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I Learn Library

A human library inspired by the stories in the film

Growing Stronger

By Yuricza  |   From : El Salvador  |   School : Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, LA

My name is Yuricza. I am from a town called Ilobasco in El Salvador. I grew up with my grandma and aunts, because my father and mother immigrated to the United States when I was 6 and 7 years old respectively. In my hometown was very small; everyone knew everybody. At the beginning of 2009, everything was calm, but with time a huge wave of violence came into the town. I was 14 years old when my parents decided to pay a “coyote” or smuggler, so I could come to the United States to be with them. Now, I am 17 years old and live in Los Angeles, CA with my parents. I am learning English and trying to adapt to this new culture.

When I left my hometown, I wasn’t really leaving at all. I left one piece of me with my grandma. That old angry lady means the world to me. I remember that when I was young, if I broke plates or cups, I would hide them on the roof, because I was afraid of her finding them. But she was the woman who raised me. My heart broke that afternoon when I left her. I was going to miss that lady.

 

To arrive in the United States, I had to pass through Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. But, I didn’t make it successfully at first; I had to try twice. I got caught in Mexico by an immigration official and they deported me. I felt destroyed when I went back to El Salvador. I gave up and I didn’t want to try again. I got the strength and I tried again. And the second time was the one when I actually made it to the U.S. immigration offices in San Ysidro, California.

I lasted one day in la hieleria or “freezer” in immigration installations. There was this huge room full of moms and children. The officials sent me there because I was a 14-year-old girl. There was a little space for the bathroom, and then everything was full with thin mattresses and thin blankets to cover from the cold. There were no windows, but a door where we could see the official walking in the hallway. In one wall, there was a glass box and inside there were pampers and wipes for the kids. The TV there would play the movie Frozen over and over. Inside, time did not exist. You did not know what time it was, nothing. You lost the notion of time. You could hear the cries of the little babies, the laughs of the 5 year-olds, and the mom talking to their kids. All you wanted to do was to sleep and wait to be called by the officials. During the whole trip, I was by myself without any family member or any person I knew. I felt empty and afraid something might happen to me. No one was going to be with me to help me.

 

After some hours of waiting, an official called my name. We went to an office and the official called my dad so he could know where I was. I remember that the official was very rude, and spoke very angrily. I felt like it had been weeks that I spent in there. I was sleeping when an official called my name. They took me outside in the hallway, and he told me “NO TOQUES NADA. ME OYES?” This means, “Don’t touch anything. You hear me?” Then I saw that he was talking about not touching my backpack, which was at one side of the wall. We went to the parking lot and the two officials took me to a van in where I had to go in the back tied to the seat. Then, from San Ysidro immigration offices, they took me to a house in San Diego that works with immigration services to receive kids. The house’s name was Lemon Grove. I stayed there for 20 days. One morning, one of the social workers told me that I had a call. It was my parents telling me that all the papers were ready for me to leave. I started crying and I couldn’t even talk. I remember my mom’s voice breaking with each word. The social workers told me to get my belongings in the backpack because we were about to leave. I went to my room and prepared everything. The social worker, one of the staff member, and I left. I was sitting in the back of a car thinking about how the reunification with my parents would be like. I cried the entire trip on the freeway. While I was thinking, I was watching the long road of the famous United States. The day was sunny. After an hour or so, we arrived in San Clemente. There, in one of the McDonald’s buildings, my parents were waiting for me. When I saw them, the three of us embraced in a strong hug. I had borrowed memories of them because I had been too small to really remember anything. People talked and showed me photos about them to me. I have a short-term memory! They were some strangers, but still my parents. The social worker gave them all the papers they needed and then we left towards Los Angeles. The freeway roads welcomed me. I saw hundreds of cars. McDonald’s and different stores. Huge buildings and homeless people. I saw parks full of people, traffic lights and long streets. I heard English, Spanish, and languages that I never thought they could exist. I could hear planes arriving and going. Cars going in different speeds. I felt weird, in a new place. Once when we arrived at the house they told me, “Bienvenida hija.” Welcome daughter.

It wasn’t just a welcome to their lives, but to a new culture. Leaving all of this behind, I know that my journey did not just cause pain; it also helped me to become stronger. It helps me understand that life is not easy, and you have to struggle to get what you want. All of that I’ve went through is going to help me when I go to college. How? I won’t give up, because all my struggles have made me worthy.

You are the one who decides what your struggles are worth. In the end, they are yours and no one else lived them except for you.

 

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