Venezuelan migrant Joel D’aquaro Edghill arrived in T&T in 2016 with US$300, hope and desire for a better life.
Edghill, 36, a chef from the industrial city of Puerto Ordaz in Venezuela, said he was tired of the problems in Venezuela and needed a fresh start. His mother has Trinidadian roots and he thought that Trinidad would be the ideal place for a new start.
“There is a crisis in Venezuela. I did the catering and had my own food businesses there but there are so many problems that I had to leave. I sold everything I had for US$300 in Venezuela and I left,” he told the Sunday Guardian on Friday at Hassan Tacos Restaurant on Ariapita Avenue, Port-of-Spain, where he works.
While many Venezuelan migrants in T&T, as well as other Venezuelans who have migrated to other regional countries, left good jobs to work as cleaners or other tough jobs in foreign countries, Edghill is happy that he has been able to survive in T&T using his skills as a chef.
“The language is a big barrier. There are Venezuelans who come here and they are engineers in Venezuela and they work as a dishwasher in Trinidad or another country. It was an easy transition for me as I was a chef in Venezuela, and now I am a chef here.”
While he now works at Hassan Tacos, he has also worked as a chef in several other restaurants in T&T such as Jenny’s on the Boulevard among others.
On the side, Edghill operates a business where he buys Venezuelan beer, soft drinks and juices from a company in Miami and sells from his home in Port-of-Spain. Venezuelan food manufacturer Polar has operations in the United States which allow Venezuelans like Edghill to buy from their office.
He also prepares Venezuelan snacks like tequeños, pastelitos and empanadas to sell based on orders. Apart from cooking and selling his own food, Edghill also has a catering business and prepares food and drink for different Latin American embassies in the country such as the Panamanian Embassy, the Colombian Embassy, Argentine Embassy and also the Embassy of Spain.
Up to a few months ago, the ambitious Edghill had a food stand on Frederick Street where he sold Venezuelan and other Latin American food. Edghill has been very creative in using his skills as a chef to survive in T&T.
“It is not only Venezuelans who but my food and drinks. Trinidadians also love Venezuelan beer and it is light and the taste is good. A lot of Trinidadians who visit Margarita know the good taste of our beers.”
Spanish is his first language and while his English is not very good, he manages to get by doing business.
He also has his two daughters in Trinidad and he recently enrolled his ten year old into school.
Asked if he wishes to return to his native Venezuela, Edghill said if the situation improves, he would return immediately.
He also said he has met many good Trinbagonians but there are some locals who still who are unable to accept the idea that there are Spanish-speaking foreigners who are in T&T to make a better life.
“Venezuela is a country of immigrants, there are Colombians, my father is of Italian heritage, many immigrants came from all over the world and you never saw police going to arrest people to deport them. But Venezuelans are treated differently in other places,” he said.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced in Parliament on Friday that the Government will extend its facility to Venezuelan migrants in T&T up until December. The Venezuelans obtained a year-long amnesty from the T&T Government a year ago. It ends in July.