8 km (The swimmer II)

Multilayer mono-channel video HD

Duration: 03:16”

Collaboration of Beatriz Santini

 

At the end of April 2019, 22-year-old Yubreilis Merchán ran away from home to escape hunger and despair. In the town of Güiria, she boarded a small fishing boat with other women, under the command of men who were smuggling them out of Venezuela to Trinidad, promising to give them work and food on the neighbouring island. In reality, they had kidnapped them and planned to force them into prostitution, as they had already done with many other women, victims of hunger, lack of opportunities and desolation. More than 6,400,000 Venezuelans have had to leave their country, many of them on foot and with no resources other than their own bodies, in what has been described as the largest exodus in the contemporary world. The escape by sea between Venezuela and Trinidad is one of the most dramatic, dangerous and sordid.

 

The boat sped into the turbulent and lethal Boca de Dragón, but overloading caused it to begin to capsize at sea. In no time at all, the boat sank with its 38 passengers, leaving a trail of desperate women shouting the names of the children they had left behind in Venezuela. Those who did not swim climbed over those who did, in their last attempts to breathe.

 

Yubreilis was fortunate to have learned to swim, thanks to her mother's insistence. Thinking of her three daughters, she began to swim with another woman to a rocky outcrop in the distance. They swam for hours the eight kilometres to the promontory, Patos Island, where they arrived exhausted but alive. Only nine passengers were saved. Many children were left without ever seeing their mothers again, driven out by the criminality and ineptitude of their country's government and devoured by the insatiable Dragon's Mouth.