LILIANA'S STORY

Her Reflections

I Got Rid of My Fear

When I was fourteen, I decided to come to the United States alone. I told myself, I’m going to get rid of all of my fear, if I never strive, I won’t accomplish my dream. When I made that decision, I was ready for anything. What was going to happen to me wasn’t important, because many things had already happened there in Guatemala. I made that decision out of desperation, out of the anger I always had, from seeing my mother and father suffering, from seeing parents in my village who didn’t care for their children, from seeing the violence within families and between neighbors—from seeing my poor country. And, as I suffered some of that, I decided to go far away without fear. When I came here I did many things that I couldn’t imagine, without knowing anything. I didn’t have a plan, like where I was going, who I was going to meet up with or stay with, if I had anything to eat or a place to sleep, or where I was going to get money. I didn’t think about those things. I only told myself, I’m going! I didn’t know what I was doing--it was insanity and bravery at the same time.


    Now I’m not alone. I thank the people who have showed me what I am like, because I had never realized how other people see me. Many people have encouraged me. They tell me, “You are a very strong person, you have struggled and overcome so much. You are very humble, very friendly, and intelligent at the same time. You inspire me.” I am beginning to believe it. 

    And, yes—I got rid of my fear. 

Fulfilling My Dreams

 In Guatemala, I wanted to go to school and continue my studies, but I wasn’t able to. I wanted to be someone and overcome what had happened to me, and I decided to make a different life. I didn’t want to get married and have children, like the other young girls in Guatemala, and I had to escape the violence there. My dreams were to live with my brothers in North Carolina and work and help my mom and my sisters. 

    When they captured me at the border, I felt like my dream had ended. I said to myself, If they deport me, I don’t know what will become of me—I will be destroyed if I return to Guatemala. When I was caught, destiny took me down another path beyond my imagination and changed my life. I came to the United States only to work and be with my brothers. I had no hopes of living with a foster family that would love me, I had no hopes of continuing with my studies and living like a regular girl, of having papers, of having more freedom and respect and opportunities, of not suffering from violence, or of finding so many people who would help me. 

    Thinking about the future, I am going to keep on fighting and taking advantage of the opportunities that I have. Right now, I’m only focused on my present goals. Eventually, I want to go to a university and study nursing. I will be the first person in my family who has graduated from high school and gone on to the university—who has a career.

    This hasn’t been easy, it has cost me a lot. In one sense, I’m achieving the American Dream, but a part of me—the part that I love the most—I left in Guatemala. I’m separated from my family there, from the place that I was born. I’ve had to get used to a completely different culture and to new people and have had to determine my own path. It’s been hard, but it’s worth it. 

FINALLY, I HAVE TOLD MY STORY


Since I was a thirteen-year-old girl, I have wanted to tell my story. When I cried in my house in Guatemala, I imagined that the house was a witness to my suffering, and that someday it would testify about what had happened to me. I wanted to express everything that I felt—how I cried because of the separation of my parents, or the abuse and torment that I experienced, and my lack of education. I didn’t think about including my dreams in my story—I only thought about the ways I suffered.

    When I came to the United States I forgot about the idea of telling my story. Afterwards, in Philadelphia, I listened to the stories of other young people who came here, like Marcelo and Domingo and others from La Puerta Abierta, and that encouraged me a lot—I have a story like what they’re telling. I decided that I had to tell my story. It was very important to me, because there are many people who can’t express themselves, who don’t have the opportunity to tell their story, who have suffered like me. It is my story, but it’s also the story of all the others who have come to this country.

    Also, I’m telling my story for the people here in the United States who don’t know anything about the life of immigrants—the poverty and violence and lack of opportunities in our countries, and the risks that we take to come to the United States in order to have a better life and help our families. They can’t imagine how we live here, how we suffer, how we try to get ahead and struggle by the sweat of our brow to get what we want. I hope that people who aren’t immigrants see the great difference between their life and the life of immigrants—that they reflect a bit and change their attitude. They haven’t suffered from hunger, they haven’t suffered rape or abuse, they have opportunities to get an education, they don’t live in fear of being arrested and deported. We immigrants came to fulfill our dreams—I want them to understand our dreams.


    Possibly when other immigrants read my story, they will become sad because they will remember their own story and suffering. I hope they are inspired, too, and feel very proud—Wow! Look at all that we went through, how we have struggled, what we have achieved! I hope that my story encourages them to continue onward and to have patience and faith to achieve their dreams. Also, I want them to not forget where they came from—their roots—and to never forget their families.

Since I left my home in Guatemala, I have come across many good people on the way, people who helped me. My life has been difficult, but there were many people who I really trusted, who wanted to know who I was, who told me, “I know you.” They gave me a lot of encouragement to continue on. They showed me what I was like, and I began to realize, Maybe I’m not such a bad person. They were like family. They began to change my life. I’m telling my story for them, too.

    Finally, I am telling my story so that my family in Guatemala knows how important they are to me—I will never forget them, I always miss them. Every day I think about them, how they are suffering there and how I can help them.

    By telling my story, I feel at peace, unburdened. Everything that was on my mind, all of my suffering and all of my dreams—my destiny—now are kept safe in this book. 

 

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