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"We came with three children from Venezuela looking for a better life and I almost lost my husband in the fire in Ciudad Juárez"


March 31, 2023, 8:07 AM

March 31, 2023, 8:07 AM

Viangly Infante arrived in Mexico with her three children and her husband, who nearly lost his life in the fire in Ciudad Juárez.

The smoke from the fire that killed 39 migrants in Ciudad Juárez was about to not only interfere with her dream of crossing into the United States to start a new life, but also cause her husband to lose his.

Viangly Infante, a 31-year-old Venezuelan, became the face of one of the greatest tragedies among the migrant population of Mexico when last Monday she was in the center of the National Institute of Migration (INM) that went up in flames with dozens of people. trapped inside.

Among them was her husband, Eduard Caraballo, with whom she arrived in Mexico with her three children five months ago. He was able to save himself, although for the first few minutes, his wife he feared the worst.

In some photos and videos that went around the world, Infante appears disconsolate on the night of the accident, hitting the ambulance in which her husband was unconscious and screaming non-stop crying for her “black”, as she calls him.

A few days after the tragedy and while her husband is gradually recovering in the hospital from his injuries, Viangly Infante shared with BBC Mundo her harsh experience on the night of the fire and those others, no less harsh, that preceded him until arriving in Mexico from his native Venezuela.

Many times I am asked why I made the decision to try to reach the United States. And if I did it, it was for the future of our children.

In Venezuela there is no education, there is no food, there is a lot of crime. There is no job, and if there is, it is not fair that you work a week or a month to get paid US$5, or 10, or 15, and that does not pay at all.

So we decided to come to look for a future for them, so that they study and decide if they want to stay here or return to Venezuela. We want to give them well-being for their growth.

We lived in La Guaira. My childhood and adolescence were different, but in recent years everything has been a disaster in the country and that is why so many people are running from there.

Juan Ortega
Viangly arrived in Mexico less than five months ago.

To the father of my two eldest children, Yulman, 13 years old, and Moisés, 12, they killed him four years ago. Obviously, that also marked me to try to find a better life abroad. For them, their grandfather is their father figure. They have lost for him.

The first time I left Venezuela I went to Colombia. I lived there for four years until I returned in 2019. But last year, after meeting my husband Eduard and having our daughter Cristal, we decided to travel again.

Before leaving, I worked in a food distributor and my husband made deliveries. But one day we sold his motorcycle, the house… everything to come here. We have nothing material left there, we sold our home.

And the truth is we left here without telling family and friends. We sold from today to tomorrow and that’s it, we left.

Because? Because the idea is that everything goes well for us, and you know, sometimes the less you say things to people… I sold, I grabbed my bag and that’s it. “I’m going on a trip for a few days, bye.” By the time they realized We were already in Mexico.


But first we had to spend a long journey. On August 1 of last year we left for Ecuador. My baby, who was just 1 year old, did not know how to walk yet and it fell from a first floor. Since then, she has had seizures.

We saved a little money working there and on October 6 we started the rest of the trip. We passed through Colombia, the jungle, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, where we arrived on November 1 through Tapachula.

Yes, the jungle is tough, but I would dare to go up and down again. I walked it in three and a half days, although there are people who last a week or ten days.

If I did it in such a short time, it’s because on the second day of walking, my daughter had a seizure. so i said “Either I go out, or the jungle eats me. I have to save my daughter’s life.”

In fact, if you ask me, I will tell you that my time in Mexico seemed harder than the jungle. Here the migrants were being robbed when I traveled, you had to give money all the time… And then Migration is constantly grabbing us, locking us up… that is inhumane and these are things that I did not experience in the jungle.

Juan Ortega
Viangly Infante has a tattoo with the name of her husband, who remains in the hospital after being injured in the fire.

Thank God, in the jungle I never saw a body. It is so surprising that I was crazy to see that so many dead people were brought out here in the fire at the migrant center. I didn’t see that in the jungle. So, What can I tell you that seems more dangerous to me? Mexico or the jungle?

Once we got here, we tried to enter the US through Piedras Negras. we surrender to border patrol but they returned us to Torreón. We took the train and came here, to Ciudad Juárez, on December 28.

We had heard something about that Title 42, but when we left Ecuador, the US still did not have its new immigration plan for Venezuelans (by which Venezuelans who cross the border irregularly are returned to Mexico and which encourages them to schedule appointments to apply for asylum in advance).

But the truth is that we put a little bit of faith in it and we thought that, having turned ourselves in, perhaps they would accept us as a family group… pI was nothing.

