Che chevere!* The beautiful Made in Venezuela shop stocks an exciting variety of gifts and treats sourced direct from Venezuelan designers at fair prices. But it’s all the more compelling when you hear how it came to be…
Sisters Angela and Oriana began Made in Venezuela in 2015 with Angela living in London and Oriana in Venezuela. The following year Angela opened their first shop in Ealing and then in 2017 decided to move to Stroud. The sisters were unsure what to expect in Stroud but it seemed to be a place where business costs would be more sustainable than London. Their beautiful shop fits in perfectly with the mix of independent shops on the High Street and the sunny messages on their A-board can brighten up the greyest of Gloucestershire days. I met with Oriana to hear why she and her sister decided to leave Venezuela.
Oriana tells me Venezuela is a beautiful country. It has mountains, plains, rainforest, cities, beaches and summers which last all year long. But it is increasingly plagued by hyperinflation, poverty, malnutrition, medicine shortages and violent crime. Its decline has been rapid and catastrophic. Murders, kidnappings, malaria and child mortality have all rocketed.
In 2018 Oriana left her life in Venezuela and moved to join her sister in Stroud. She says, “My house was nice but we were only able to get water once a month. I stored water in large tanks and filled buckets to use in the bathroom. I had a job and a car and mechanized gates in front of my house to protect me and my property. Every morning, leaving home I would feel vulnerable at the moment my gates opened that somebody might come in. If the power failed and the gates were left open I could lose everything. It was becoming impossible to make a living and afford basic things. Supermarket prices were doubling every week. Lots of my friends were leaving. 2.3 million people have left since 2014, the poorest crossing the border on foot.”
In contrast, Angela left Venezuela years earlier in 1996 to go to university, at a time when young people still had options in Venezuela. At the beginning it was easy to chat to family back home. Regularly they would tell her how someone they knew had been robbed or held at gunpoint. But now she can’t often contact family because the copper telephone lines have been stolen, mobile phone service is unreliable and internet access is so slow that it’s almost unusable. If she can’t get hold of them for a few days, panic sets in. Have their phones been stolen? Have they been kidnapped? Something worse?
Venezuela no longer imports the international brands people used to buy so many Venezuelans began handmaking their own designs. Independent shops popped up all over, selling locally made items, but as things have worsened, most Venezuelans cannot afford to buy from them and makers now depend on selling to outlets abroad. Made in Venezuela has become a vital lifeline for some.
If you’re looking for lovely Christmas gift ideas, we recommend the cacao teas (top right – they’re so chocolatey!) and the beautiful wooden gift boxes of chocolate samples from each region of Venezuela (centre right).
Oriana says that coming to Stroud has been the best decision for them. They have made lots of friends and they love it that Venezuelans sometimes visit their shop. Pop in and say hello – they would love to meet you too!
MIV, 27 High Street, Stroud, GL5 1AJ
*Che chevere = how cool!