DORAL, Fla. — It's hot and muggy, not ideal weather to hike anywhere — much less across six states. But that's what Miguel Galindo, a Venezuelan living in South Florida, plans to do.
The 34-year-old immigrant began a more than 1,100 mile walk from Doral, a city in Miami-Dade County, to Washington, D.C., on Thursday. It's his way of paying tribute to the over four million Venezuelans who have left the country, many of them on foot. He also hopes to attract the attention of U.S. leaders to his native country's current crisis, with its civil and political turmoil and crippling economic hardship.
Galindo, now an American citizen, arrived in the United States six years ago. A member of what's commonly known as Venezuela’s youth resistance, he became known in his country for his social media comedic character, "El Rey Tukki" (King Tukki), which criticized the government of Pres. Nicolás Maduro as well as opposition leaders. It gained in popularity as Venezuelans looked for alternatives to state-run media coverage. Galindo says he got death threats and as a result, he put an end to the character and moved to Florida.
Galindo says while he can't change things in his home country, he can draw attention to the situation and the fact that a record-breaking number of people are leaving the country seeking food and medicine.
Venezuela’s opposition forces, now led by Juan Guaidó are fractured and have unsuccessfully attempted to oust Maduro from the presidential seat, which many people claim Maduro usurped via a fraudulent re-election.
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“I am clear that by hiking from here to Washington, I am not going to remove Nicolás Maduro from power”, Galindo says. “What I am trying to do is to add to the fight, add other Latino brothers and sisters, add other American brothers and sisters.”
Interestingly, Galindo’s biological father, with whom he says he has not spoken in a decade, is a member of Venezuela’s military, an institution that is still supporting Maduro.
Galindo, whose day job is in marketing at a Doral-based company, was given a month-long leave of absence by his bosses, who he says wholeheartedly support the cause. With the exception of portions of his trip, he will be walking alone, though he welcomes company and has already felt supported by fellow Venezuelans.
“I can count on my Venezuelan brothers and sisters who have already offered me their homes, they have offered to pay for hotel stays, and I have also planned to sleep on the beach,” he tells NBC News.
In a video posted to his Instagram account @laordendemiranda the evening before his walk, a large backpack is shown being filled with enough shirts, pants and socks to last a handful of days. He plans on refilling on basics via packages mailed to him at different points of his trek by his partner back home in Fort Lauderdale. He has plenty of cellphones, chargers and power banks so he is able to document the trip and keep his 269,000 Instagram followers up to date.
Galindo, who calls himself a “social media influencer” says he has not planned much of the journey. In fact, he hasn’t physically trained for the hike, which he just decided to embark on about a week ago. He says he wants to experience more closely the real-life struggles of Venezuelan refugees who have to leave the nation in a hurry.
His goal is to travel between 20 and 30 miles per day so that he can arrive in the U.S. capital before July 5, the anniversary of Venezuela’s independence. But most of all, Galindo wants the D.C.-bound hike, an idea conceived by his social media followers, to inspire everyday Venezuelans to take action.
“We are always waiting for a messiah, for someone else to solve our problems, whether it’s Guaidó or Oscar Perez [former member of resistance forces, now dead] and we’re not thinking about how we can participate, how we can contribute.”
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