Virus hits entire Venezuelan family in Peru

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by Carlos Mandujano | Jesus Olarte

The 14 members of the Hernandez family arrived in Peru from Venezuela two years ago with hopes high for a better life, but the coronavirus pandemic has cruelly shattered the dream: the grandfather died and now the entire family is struggling with the disease.

“I think that life is slipping away from me,” gasps Wilmer Hernandez, 44, lying in his cramped home in southern Lima, an oxygen mask covering his face.

His 63-year-old father, Wilmer Arcadio Hernandez, lost his battle with COVID-19 on June 21, while Peruvians and Venezuelans celebrated Fathers’ Day.

“My husband gave up his oxygen for his dad, but unfortunately he had already suffered too much,” said Wilmer’s wife Ruth Delgado, 37.

“We had to cry quietly inside, as they say, to see the old man slip away,” said Delgado, a nurse.

800,000 migrants

The Hernandezes are among the 800,000 Venezuelans who fled their country’s economic collapse in the hope of finding a better life in what, pre-pandemic, was one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies.

Like most, they arrived overland, after crossing through Colombia and Ecuador.

All 14 travelled to Peru by bus — Wilmer, his wife, the couple’s nine children, the grandfather and two of the childrens’ uncles.

Back home in the western Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto, Wilmer had earned a living as a singer in a mariachi band, performing sets at parties and company events.

Once in Lima, Wilmer found work as a mariachi singer with one of his sons, while the other adults in the family worked as taxi drivers or street vendors.

They rented a rudimentary three-storey brick house in the poor Lima neighborhood of Villa Maria de Triunfo, near the city’s Nueva Esperanza Cemetery.

They were doing well in their new expatriate life, encouraged they could get ahead — until the pandemic hit.

“According to the tests, there are only six of us who are positive, but if we go by the symptoms we are all positive — from the youngest of the girls, just six years old, to the oldest, my father-in-law, who has already passed away,” Ruth Delgado told AFP.

Peru is Latin America’s second worst-hit country after Brazil. Some 280,000 people have contracted the virus in the country, with more than 9,000 fatalities to date. (AFP)

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