This amazing story comes to us from Columbia.
Marlene Alfonso is one of the Venezuelan migrants who work daily on Bogota’s public bus system and sell items like pens or perform in return for tips. She attracts people because of her old age, comical lyrics, and uncommon attire for a rapper that further helps her to stand out of the crowd. She is an inspiration to many migrants who have been welcomed in Columbia but have suffered a lot due to discrimination and xenophobic attacks.
Alfonso has been nicknamed “Toothless Cindy” as she has lost many of her teeth and cannot afford to buy false ones. She wears a pink cardigan and thick glass that makes her look different and has become a musical sensation on Columbian public transport. She moves around with a portable speaker and when the music starts playing, this lady turns into a prolific rapper. She sang, “I’m trying to make something of myself” and then she continued, “If you can’t give me money, give me a kiss, that will fix my crooked neck.” Alfonso used to perform for tips in her hometown of Caracas even before she arrived in Bogota. She moved to Columbia two years ago as it went difficult to earn tips in Venezuela’s subways. She earned $8 a day that was ample to pay her rent and send some home to her daughter.
Alfonso finished a set of songs and said, “I’m showing people how to not feel defeated. Our hearts have no wrinkles in them. I’m 69 and there’s still a lot of juice to squeeze from this orange.” It is not easy as a rapper as Alfonso is suffering from glaucoma and is unable to see from her left eye. She doesn’t have enough money to go to a specialist and moves around with a stick to avoid falling.
Haileen Volcan, a 32-year-old Venezuelan who sells puzzles for kids on Bogota’s buses said, “It’s tough to make a living here. But if she can hop on buses and work, a young woman like myself can sell things too.” Volcan often runs into Alfonso on the Transmilenio and said, “We worry about her. She lives up a steep hill and we’re trying to find her a place to rent that is closer to the bus stop.”
This news has gained recognition as migrants in Columbia make headlines for committing crimes that include robberies on public buses. The Mayor of Bogota has got headaches because of such migrants and says that they must be immediately deported. To this Alfonso said, “Some of my brothers have come here to do bad things. I’d like to beat them up with my stick.”
We hope that Alfonso remains safe and well and gains much more money and popularity in the future.
Image Source: BH Pioneer