Chicago Embraces Venezuelan Migrants with Thanksgiving Feasts and Open Arms

Chicago Embraces Venezuelan Migrants with Thanksgiving Feasts and Open ArmsSource: Unsplash / Spencer Davis
Damon R. Sheffield
Published on November 23, 2023

If gratitude had a flavor, it'd taste like turkey and arepas this Thanksgiving in Chicago. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Venezuelan migrants like Michel Sandoval and her partner, Luis Alfonso, are joining in the American tradition for the first time, hosted by local residents like Ruth Lamour. Sandoval expressed her heartfelt thanks, "I'm grateful God has always been with us, hasn't left us, and thanks to God we’ve always found good people on our trip here."

Since the influx of more than 25,000 migrants in Chicagoland, tales of locals opening their homes and hearts have cropped up, dispelling the chill of the Windy City with a warmth that goes beyond the season's fare. The mother from Venezuela, Maria Goitia, finally saw "the light at the end of the tunnel," she told the Chicago Tribune, as she prepared to move from a shelter to an apartment, adding a bit of permanence to her family's new life here in the States.

Festivities carry on across Chicago with generous spreads shared with our newest neighbors. Lamour's planned Thanksgiving bash for the multi-national company is shaping up to be a cross-cultural feast, complete with two hefty turkeys and an array of traditional side dishes. Diversity continues at St. Agatha Catholic Church in North Lawndale, where Goitia's family joined others in a communal meal hosted by volunteers, reports the Tribune. Players from the Chicago Bears even pitched in, serving up authentic Venezuelan cuisine alongside the customary Thanksgiving offerings in local community centers.

The communal spirit of Thanksgiving is in full bloom as schools like Eliza Chappell Elementary welcome migrant families with a potluck to remember. And it`s not just about the grub. Families like the Lopezes share stories of harrowing journeys for a shot at stability and security. "They opened up their doors to us," Marienny Brito, mother of two, told the Sun-Times, recounting their settling into Chappell School as nothing but marvelous after treacherous travels.

Meanwhile, Hope Vaughn, a local therapist and social worker, has found her own life reinvigorated through the act of helping others. Her name, synonymous with her impact, Vaughn—Esperanza in Spanish—has borne witness to not just the resilience but the reciprocated enrichment the migrants have brought into her life. Reflecting on the shared journey, she believes in the power of extending a hand, saying, "I’ve learned how important relationships are and just extending that hand and being the companion to walk with someone—and we don’t realize how impactful a single transaction can be."