Butterflies of Love

Ana Valenzuela


Ecuadorian by birth, Venezuelan by heart, on a trip to Canada, Ana Valenzuela buys a baseball cap with an embroidered maple leaf. In 2018 when life in Venezuela has become unbearable, she and her husband come back to Canada with two suitcases, the baseball cap, and hope for a safer future. 


I bought my baseball cap with the maple leaf on it in Toronto in 2015, during my first trip to Canada with my husband. We were enjoying a second honeymoon in Niagara Falls after 15 years of marriage. We were with our Venezuelan friends Yuly and Nilk, who had moved to Canada and were always talking about the good and secure life they had in this country. When I saw the Canadian cap in the window of a store, it was love at first sight.

Venezuela was collapsing due to bad management by the dictatorial government, the economy, and social values. I spent hours, sometimes days, trying to find milk, bread, sugar, rice and medicine on the black market. There were long lines in supermarkets. There was more than 50% unemployment that year. People were killed for their cell phones or were locked in jail and tortured for telling the truth and not agreeing with the government. I was afraid for my family and for myself. I wanted to see my children grow up in freedom and enjoy a decent life with health, respect and well-being. We needed a plan B. It was not easy to decide to leave Venezuela, even though it was my second migration. I am originally from Ecuador, but after 20 years in Venezuela, my heart belonged there. That’s where I built my life with my family, had extraordinary friends, a business distributing computers, and nice things like a house and my cozy beach apartment. Our plan B search took us through Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. We explored Florida, Mexico and Europe. There were four on this home-hunting journey: my husband, my two kids, and me. 

I wore my red Canadian cap everywhere. When we got home again, I remember feeling butterflies in my stomach (like the ones you feel before a big exam) when I looked at my Canadian cap hanging on the wall in my beach apartment. I put it on my head and looked out at the Caribbean Sea. A sailboat in the distance evoked happiness and nostalgia. My soul wanted to stay with my loved ones in Venezuela…but I had to leave.

The hat became a prediction that would eventually accompany me on the biggest trip: our move to Canada. 

Based on a feeling of pure attraction to this beautiful country, we arrived in Calgary in the fall of 2018. Our good friends Grisell and her husband Rafa were waiting for us here. I knew Grisell because she used to have a store in Caracas in the same building as my therapist’s office. We talked so much that I probably had more therapy from her than from the therapist. That therapist would say to me now that I have to work on detachment. I miss Venezuela—especially the beaches, tropical fruit, and the cheapest gasoline in the world. I miss speaking Venezuelan. It is a language with lots of humour. I miss the Venezuelan people. I still can’t believe I left everything, friends, relatives and put 20 years of my life into just two suitcases.

Now my red Canadian cap hangs in my home in Calgary. This time, the butterflies are similar to the ones I had when I was young and falling in love. At the end of the day, I close my eyes, knowing that under my roof, I have everything I need to be happy: my family is together, healthy, and thriving in Canada, my new love.                

Ecuadorian by birth and Venezuelan by heart, Ana Valenzuela arrived in Canada in 2018 with her family and two suitcases full of hopes. She is establishing development opportunities and volunteers at CCIS, Discovery House, Carya and CIWA – where she has been awarded Volunteer of the Month.

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