Here in Ciudad Juárez I have not met bad people, but they have supported me a lot. My husband sold flowers on the street and I was working in an ice cream shop, but I quit when the baby got sicker.

The detention

Last Monday, precisely, my husband left home to buy the medication for the girl’s seizures. And it was there that they caught him around 1:00 p.m.

There was no reason to stop him because I have a 90-day permit and my one-year humanitarian visa is already in Immigration. So he calls me to bring him the documents that show that we are a family nucleus and that we are here legally.

I arrived at the immigration station with my three children. They left me waiting around 2:00 p.m. and they left me in the waiting room. They told me that they were going to release him right now, right now.

Juan Ortega
Viangly witnessed how the authorities were removing the bodies of the deceased migrants one by one.

Until at night the fire started. There I hear screams, bangs on the walls and smoke began to come out everywhere. Through the office, the bathroom, everything.

In the family area where I was, there were 15 women being held and they took them out. There were no bars or anything there, but from what can be seen in the men’s area it is like a prison, a cell.

I ask what’s going on and I tell them to open the men’s door… and what they knew how to tell me was: “they burned.” I got very desperate and they took me out into the street, but they left them there.

At the time I didn’t care about the smoke or anything: I wanted them to open the bars, for everyone to come out. I wanted them to be human and open up to them.

Outside I saw that they were taking people out, but my husband was not there. Then I looked into the ambulance and saw that they were resuscitating him. That’s when I went into shock. Then he reacted, they tried to tie him up and they took him away.

That was the moment they recorded me, when I was next to the ambulance with such despair. I never imagined that this moment was going to become so well known because I never saw anyone around.

I didn’t become famous in Venezuela and I came to become famous here, in Mexico… but for something so cruel. I didn’t have to notify my family of what happened: they found out immediately through social networks. I became famous… but this was not the way.

Juan Ortega
Viangly Infante became the face of the tragedy in the migrant center of Ciudad Juárez.

protected in the bathroom

My husband had smoke poisoning in his eyes, nose, mouth and throat. At first he was asphyxiated but he is now stable and I was able to get him out of bed, although he continues to breathe with oxygen and has no expected discharge date.

He has a very sore throat and he has not been able to give me details of how his trauma was that night. What I know is that he went into the bathroom to protect himself. and doused himself with water to protect himself from the fire, because when I received it it was completely wet.

Once I saw that he was better in the hospital, I did get very angry at the thought that there were 40 deaths. That they had the opportunity to open the gate for them and they did not. No one was detained for robbery, or death, or anything: just for being a migrant. And they had the right to live.

So we came with our three children from Venezuela looking for a better life… and I almost lost my husband in the fire. But thank God he’s fine.

Viangly dreams of the moment to cross into the United States with his entire family.

Although imagine those families that are so far away, seeing their children who came to look for a future and now they are burned just because they did not open the door for them. What can those mothers feel?

What I would ask the authorities is to be a little more humane and put their hands on their hearts.

In moments of rage, anger and sadness I think why I came here. But where did I go back to?vOr, if I don’t have a house?

And then now, with a cool head, I think that if God put me here it is for a reason. And what if he gave my husband a new chance, it is because good things come to us. Not for me, but for my children.

One step away from the US

I never thought that something so tragic could happen to us almost in the final stretch, there, one step away from reaching our goal.

But this tragedy is not going to make me turn back. In fact, this Saturday I have an interview in the US so they can decide on my asylum request. I don’t want to miss the appointment, but if my husband can’t come with me, I won’t attend.

I already decided because it would be very inhumane to leave him alone and go to the other side with my children. We are looking for another solution. If it is not possible on Saturday, it will be possible on Sunday, or Monday… but I will go with him, all together.

To the people who point to us and who criticize that we are migrating, I would say that sometimes they do not know what one has experienced. I don’t like to see my children suffer, but I had to bring them because, if not me, who is going to give them a better future?

Juan Ortega

My dream is to finish reaching the goal I set for my children. Later, they will decide what to do and where to stay.

My youngest son really likes animals and wants to be a vet. The eldest says that he will decide in five years and then he will see if he wants to go back to Venezuela to see his grandfather.

But I told them that, with all this that is happening, maybe we should go back to our country… and the oldest told me no, that we were so close to arriving that now we couldn’t leave.

For my part, my ultimate goal is to return to my country again. It will be in a while, in which I can get my home again. But when I do, I’ll be back.

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