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#MigrantES: Telling our own stories, in our own words
Illustration: Chris “L7” Cuadrado

Since the 2016 election season, a wave of anti-immigration sentiment has swept American politics and media. We wanted to get to the heart of the matter and hear the stories from the people who have lived it themselves –– to define the migrant experience in migrants’ own voice. Thus the #MigrantES project was born.

#MigrantES is an arts/writing project is a partnership between Accion Latina (lead org), Good Samaritan Family Resource Center students and El Tecolote Newspaper.

Through the #MigrantES project, we held a symposium in late January with the goal of creating the work that fills the pages before you. One thing is for sure – these young people are amazing. They are ingenuous, capable, filled with ambition, pride and hope.

We feel that if more people took the time to listen to the stories these brave young people share, that we as a country would step into the right side of history, celebrating these young people as modern day sheroes & heroes instead of criminalizing migrants –– and in the process, infecting us with much needed hope.

—Josué Rojas, Acción Latina Executive Director

The #MigrantES project was made possible by support from the #schoolsnotprisons DIY mini-grant provided by the California Endowment and managed by Sol Space, Sacramento

Writer: S.H.

Age: 17

An immigrant is in great danger when he migrates to another country because he does not have as many rights as others.

I’ve been living in the U.S. for two years, I’m about to finish high school. I left my house on Oct. 20, 2016 and arrived on Nov. 23 to this country. Everything has been more difficult than I expected.

I spent a month waiting in immigration and they put me in “La Hielera” for five days. They took me to New Mexico where I got sick from the throat but they did not care until I almost died, only then they took me to the emergency room.

I was hospitalized for five days because of the sore throat, and finally I managed to get out, but I will never forget everything that happened to me, the cold… but at the end I was able to pass.

The best thing is that now I am with my family and I am happy.

Writer: E.

Age: 17

From: Guatemala

Illustrations by students participating in the MigrantEs project, hosted at Accion Latina on March 6, 2019.

I am from Guatemala, the “country of eternal spring,” I am one more migrant in San Francisco.

A migrant is someone who has the courage to leave his roots behind knowing that the people who were with him, may not see them again, knowing that he will enter a country where he does not know anyone and has to adapt to a new style of life, to which he does not belong.

A migrant is one who, for personal reasons, decides to leave everything to obtain something that he does not have in his country, because of danger or fear, but is also someone who fights hard for his dreams, regardless of the challenges to come. He is the one who is not ashamed to be an immigrant and demonstrates the knowledge of his country.

At this moment I am in school. I am in City College of San Francisco. I am part of many groups, I am in sports.

I emigrated from my country two years ago. I left in October 2016 and arrived in the U.S. in December of that year. I started going to school five days after arriving and since then I study English.

Many of the reasons why I decided to emigrate to this country was because of the danger, the economy and the dreams and goals I had, but I also felt that I could be someone important in life and for those around me. I wanted to be someone but for that I needed a good study which in my country is difficult to get, so to achieve that I had the courage to leave my family and venture into new experiences and challenges which would knock me down, but is on me to get up again and keep fighting.

In order to get here I had to see my mother cry because her son was leaving her. I had to see my brothers cry because maybe we would not see each other again. I had to make the most difficult decision in my life, then I had to travel by bus, taxi, airplane, boat, on foot and by car.

One piece of advice I can give to someone who is going through the same thing that I did is to never look down or lose hope, never give up because when you least expect it, good things will happen in your life. Life is not easy, but nothing is impossible. Look for ways to get up, remember why you’re doing this, remember the reason, think about the people, what you want them to think about you, what you think about yourself.

You can also lean on the people around you. Do not be embarrassed to say: “I need help.” By yourself it will be hard, but if you look for help and focus, nothing will be impossible. Thanks to all the experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met, and the help I’ve received.

Writer: M.

Age: 15

From: Guatemala

I am from the beautiful land of Guatemala and I am in high school. I joined programs that help me and I am learning English. A migrant migrates maybe to look for a better future, protection or to make a life for themself.

My trip started a year ago. I did it because I wanted to help my family and have a better future, a better quality of life. Now I feel very happy to learn English, but sometimes I remember my family and I get very sad.

