Meet our lovely, hilarious, talkative, uber friendly and always happy friend Carmen. She is full of life and laughter and all the Venezuelan slang words that we don’t understand, haha. We met Carmen through my dad and mom’s chaplaincy with the Houston Astros. Carmen’s daughter Mayela is married to Luis Valbuena who was playing for the Astros in 2016 but was picked up after that by the Los Angeles Angels for two years. We are so sad to hear the news of Luis’s passing in a tragic car accident in Venezuela. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mayela, Carmen and Mayela’s son Adan during this time.
We got to know Carmen and Mayela last year and really loved spending time with them. When Luis was offered a better contract with the Angels, we were super bummed that they had to move, but we are so thankful to have kept this relationship and to continue being a part of their lives.
Carmen came to visit us recently and we asked if we could share her story on our blog. We took her to Lupe Tortilla to eat their amazing fajitas that we love so much and we got to learn some more about her life in Venezuela. As always, we laughed a lot.
L&T: How was life growing up in Venezuela?
Carmen: Aw, the life in Venezuela when I was a child in the 1960s was very blessed. We slept with the doors open, the people were all very nice and had principles. Now, the people who grew up with principles, are having to steal to provide for their children. Growing up, school was amazing and we could eat whatever we wanted without fear of contamination. Today, the whole country has gone backwards – there’s no milk for the kids, no nutrients for the crops and produce, water is not transported and meat is contaminated because the cows and chicken are not getting healthy nutrients. When I was a child, my family had our own land with our own agricultural business and the nutrients were a lot better. I remember making arepas and taking them to the workers. Life was pure. We had horses. I loved riding horses and exploring the land. Now, that business has been passed down to family members.
The first business venture I made was to buy 350 chickens. Each chicken would give me about one egg a day, then I would sell them by the carton. 29 cartons a day. Each week, I would give a carton to each worker that helped. Just 6 months ago, the inflation rate of Venezuela raised the price of eggs to an unbelievable amount. People were paying $150 for one dozen of eggs! That’s why the people can’t live the way things are right now.
I got married at twenty years old. We had four kids – one girl and three boys. My husband and I divorced when the kids were really young. He left and I kept the kids.
L&T: How were you able to then raise all of your kids on your own?
Carmen: We went back to live with my dad on the ranch. I studied to be a beautician and started three hair salon businesses with a friend who helped me. I wanted to provide for my kids. My youngest son IsaiDavid was killed when he was only 20 years old. He stopped at a convenience store one day and someone murdered him. I found out later it was a friend of his current girlfriend who wanted to be with her. It was horrible. It changed my life.
At that time, my daughter Mayela was modeling and a AAA baseball player named Luis Valbuena found her through the internet and Facebook. They got to know each other through the Internet because he was constantly playing baseball as he was hoping to make it to the major leagues. I told Mayela to give him a chance because I knew he was in love with her. They began their relationship and Luis made it to the major leagues. He began in Seattle and Mayela left to live with him there. Then he was moved to Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, then Houston with the Astros and later in Los Angeles with the Angels.
L&T: So that’s what has brought you to the States?
Carmen: Yes, when my grandson Adan was born in Cleveland, I came for vacation to visit for three months. Then I began visiting them in every state where they were. They got married here in Houston. The story of their love and life is like a novela. I love it.
L&T: That’s so beautiful! We have loved getting to know your family. We know that many more of your loved ones are still in Venezuela. For those who may not know many of the details, can you explain to us a little about what is going on in Venezuela right now?
Carmen: There are still such beautiful and humble people in Venezuela. It saddens me so much to see all that is happening in my country. Since Chavez Frías was in charge, the country has been in a trap. The rich have declined to middle class, and the poor are even poorer. You could have money to buy something, but there is such a shortage of basic consumer goods and if there are any for sale, they are so expensive and there are so many people fighting to purchase them. The government is getting rich while the people are struggling to live and it is a pure trap. People are standing in mile-long lines to buy three kilos of rice that is sold at a ridiculous inflation rate and yet they have to buy them because there’s nowhere else to go.
It is heartbreaking to hear about all that is happening in Venezuela. Nearly 2 million Venezuelans have fled their country since 1999 and many more wish they could. Fortunately for Carmen, her story continues with falling in love in Houston, TX. About 11 months ago, our parents introduced Carmen to our friend Chris Eatherington. They had an immediate connection and when Carmen left Houston just one week after meeting Chris, they didn’t let distance stop them from growing their relationship.
They kept in touch throughout her return to Venezuela, her stay in Panama, visits to Florida and Arizona while she spent time with her daughter and grandson at the Angels Spring Training. Last weekend, Carmen came back to Houston to spend time with Chris and to hang out with us…but I have a feeling it was mostly to be with Chris, haha. After a number of dinner meetings with our parents and talking and praying together, they found that their love for each other was decided and they figured why waste more time being apart when they could be married!
So we planned a wedding in 30 hours and it was such a beautiful, amazing time! We got to take Carmen shopping for her wedding dress, we picked a bouquet of flowers from Costco and made bouquet and boutonnières, we prepared songs to sing at their ceremony and Carmen’s daughter and grandson even hopped on a quick flight to be here for the wedding! It was a crazy whirlwind! We absolutely loved getting to see these two sweet lovebirds get married!