By Paul Reich
Paul is a Glasgow-based photographer. His work has been shown at Trongate 103 and the Old Truman Brewery
The ‘Venezolanos’ of Glasgow are one of the city’s smallest bands of expats.
Across Scotland, about 2,000 people of Venezuelan birth are living with settled legal status. Some came to Scotland looking for work in the oil industry in Aberdeen, others have fled the violent misrule of President Nicolás Maduro.
From Scotland, the view home is not an easy one. Food, water and fuel are running short under Maduro’s chaotically corrupt regime. An exodus from the country is gathering pace to neighbouring South American countries, with more than 5m people leaving Venezuela last year.
Photographer Paul Reich set out to explore the meaning of exile, assimilation and new generations through a series of photographic portraits of Scottish-based ‘Venezolanos’ that strip the setting of cultural clues and biases.
Here, two of Paul’s subjects talk about what it’s like to live in Glasgow.
Glasgow has been my home for more than two years now. This city gave me a fresh start, stability, a new profession and the opportunity to support my family. Home is where you feel safe.
Venezuela doesn’t feel like home anymore, it has changed so much in 20 years. The house where I was born is not my house anymore. My family is not there, my friends neither. Venezuela has become an unknown and unsafe place: a simple walk on the streets in the afternoon is very dangerous. Venezuelan people don’t have enough food, medicine or basic supplies to live.
The situation is even worse than what you can see on the news. My home country is now memories and nostalgia of a better past. I’m angry. Venezuela is a very rich country – we’ve oil and a lot of naturals resources and all of this richness has been wasted.
The Venezuelan community in Glasgow is very small. We tend to hang out together to prepare typical Venezuelan dishes or to celebrate important events like Christmas or New Year. However, the community has been growing over the past couple of years and there are some newly created Latin festivals to celebrate our traditions.
“I’m angry. Venezuela is a very rich country – we’ve oil and a lot of naturals resources and all of this richness has been wasted”
I’m teaching Scottish people how to dance salsa because for us to dance is very important! Basically, if you don’t dance in Venezuela you don’t pass to the next generation – just kidding.
I come from a small island off the Caribbean called Margarita –like the drink or the pizza. If I’m travelling to Venezuela I would definitely go there. I’m desperate for sun and some “empanadas” in front of the beach.
But Scotland is a beautiful country. Friendly people, stunning landscapes and a very good place for a fresh start.
I consider Glasgow my home as I have lived and worked here most of my life. Both my sons were born and raised here. I do miss the hot sunny weather of Venezuela at times.
Venezuela is my place of origin, my roots are there – it’s where I learned my values and to be a responsible citizen.
Here in Glasgow, the Venezuelan community interact by creating online groups and we take turns to meet once a month in someone’s house. Everyone brings a typical Venezuelan dish to share, we exchange recipes, ideas. We also have dances. Some people even play Venezuelan musical instruments.
I feel I am an ambassador for my country wherever I am and whoever I am with. Also by living an exemplary life – working hard, being honest and trustworthy, helping others whenever possible.
“Venezuela could easily have been a country like Scotland. We have everything to be a good prosperous country: beautiful beaches, scenery and very clever, hard-working people”
I feel very frustrated by seeing so much injustice, and wish that the Venezuelan people had an opportunity for good leadership. Being such a naturally rich country, with the right leader we could easily have been a country like Scotland. We have everything to be a good prosperous country: we have the most beautiful beaches, scenery and very clever, hard-working people.
Now I belong to Glasgow, just like the song says. My kids are Scottish and I owe plenty to this beautiful place.
Scotland is a great place to live. I love Scotland because Scotland looks after its people and we live in a democracy where human rights are respected. You can see how your contributions are used to provide good, reliable services that work for all. Scotland has great schools, teaching hospitals, universities and the most beautiful places to visit. And its people are so kind and willing to help one another. What else can you ask for?
Interviews by Natalie Whittle