He took refuge in the baths of Barajas
Daniel Valencia, who ran out of resources four days after landing in Madrid, went viral and saw how “hundreds of people” wanted to help him
“Many said it was easy: that it was getting to Spain and finding work. as soon as you landed, life changed you instantly. But it’s not how they paint it, the reality is very different… At first you have to suffer and cry.”
Si Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the Iranian refugee who inspired the film The terminal After living more than 18 years in the Charles de Gaulle in Paris, the Colombian Daniel Valencia (26 years old) found his death last week in Terminal 1 of that airport. I found a new life in Barajas T1, in Madrid, when he was getting used to sleeping in it.
This young man arrived in the capital on Tuesday, October 25, with one objective: to help his mother and three “lower-class” brothers financially from a distance. He had spent all his savings on the plane ticket (roundtrip to enter Spanish territory), with a little more than 400 euros left over for his stay in the capital. “I planned to spend 100 euros a day, between food, transportation and a hostel. I had calculated that in those four days he would find a job“.
But not. He toured bars, stores and applied for a construction laborer, and in all of them he obtained a negative response, feeling “humiliated” sometimes because of the way they sent him off. In the blink of an eye he found himself penniless, homeless and with an ocean separating him from his loved ones.
His first night without accommodation was spent walking up and down the Gran Vía, suitcase in hand, not being able to sleep because of the cold. The second, seeing that it acquired the same nuance, he opted to go to the airport, one of the few places he knew and where, he thought, at least he would not freeze.
For a week he was alternating between T1, T2 and T3, looking for the least requested bathrooms to take shelter and get some sleep. “Since the light was automatic, I got into a hole under the sinks. Every time the cleaning girls came in I had to go out, one of them even got angry with me.” And he adds: “Eat once a day, the airport machines are very expensive. But after the second day I calmed down a lot. I really believe in God and I knew that at some point my luck would change.”
And changed. On the night of Saturday, November 5, a Colombian compatriot went to Barajas and made a video of him that he posted on Facebook. it went viral and, without giving him time to assimilate this repercussion, he saw how his cell phone did not stop ringing. a surge of “hundreds and hundreds” of calls and whatsapps providing him with a bed, food and toilet that took him completely “by surprise”.
wave of solidarity
“I didn’t know what my life was going to be. And, suddenly, people I didn’t know at all wanted to help me, many of them had gone through the same. And not only from Madrid, they also wrote to me from Barcelona, Valencia, Italy, Switzerland… A woman who worked at T4 told me to go to her terminal. There I was able to shower and eat. She even gave me some money to take the Metro.”
That same night I already slept in a house in the Opael neighborhood. The next, in Plaza Elptica. And the rest, where she currently resides, in an apartment in the Canillas neighborhood, “where they let me stay without paying until the end of the month“.
In it he shares accommodation with six other people. But, once the issue of sleeping warm is resolved, continue desperately looking for work. “I am improving little by little, and I really like Madrid. I have only worked twice, for hours. One, washing a kitchen; the other, unloading trucks. Although I would like something more stable, as a waiter or a gym trainer, to be able to subsist on my own.”
The lack of papers, he assumes, will not make it easy for him, but he does not lose hope. “I do not regret having arrived here, I want to fulfill the goal of helping my family,” she says, after having known the faces and the tails of traveling alone to a country in which to start from scratch. “The hardest thing has been loneliness, not having someone around to give you advice. I cry every day, almost no tears come out anymore”, describes this young Colombian, to conclude: “I have realized the number of people who live on the street… They are very strong and everyone has their story, but it is not easy to endure hunger and cold day after day”.