BORN to a Venezuelan mother and a Trinidadian father, 63-year-old Xuomana Cedeno could not afford to travel to Trinidad until about two weeks ago she made the perilous journey.
One of the first things she did was to visit the Los Bajos Public Cemetery where her father, Patricio Milano, was buried in 2005, aged 76. Her relatives took her to the gravesite, but because he did not have a tombstone, she has to return to find the exact spot to bid a final farewell.
"I could not afford to attend his funeral. I am one of his seven (adult) children born in Venezuela. He married my mother, who is now deceased, and in the 70s or 80s, he returned to Trinidad to live. I was already an adult. He never taught us English and I don’t know why I did not learn it," Cedeno said in Spanish.
The mother of ten and grandmother of 18 does not speak English and said she was heartbroken when she learnt Milano had died on November 28, 2005. She lives in Tucupita and previously worked as a cleaner at a government office.
Cedeno was among scores of Venezuelan migrants today at Achievors Banquet Hall in Duncan Village, San Fernando, waiting to register in the amnesty drive.
Holding a photo of her father, Cedeno said she met many relatives including siblings from her father’s second marriage, and with a smile, she said she hopes to meet all her family.
She said: "My father’s brother still lives in Venezuela, and he is Trinidadian. I was here yesterday and returned today. I like Trinidad. I never visited before."
The illegal trip to Trinidad was not an easy one. She was among 30 Venezuelans who boarded a pirogue under the cover of darkness on the Orinoco River. While they were boarding, the Guardia Nacional spotted the vessel and many of them had to leave their personal belongings behind.
"They fired some shots in the air for the captain to stop. But the captain drove faster. The little belongings we had stayed back. The water was rough.
"I never expected to be here in this manner. It is very expensive to come here. US $200 is a lot for me to pay," Cedeno said.
Today, the last day of the amnesty, saw people desperately hoping to register. Last night, migrants camped outside the south registration centre hoping for the opportunity to live and work freely for up to a year.