Long Island Wins and Herstory Writers Workshop are proud to present the first installment of Stories for Liberation, a new series of poignant, individual stories from our immigrant communities.
This first story is part of a month-long focus on the harrowing tales of crossing the border and the difficult, almost impossible, decisions, that lead up to such a journey. They’re told by anonymous students from Central Islip High School.
Erika Duncan, founder of Herstory Writers Workshop, writes:
“It is with sadness, but also with urgency and pride, that we anonymously share the writing of young people who crossed the border, most of them alone, because it wouldn’t be safe to share these stories in a traceable way,” Duncan said.
“We think of a time when the students will again be able to claim their own stories, with their names attached, when we will be able to bind these stories and many others into a book with photographs of these heroes and have a true celebration, of their heroism, spirit, and hope.”
Story One—I Will Never Forget You
We reach a stage where we can’t imagine what could happen once we discover the reality of the world. At that moment it doesn’t occur to you that you could know the story of life. First, we remain some time inside the body of another human being. It might seem like a bit, but for that human being it might seem a long time they’ll have to wait.
Just like that, the day comes for you to leave that narrow and uncomfortable place. The day your parents cry of happiness and you cry out of joy as well. Nine months inside is a little time, but it is many years to live.
I was born on February 13th, 1999. My father, who was killed, decided before his death that my name had to be [removed to preserve anonymity]. He wanted me to have that name in honor of my aunt, who was a nun. My grandmother wanted me to be registered as if I had been born on February 14th, but the right thing to do was to be registered the day I was truly born.
Life in our countries is very hard. Because of the economy, many of us run to chase the American dream. Few make it; many die on their way, in the desert.
We come with negative thinking. We arrive with fear of being discriminated because we are Hispanic or because we don’t speak the same language they do. We arrive terrified to live in a totally different world, completely different from our countries. But even though it’s not easy, it’s not impossible either.
Many times I find myself analyzing how that life might be, living with different people, with thinking different from mine.
The law of life is to be born, grow up, reproduce and die. And although you don’t know how long you will live, life moves step by step, sometimes so fast, it’s impossible to appreciate all the time we’ve lost.
But we should enjoy our childhood because many are born every day but die instantly and don’t ever have the opportunity to live, the way we do.
My childhood was a bit disastrous and sad because I didn’t have the chance to have my father by my side. I was 8 years old when I found out that my father was killed. After that, I learned that life is difficult but that everything is possible and that you can move on and ahead if you really want to.
I was 16 years old when I asked my mom to bring me to her because I wanted to meet her. “Let me see what I can do,” she told me, “because you need a lot of money for something like that.”
“Okay,” I said, “I’ll wait for your response.”
As time passed I began to realize that if I came here I would have to leave my grandmother behind. She is like my second mother, someone who gave me so much love.
Three months had passed since I first spoke with my mom about the trip, when the phone rang while I was sitting beside my grandmother in the living room. When I looked at the phone, I could see it was my mom who was calling. Feeling a little sad, I answered.
“Hija,” she said, “get ready because you leave on Monday.”
Surprised, I answered, “Mom, I don’t want to go anymore.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because grandma is really sick and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to see her again or when I’ll be able to come back.”
I wasn’t sure I could do it, but if I had God and grandma’s help, I knew I could do it. My grandma told me that she was scared of me leaving because the journey is very dangerous. I was also very scared because I’d heard many rumors from people about women being raped on the way.
I decided to face my fate, leaving family and loved ones behind to have a new life with very different people. I left on December 18, 2015 at 1 a.m. That day I felt a big emptiness in my heart knowing I was leaving my grandmother. She accompanied me to the place where I would meet “the coyote,” how we call in our countries those who do this type of job. After approximately four or five hours, the coyote decided it was time to begin the journey.
We had to take a bus to Mexico. When it was time to leave, my grandma was tightly squeezing my hand. As I was about to get on the bus, she whispered in my ear, “Don’t forget me, remember my words, my advice, and scolding. Call me when you feel lonely, remember that I will always be your grandmother, your mother, your confidante.”
All I saw were her tearful eyes, and I hugged her tightly while saying, “Of course I will never forget you, you will always be in my thoughts and I will do everything possible to help you and pull you ahead because there’s no way I can ever thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”