The couple walks daily to their work in a hotel. Photo: IOM/Gema Cortes

Tubarão, Santa Catarina, Brazil – In the city of Tubarão, nestled in the picturesque state of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil, the Alvarez family is crafting a new chapter in their lives after leaving behind the hardships of Venezuela.

Miguel, a 53-year-old former radio journalist from Ciudad Bolivar, in southeastern Venezuela, has found solace in a close-knit community, where resilience, hard work, and the warmth of the Brazilian people shape his family’s new reality alongside his wife Nataly, 43, and their children Angeles, 16, and Isaias,10. “It was difficult to leave our culture, friends, and everything to have a new life, but Brazil is a giant that has welcomed us with open arms,” he said.

After leaving Venezuela in 2023, the Alvarez family spent three months in Boa Vista, northern Brazil before regularizing their status. Through a relocation programme for vulnerable Venezuelans called Interiorização or interiorization, they were linked with jobs at a hotel, 5,000 kilometers away in Santa Catarina. In February, they relocated from Boa Vista to Tubarão, to start this new chapter.

Miguel, a 53-year-old Venezuelan, was a former radio journalist who is now working as a receptionist in a touristic hotel in Brazil. Photo: IOM/Gema Cortes

Nataly, 43, works at the laundry of a tourist hotel in southern Brazil. Photo: IOM/Gema Cortes

Nathaly vividly recalls arriving in Brazil, receiving a permit, and settling into a reception post in the border town of Pacaraima, the main landing pad for most migrants and refugees from Venezuela in the State of Roraima. “We traveled with very few resources, and when we arrived my husband had to work unloading trucks as we had no money to rent and we had to live with acquaintances,” Nathaly recalls. “We were overjoyed when we learned we were being relocated.”

Their relocation to Tubarão was facilitated by Brazil’s “Operação Acolhida” (Operation Welcome) humanitarian response, which was established by the federal government in 2018 to manage the influx of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) supports the three-pillar programme, which has benefited with the relocation strategy over 120,000 people.

The initial step of border management includes reception services, identification, documentation, basic medical care, and immunizations. A second phase involves providing accommodation, where migrants and refugees receive food, and access to basic services (health, social assistance and protection). Finally, Venezuelans are offered voluntary relocation to other parts of Brazil where they can have better economic integration opportunities.

The family rapidly blended into the Tubarão neighbourhood, with Miguel and Nataly working at a tourist hotel as receptionists and in the laundry, and the children schooled. For the family, the employment offers a formal foothold in society, which allows them to reconstruct their lives.

“From now on, my only expectation is to be able to maintain this quality of living,” Miguel adds, emphasizing his determination to work hard for his family’s well-being.

Brazil has become the third destination in South America for the more than 7.7 million Venezuelans who have left their homeland.

Miguel interacts with guests every day at the reception desk of a touristic hotel. Photo: IOM/Gema Cortes

The Alvarez family lives in a modest one-room apartment in southern Brazil. Photo: IOM/Gema Cortes

A growing presence

Santa Catarina, known for its natural beauty, strong economy, and welcoming culture, is fast becoming a new home for Venezuelans seeking a fresh start. To help them integrate, the local government has launched initiatives such as employment support, housing programmes, and language classes.

Carlos Langue, the director of the hotel where Miguel and Nathaly work, attests to the initiative’s positive impact by highlighting the contributions of migrants to the community. "We presently have four migrants working in the hotel and more will be arriving in the coming months. Their integration is usually good, they are good workers, generally qualified individuals and they take good care of the clients," he said.

Miguel, from his modest one-room apartment, reflects on the remarkable change in his life path – transitioning from radio journalist in Venezuela to his current position in Tubarao. He is pleased with how smoothly his family has adapted to the new city. His optimism for the future is echoed by Nathaly, who shared their dreams of opening a bakery and achieving financial independence. “This is a new beginning. Now, we can look ahead and imagine a future for ourselves, we can work and restore our lives.”

The Alvarez family – Miguel, 53, Nataly, 43, Angeles, 16, and Isaias, 10 – is crafting a new chapter of their lives in Brazil. Photo: IOM/Gema Cortes

This story was written by Gema Cortés, IOM Media and Communications Unit, Office of the Special Envoy for the Regional Response to the Venezuelan Situation.

SDG 1 - No Poverty
SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities