family needed. Yulianna works side by side with him on one of the company's three laptops, as does her daughter Ashley, who in a few months will graduate as a cabin crew member, and her sister-in-law Sorile. Kemel named her venture in honor of the gift of a shaman who, after giving him a cleansing bath in the Ollantaytambo complex, in Cusco, gave him a cloth alpaca, in the middle of a payment to the land. He advised him that if he ever opened a business he should give it a name related to this camelid from the Andes, because it would give him a lot of luck. Kemel had the virtue of being obedient: on average they usually sell fifteen tickets a week between national and international flights and recently they reached 1,600 clients. The most requested destinations are Spain, Mexico and Venezuela. Despite the crisis, these are times when a part of the Venezuelan community has enough savings to reunite with their loved ones and have the joy of hugging their grandparents or even visiting their dead. In February, Kemel returned to Maturín to commemorate the eleventh anniversary of the departure of one of her sisters, the mother of Nicole, the niece whom Yulianna considers her fourth daughter. A few years ago it would have been impossible. But Kemel, who remained in his third year of medicine at the Rómulo Gallegos University, struggled from the first moment. For a long time he had three jobs: from dawn until noon he earned money in a chicharronería; In the afternoons he sold cakes, empanadas and stuffed potatoes in the streets; and at night he helped in a bakery. When he remembers his first months in Lima, where they lived cramped in a garage, in Callao, with mattresses on the floor, he responds without any complaints: “The coexistence was cool. Then each one made their way. But the truth is that we worked a lot and, of course, we also drank our beers. We are like that: we always get the positive out of the bad.” Since it was unlikely that Santa Claus would visit them on the Blancos' first Christmas in Lima, Kemel had the idea of ​​wrapping sweet potatoes, potatoes, and pieces of cassava so that no one would be left without a gift under the tree. Another example of her good spirit was when her niece Georgina turned six years old, in mid-2018, and seeing the girl discouraged in front of a vanilla cake, she beat a couple of egg whites to prepare meringue and make her feel like it was the cake she wanted. I had waited so long. “For them I am their superhero,” he says with a smile. In these six years, Kemel has been able to bring to Lima his mother, Sonia, his brother José Alberto and his sister-in-law Sorile, an aunt and his eleven-year-old dog Chanel. years. He lives in his own house with his partner, Carlos, who has also set up his own travel agency. «I can not complain. There will be political instability and horrible traffic, but Peru has been good to me, and no one will take us out of here,” says the owner of Alpaca Travel Tours, whose first headquarters was the dining room of the apartment where Yulianna still lives with the girls, in San Martín de Porres, the district that concentrates 10% of the Venezuelans who live in the capital. It is estimated that in total there are 1.7 million llaneros throughout Peru.The Blanco family in their offices in Lima, (Peru).The Blanco family in their offices in Lima, (Peru). Sebastián CastañedaThe Blancos welcome us there with a pavilion, that banquet of black beans, shredded meat and fried plantain, prepared by grandmother Sonia. Georgina and Anabella are back from school and Ashley is back from high school. Each one has a different memory of the trip that brought them to these lands. “It touches my heart. It's something I'll never forget. It took me a lot to adapt. The children bullied me, they told me: 'go sell arepas to Venezuela'. But later I was able to make friends and today I feel proud of myself and my family. I want to join an airline and travel the world,” says Ashley, a future cabin crew member, while Georgina watches her attentively and Anabella, the youngest, dances in front of the mirror in the room they share with her mother. Georgina and Anabella like the cumbia and Peruvian salsa, they dance caporales in the performances, and they eat papa a la huancaína and lomo saltado. The influence is evident. Anabella has even lost her Venezuelan touch. Yulianna never stops instilling in them the love for her two homelands. Just as they learned seamanship, they also know how to move to the rhythm of the drum. While the whistle of the teapot for mid-afternoon coffee can be heard from the kitchen, Anabella places her hand at the level of her heart and sings the anthem of Peru with histrionics: we are free! Let's always be it! And before she denies her lights the sun. Let us miss the solemn vow. «That the country elevated to the Eternal.» In the midst of the drama of the Venezuelan exodus, the Blancos are a flower that grows in the concrete. Follow all the information from El PAÍS América on Facebook and xor in our weekly newsletter.

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