Exploring the foods we love, the people who cook them and the links between our favorite meals and the critical challenges of our times.
Clairet Mata wakes up at 4am every day to cook chicken and rice empanadas, which she sells in the streets of Giron, Colombia for about US 30 cents.
By 6:30 am she’s on the streets with her three-year-old son Dominick, selling her empanadas at a bus depot and a loud street that is packed with small homes and car mechanic shops.
It’s hard work. But it gives the single mother a chance to have Dominick by her side. Mata was a government worker in Venezuela. She moved to Colombia last year in search of medical treatment for her child who suffers from an intestinal disease.
“I’ve been offered better jobs, like cleaning homes,” she says. “But I have nobody to leave my son with”. Public daycare centers will not accept Mata’s child, because she’s an undocumented immigrant.
There are thousands of people like Mata who are living in Giron and its larger, sister city of Bucaramanga after migrating from Venezuela in recent years. Their situation has always been tough, but the hardship has been compounded by Covid-19, which has hit informal workers hard, while also closing the borders, making it nearly impossible for migrants to travel back to see family during the holidays.
For 27-year-old Mata, who arrived in Colombia thirteen months ago with almost no money to spare, raising a child without the support of her parents or other relatives has been particularly tough. Being far from her loved ones has also taken an emotional toll.
“Some days I don’t feel like waking up,” Mata said. “My mother had her birthday on November 18 and I couldn’t stop crying that day. I’m not used to being separated from them.”