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I am from Guatemala City, Guatemala-specifically Barrio La Villa, which is the most dangerous neighborhood with the highest crime rate in all of Central America. In the Barrio La Villa, we lived right next to a river. This river was extremely dirty. It had a lot of dead animals and dead people in body bags. People from around would wash their clothes, and kids would go fishing and swimming there. This barrio had really nasty things. Dead chickens all over the streets. There were a lot of shootings and killings going on everyday. People here were really poor and had no opportunities whatsoever. This was a sad place to be.
When I was eight years old, I had a younger brother who passed away in my mother’s arms because we did not have the funds to take him to the hospital. He died from an asthma attack when he was just three years old, and I actually remember seeing him pass. My mother screaming,”my baby,God, please not my baby,” once she felt his icy, cold body. This was normal. It happened to a lot of people around Barrio La Villa. My younger sister had asthma too, but thankfully we were able to take her to the hospital.
When she got a little bit older, my mother, sister, and I tried to escape from my father. There were multiple times that the three of us would try to escape, but my father would always either keep me or my sister. My mother would always reach forward and keep my sister because she was so afraid of what my father could do to her. Therefore, I spent a lot of time with my dad. He would never allow the three of us to be together. This one time we tried to escape, but he caught my mom. He beat her really, really bad that she was taken to the hospital, and at the hospital they would not do anything to help her. It is very dangerous to be in the hospital here in Barrios La Villa. There is a lot of military and gangs in the hospital dealing with a lot of robbing and killing. The hospital does not have water or medicine, and hardly anyone gets attention there. Without getting care, my mother just went back to the streets and started back working. This was a normal routine.
After receiving the worst beating she had ever endured, my mother left when I was around twelve. I knew deep down in my heart she was bound to leave. One day we went to go visit her uncle who stays on top of the mountains. I still remember we had to walk over this very muddy trail to get to his house. My uncle gave her a plan where she would first take my sister and later come back for me or bring me. I did not know what she was going to do. She took off with my sister, and I stayed behind for about three years.
When my mother and sister took off, my father was enraged. He started drinking more and the abuse came more consistently. Once I was shot at twice while playing soccer. This was when I realized that I could not live with a man who was so violent. I wanted to come to the United States because my mother was there. This was honestly the only reason of taking the long journey to the United States.
The journey was horrible. It started in this very nasty, dirty place just above Guatemala City. I am not trying to be disgusting, but this place had a lot of feces all over it and smelled like urine. Children were there. I remember seeing a place where prostitution took place, but I did not think about it. It was just there. Walking and riding the bus, I finally met the “coyote” in this massive church. There I was told to only communicate through whistling. Whistling prevented people from finding out that you are a migrant. They will beat, rape, rob, kidnap, prostitute, and turn you into gangs. They do that to children— I witnessed that. I witness how a lot of older men took advantage of children who were coming to this country alone. I came alone. I was nobody’s child. They could do whatever they wanted to me. But I was careful, I was very smart.
There were times we were robbed by the Mexican military. They would just stop the car and take some people, and then they were gone. There were times were I walked a lot. I would walk for days with a limited amount of water. Other migrants and I slept during the day and walked during the night, so the immigration authorities would not see us. On this long walking journey, I encountered a lot of things like snakes and scorpions. I remember the coyote would get mad or get lost, and they would beat somebody and leave them behind.
One time this coyote dropped me off at this house where we slept for a few days. The house was packed, and it was so hot. I was eating snakes and iguanas that the people were catching. No one was allowed to talk to anyone or go anywhere. A truck comes up at night to pick us up, and we would resume the journey. I was given only one bottle of water. I walked and walked for hours. I started losing my toenails. My feet would just start breaking apart. I got extremely hungry, so I started hallucinating crazy things in my mind. Then my mother would pop up in my head, and it kept me going. I just wanted to see my mother and sister again and be happy.
When we finally got to the border, they put me with this person, and said that she is going to be my sister. I was told to memorize all of her personal information. But they did not help at all. They dropped us off at the Rio Grande in South Texas at night, and I swam across the icy river. After crossing the river, the coyote told everyone to disperse. Then I knew I was on my own. I started walking around until an officer came and detained me. He placed me in a detention center. I was there for about three months.
The detention center reunited me with my mother. They allowed me to see her. I did not come here to eat or shower or be in a nice place. I came to be with my mother and sister, regardless of the conditions. The conditions did not matter, but there is nothing worse than what I encountered at Barrio La Villa.
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