11/06/2020

Luzia and the men

Blog / By Pedro Cardoso

Luzia and the men

Kleptocracy and lack of hope are only some of the reasons Angolan citizens leave the country. For Luzia Banzuzi (41) it was two men: both her first husband, who kept stalking and threatening her for having left him; and the second, who kicked her out of her house because he believed she was still ‘seeing’ the first one. Homeless and threatened, in a country where police nor justice system will help or protect, she saw only one way out. She went to Cuba — the country’s socialist ally, which easily extends visa to Angolans — to sell clothes, like a friend of hers had done. Leaving her three children with an aunt she set out to spend some time in Havana.

On the eve of her departure to Cuba she discovered she was pregnant. ‘My ex-husband would surely hurt me because of that. So when I met another Angolan woman in Havana who was going to Quito, Ecuador also to sell clothes, I thought why not?’

While in Quito, her visa for Cuba expired. She was now controlled by coyotes, who had the migrants’ pictures, charged money repeatedly, and told them exactly where to stay and where to go at all times. She went further with the group, to take a boat in Turbo, Colombia. Then there was the coastal police, getting into the water, running, spending the night alone, then police again. Twenty-four hours to leave Colombia. Another boat. Then the forest. ‘At some point, the coyotes left us. We found a river and started following it’. Luzia was with the slowest group, with another pregnant woman and the Angolan friend she had met in Havana. After eleven days they met a new group of coyotes whom they paid again, US$ 500 each, but instead of helping them forward, the coyotes first abandoned them, then came back and robbed them of everything. ‘They cut our hair because they said Africans hide money there. When they did not find any they threatened to rape us and started undressing one of us. We gave them all we had left’.

She fell and twisted her foot, then was alone for five days, stuck in the mud, because she could not walk anymore. Even the friend from Cuba left her, crying for forgiveness and saying she would get help. ‘The sand and mud were hard around my twisted foot, I couldn't get my shoes off. It was raining all the time. There were flies’. On the third day another group passed by, but ignored her. ‘I shouted: “Help! I am a person! I am going to die here!” With my hair half cut off and all muddy I must have looked like a monster. They went away’. A second group who passed by later did want to help, ‘but in the meantime the bandits who had robbed us came back too, telling the migrant group that they would get me out for US$ 100. The group paid the bandits, but of course they never helped’.

Luzia does not want to continue narrating how she eventually made it to Texas. But she does share that she was eventually rescued: by nice men, for a change. ‘First a local fisherman, who had been alerted by my friend who had left me next to the river. He came and gave me some rice and cut my boot off. Then he came back with four younger men and a stretcher they had made. They carried me through the river, then organised horses. We rode on horseback the rest of the way, to Metetí, where the others of my group waited. I was taken to a hospital then’.