The popular Netflix series Narcos has caught the attention of many Americans, chronicling the rise of Colombian drug cartels with plenty of action, corruption, scandal and violence. However, seldom do viewers think of the real-life impact of these events on Columbian citizens.
Alberto once owned a fast food restaurant and taught English in his hometown of Cali, Columbia. Death was a daily occurrence and he lost many friends and neighbors at the hands of drug cartels and guerilla groups. As Alberto thinks of the many lives lost, his smile fades and pain fills his eyes. He remembers the reign of Pablo Escobar and the Cali Cartel. He remembers a 13-year-old boy that would bring him arepas (a Latin dish), and how this child was ruthlessly murdered by the Cartel. He remembers the metallic smell of blood in the air. None of these memories evoke excitement or thrill; for Alberto this is not a TV show.
54-year-old Alberto is a father, husband and grandfather; he is also a refugee. One day, as he worked in his restaurant, a member of a guerilla group approached his wife Yvonne and asked for a large sum of money. Many local business owners were forced to pay fees to the guerilla groups and cartels to fund their missions. When Yvonne refused, they threatened the life of the entire family. Alberto knew these threats were not idle and the family had no choice but to abandon their home and business and flee for their lives. They escaped to Ecuador where they registered as refugees.
Alberto and his family were in need of resettlement and eventually were approved to come to the United States. The IRC in Atlanta welcomed the family and assisted them in regaining stability. “The IRC provided economic support, knowledge about language and cultures, and assistance with my job applications,” said Alberto. “They helped me to rebuild my confidence.”
Reflecting on his life, he said simply, “I feel safe here.”
To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact us at Atlanta [at] Rescue.org () or 678-636-8930.