Valentine quenches the thirst for finding work for unemployed Colombians

Valentine’s Day is a busy time in Colombia, one of the world’s largest flower exporters, leading to the need for a large number of workers working in greenhouses near the capital Bogota, according to

That’s why Rubiela Mendez and William Perez felt the cold that they had never known before.

Valentine’s Day, February 14, is the occasion when Americans spend the most money on gifts, and is also a prosperous business occasion for Colombia, which supplies 74% of flowers imported into the United States.

Workers in this industry only receive a minimum wage of 300 USD a month.

Unemployment in the border area

Although Colombia’s national unemployment rate is 10%, in Cucuta the rate is much higher, reaching 16% in 2017. Mendez said in the past few months, the situation has gotten worse with Venezuelans fleeing to find

`The situation in Cucuta is very difficult. No one wants to go back because there is nothing to do,` said the 26-year-old mother.

Mendez works as a laborer in Tabio, a town north of Bogota.

Valentine quenches the job thirst of unemployed Colombians

Workers check flowers before packaging in the factory.

Mendez and other workers pack flowers in an environment maintained at 10 degrees Celsius, while working while listening to music on the radio.

Uncomfortable working conditions aside, Mendez’s money is much better than the job in Cucuta.


The company hiring Mendez is Sunshine Bouquet.

`In Cucuta, people are struggling to find jobs,` said Felipe Gomez, owner of Sunshine Bouquet.

Perez, 24 years old, Colombian, has just undergone a layoff in the company.

`In Venezuela right now people are scared and extremely desperate,` Perez said, describing the insecurity and food shortages in the neighboring country.

Colombian officials say more than 550,000 Venezuelans have crossed the border both legally and illegally, and this number is expected to double by next June.

Valentine quenches the job thirst of unemployed Colombians

Mendez was forced to leave his daughter to work in a factory packing flowers for export near the capital, Bogota.

According to Ivan Daniel Jaramillo, an expert at Rosario University in Bogota, the number of unemployed people in Cucuta has increased because `the border area is under pressure from the number of migrants`.

The commission business at Tabio is seasonal, not a long-term solution for the above 600 workers.

Many hope to be hired as full-time employees, with the company promising to rehire 20% of them after Valentine’s Day.

`I want to try to start a new life in Bogota,` Perez said with a smile, still quickly holding the bouquet of flowers.