Peru and Chile are siblings, but those that walk through the house tripping each other, painting the carpet, or cutting the dog’s hair. Then running to the kitchen to see who arrives first, to tell the mother that the other one is the one who made the mess in the next room. Peru and Chile are brothers, so they seem. Their people, the towns, the looks, the places, the nostalgia, the moral that never ends. But there is a difference that is so great and crucial that with a newly sharpened knife you can cut the blood and flesh in two: in Chile there is work, or at least in theory. In Peru, there isn’t even work on the books.
During 2012, the Chilean government awarded nearly 120,000 visas to immigrants. Of these, 43,177 were handed over to Peruvian citizens. That means that in the case of Chile there is at least the belief that there is an opportunity. A belief that eventually reached the ears of Ormeño Cochachin Gomez, a 32-year-old mason born in Huarez, the second most populous city in the Central Andes of Peru.
“Everyone does it,” Ormeño thought. I have heard hundreds of stories of fellow (Peruvians) crossing the border between Tacna and Arica, looking for a couple of weeks and then found a job that allowed them to generate good money to send home in Peru. So, chests puffed out, head held high and standing in the international airport of Callao bit, he bit his lip to contain the terrible sadness that caused him to separate from his family. Again and again, he and them (his family) repeated in their heads that it was temporary, would not last long and they all would serve to rally, to go again steadily, to make things right.
But nothing was as Ormeño thought it would be. The problem was that he arrived at the end of the line. Ten years ago or fifteen years ago, when the massive flow of Bolivian and Peruvian immigrants began, in Chile there were jobs that Chileans did not want to do. Over time, these positions were filled. Today, many come to Santiago, spend a few months working, working, trying something here, something there, and mingling with other newcomers from all parts of the continent.
After working for a few months as a construction worker, Ormeño returned home for Christmas. Sometimes he feels quiet and sleeps for a long time in his bed, dining at his table, looking out the window of his house, still unfinished but something he himself built with his own hands. But most of the time is spent not understanding how his plan failed. It should be easy and simple, if everyone has done it before him. But it was not. Now Ormeño doesn’t know where he’s moving, if he is going and if he’s coming back. Time is running out and increasingly if feels like he has just a couple of working hands, which are completely empty.