cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Sueños y Pesadillas

Migrated Account
0 4 566

Hearing the Voices of the Immigrant “Caravan”

Over the past several weeks, the Trump Administration has been attempting to create an atmosphere of fear around the “caravan” of refugees fleeing the violence of their home countries. Their political and personal suffering has been recast in terms of a “takeover” of our country by “violent and dangerous” individuals. There have even been calls to increase military security along the border. 

 

348066_Parks_10-30-18_cover.pngI want to use this space to simply remind us of the humanity of those attempting to reach safety. Last year, I had the opportunity to publish the memoir SUEÑOS Y PESADILLAS/Dreams and Nightmares by Liliana Velasquez, who left her home at 14 to come to the United States. I am providing an excerpt of her story as one small attempt to remind us of the courage of many of those in the “caravan” and the strength they are bringing to our nation. (Proceeds from Dreams and Nightmares are used to pay for Liliana Velasquez’s college education.) 

 

SUEÑOS Y PESADILLAS: Liliana's Story

348068_Parks_10-30-18_young Liliana.pngI 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 doingit was insanity and bravery at the same time.

348069_Parks_10-30-18_Liliana's journey.png

           

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

348071_Parks_10-30-10_older Liliana.png 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.

 

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.

Photos courtesy of Stephen Parks.

4 Comments
Migrated Account

Thank you, @Stephen Parks, for sharing this.  I have purchased a copy of this book and will feature it on a future edition of my YA Lit vlog and send it along to my colleague who works with eighth graders in a district that, as evidenced by its strong Trump support in 2016, will be moved by a story about a young woman, a girl really, their age.  I am curious about how Liliana is faring and hope her dreams come true.  "We immigrants came to fulfill our dreams—I want them to understand our dreams."

Migrated Account

Patricia,


Thanks for asking about Liliana. She is doing well, happily living in Philadelphia region, pursuing her life ambitions. She is currently enrolled in a community college as well as speaking about her story across the city to classrooms and community organizations. Her goal is to advocate for those still trying to secure a safe and stable life. I am sure she would be happy to speak to your class/school as well. I would be happy to put you in touch with her if you'd like. 

Thanks for reading the post and her story. 

Steve

Migrated Account

So wonderful to hear!  I have moved to the West coast, but my colleague still teaches in NJ.  I will pass this info on to her with the book.  (I'll see her in Houston at NCTE.) 

Migrated Account

The writer made the serious mistake of accepting the left wing extremist rhetoric that these illegals are innocent victims.

RLBS+

About the Author
Steve Parks is an Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric at Syracuse University. He has spent the past twenty years forming community based partnerships, publications, and pedagogies in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Middle East. For more information, visit: stephenjparks.com.