It didn’t matter if the photo was taken from far away or from up close. It was fine to miss the perfect angle. It wasn’t relevant if the line was too long. The limited space to walk through the crowd of dozens was not an obstacle to get the coveted selfie either.
Almost no Venezuelan wanted to leave Manhattan’s St. Teresa’s Church Tuesday without a picture of themselves with Fabiana Rosales, the 26-year-old wife of the self-declared acting president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó.
For many, Rosales first official visit to New York was a historic moment.
“We came to visit our Venezuelan compatriots; we came to talk to you. We are working on a plan to return for the ones that want to come back home,” said Rosales in Spanish. Her husband Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president of Venezuela in January.
The United States, some European union nations and most Latin American countries support the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó.
In one room under the church’s sanctuary, Venezuelan María Alcalá had to arm herself with patience because she had an ambitious goal in mind. The 94-year-old woman moved with the help of a walker, but she was not aiming for a selfie.
María Alcalá wanted to send a letter.
“I want to send [Juan Guaidó] greetings and congratulations. I am always very worried for him. Every day I am nervous, thinking that something bad is going to happen to him,” said Alcalá while she waited in line along with her daughter, one son and one granddaughter to meet Rosales.
And, indeed, Alcalá had some reasons to worry. Before the event, the wife of the opposition leader told the press that the car in which Guaidó was traveling on Tuesday was attacked with stones and other objects. “We want to denounce that they want finish off Juan Guaidó,” said Rosales in Spanish, who also expressed her concern for the major power cut that left Venezuela in the dark during the past days.
“Eighty percent of Venezuela doesn’t have power. I haven’t been able to communicate with my family because they don’t have electricity. Children in hospitals are dying because of the blackout,” the wife of the opposition leader said in Spanish.
Rosales arrived at the church, located at 141 Henry Street at 5:37 p.m. to participate in a mass with the nationals of her country. After the ceremony, Rosales gave a speech of hope to members of the Venezuelan diaspora that had gathered.
One Venezuelan who fled his country eight months ago, Óscar González, 54, was inspired. “I think this visit is positive because she gives encouragement to people like me,” he said. “You can’t get food there, or medicine. There is no public transportation, no electricity, it is chaos,” he added.
González is one of around three million people that has fled Venezuela, according to the United Nations. Since 2014, over 414,000 asylum claims have been filed by Venezuelans worldwide, the United Nations has reported. More than half of them, 248,000, were filed last year.
In the United States alone, more than 26,000 Venezuelans filed asylum applications to the U.S Customs and Immigration Services during 2018.
“Today Venezuelans have restored the hope that had been lost. You can feel the optimism in the people. We trust Guaidó and the change he is going to make,” said Anderson Subero, 31, a member of the political party “Popular Will”, who arrived in the United States 14 months ago, in Spanish.
On March 27, Rosales, who is considered the first lady of Venezuela by those countries, including the United States, who oppose President Nicolás Maduro, is going to meet Vice President Mike Pence in Washington.
When asked how she felt meeting Fabiana Rosales, Trinidad Alcalá, 70, could not say even one word before bursting into tears. She arrived in 1994 searching for a better future for her children. “I am very emotional. Fabiana Rosales represents the hope—hope in the youth that is freeing our country. This is very beautiful,” said Alcalá, who helped her 94-year-old mother María Alcalá, walking with a four-leg crutch, to write the letter she was determined to give to Rosales.
For María Alcalá and her family, it didn’t matter that they had to wait around 15 minutes standing in a line to meet Rosales. For them, it was a mission.
“I would like to see Venezuela again,” said María Alcalá in Spanish before being almost swallowed by dozens of assistants waiting for a selfie. “I promised to myself that as soon the government fell, I was going to return, because the years are defeating me. I am not going to resist much more.”
For now, however, Alcalá was grateful for one thing: Rosales had her letter.