Colombia – "Reiberman", the Venezuelan migrant tightrope walker who discovered Don Bosco in Colombia

14 May 2024

(ANS – Bogotá) – Reiber Sumoza is a young Venezuelan who, like many others, has been forced by the circumstances of his country to try to make a living elsewhere. Father of two children, he settled in Colombia four years ago and, although his profession is linked to the maintenance of air conditioners, he discovered the athletic practice of slackline (tightrope) and has since made a living at traffic lights with his acrobatics on one. It is on the street that a Salesian discovered this and, since then, "Reiberman", his stage name, knows he has another big family in Colombia.

Reiber is 29 years old and is one of three young migrants from his village in Venezuela, in the State of Miranda, in search of a better life and to help their families from abroad due to the complicated situation their country has been in for years. Reiber Sumoza recalls that "one of my friends is in Ecuador, another in Chile and I arrived in Colombia. I don't want to move anymore because that way I'm close to my children."

Four years ago he left his country. In Venezuela, he left his two children, aged 9 and 7, with his wife. “I haven't seen them in all this time. It is not easy to talk to them every day, or sometimes every week, but I have a dream: to be able to come back this year to be with them, even if for a short time" Reiber explains with some hope.

The young man has been practising slackline for seven years and has made it his lifestyle on the streets of Colombia, where he mounts his rope almost every day. “I work five hours a day, from one to six in the afternoon, because it's very hard. I have to stretch, I have to concentrate and I stay on the rope only for the time when the traffic light is red for cars, but in one day I can earn up to 100,000 Colombian pesos (about 23 euro)" he says.

One day, a Salesian stopped his car next to him and started asking him about his life. That Salesian is Luis Fernando Velandia, Director of the Juan Bosco Obrero Technical and Vocational Training Centre in Bogotá. “The second time we met, he gave me a lot of food and every now and then he would come by and we'd chat. He gave me a Superman costume for one of the numbers I do on the rope, so they call me the Superman of the Santa Lucia neighborhood."

Reiber did not know the Salesians and had never heard of Don Bosco, nor did he know that he too was an acrobat and tightrope walker; but both have in common the fact of being able to attract the attention and applause of the people. “What I do is much more than balancing and jumping… I try to keep the area where I work clean, I am kind to the public and those who see me can grasp the humility that is so important. When I met the Salesians I immediately felt their familiarity, their sense of welcome and I feel at home with them" he says.

Fr Velandia suggested he join the circus school in the centre, but despite several attempts he failed "due to lack of time, because I have to work to eat and live; but in return he lets me go to train there and calls me to do shows for the children."

Reiber does not stop dreaming as he perfects his technique: “God has a purpose for everyone and I continue to dream. I dream of seeing my children, but also of being able to continue to send money to my family and to bring my show to my village and leave a mark there with a performance that I am preparing at a high level."

Regarding his daily life, the young tightrope walker admits that "with the first coin I receive every day, my spirit rises. I may be sad one day, but when I get on the rope and feel the appreciation of the audience, I feel relieved... Of course, it is difficult to do a hundred traffic lights a day, but we must move forward, because God has a purpose for each of us" he concludes.

Source: Salesian Missions


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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