In order to come to this country I had to travel in trailers and sometimes by car. I had to be with other people who also came here and we had to go through migration and wait there for a few days.

My advice is that whoever has family member, to contact them, so they can help to find a place that offers help.

Writer: V.

Age: 17

From: Honduras

Illustrations by students participating in the MigrantEs project, hosted at Accion Latina on March 6, 2019.

An immigrant is someone who goes out in search for a better future. They come from different countries because sometimes they have problems or they’re being threatened in different ways, asking or demanding money.

In my country there are many gangs that extort, asking for money in exchange for your life. They demand enormous amounts of money so that you can live well, and threaten you by saying that they already know where you live, how you get to your school or your work, for example.

I came because they were threatening my brother and I, asking us for money. They knew where we lived, where we went to school. They were asking my mom for a lot of money so that nothing bad would happen to us. One day we went to the mall and a gang came to threaten him, they even pulled a gun on him, but in a tumult we were able to escape. They wanted to kill us because we didn’t have the amount of money they were asking for. It was a lot. One day we ran away from home, without money or anything just because we didn’t want anything bad to happen to us. My brother was very sad, we separated ourselves from my grandmother, she was left alone.

But we came because we didn’t want to die. We walked for many days without anything. My mother didn’t know that we had escaped, but we did not want to die. We wanted to stay alive and fight for our dreams, but the gangs wanted to kill us.

We came here walking. A lady helped us by giving us a ride in her car, but for a long time we had to walk. We had a very hard journey. We did not have money to buy food.

Today, I feel very good to be here. I am far from all those who wanted to hurt me and I am now with my mother in a better place.

To migrate is to be here in the U.S. and to be able to obtain a better future, to achieve your goals. For example, I want to be a lawyer and here I can achieve it, because there are opportunities and our dreams can be fulfilled.

Other people come here because they want to be someone in life and get their degree. Being here you can achieve your goals; in your home country you may not be able to because there’s a lot of crime or you don’t have the interest to continue studying for fear of what they can do to you, and all your dreams are town down.

In this country there are better opportunities, like going to school and being able to learn a different language, having a better future, or learning different things. I arrived on Oct. 12, 2017. Now I live in San Francisco, a very beautiful place where I have met many people who have supported me and are always beside me during good times and the bad, who have taught me many things, such as places where I can ask for help and that makes me feel good.

Do not feel bad about what you have gone through. If in your country, you have gone through many bad things, here you can overcome and be without worries. Do not give up, the arrival was difficult but your future will be beautiful. You will achieve all your goals and dreams.

Writer: E.

Age: 16

From: Choluteca, Honduras

Editor in Chief of El Tecolote, Alexis Terrazas, and Jenny Morales lead a MigrantEs workshop at Accion Latina in San Francisco on March 6, 2019. Photo: Fatima Ramirez

For me, being a migrant means being a fighter, being a person with many values and many goals. My journey to the U.S. began on Oct. 29, 2017. I arrived in Tegucigalpa (Honduras) where I stayed two days and the next day I took a bus that took me to Guatemala. I was in a hotel for three days, then we went to a place, and from there to Mexico City. But to get there, we had to go through many checkpoints and we hid in the driver’s sleeping compartment so that they didn’t see us. I felt like I was drowning, but thank God we got there safe.

When I arrived in Mexico City, we had to say a code so that we could get us across the border. If a person forgot the code, they would kill them or call their relatives to ask for money, and if they didn’t give them the money they asked for, they would send them their family member’s body in a bag.

The day after I crossed the border, Border Patrol caught us. Before traveling to San Francisco border patrol took us to a place called “La Hielera.” That place was like a prison and it was very cold. Then they took me to take a shower, the water was very cold.

The next day I was taken to New York City, where I stayed for at least three months, then I traveled to San Francisco. I came from my country because some people were extorting my mother. They told her that if she did not give them a certain amount of money they would kill us. I came with five brothers and a nephew.

I write this so that people who speak ill of us, know what an immigrant is. An immigrant is not a bad person. I want you to know that people who come from their countries do not come to do harm, but because they have a hard life or have been threatened. There are many reasons.

I would tell everyone who is going through the same situation that I went through, to listen to the advice of others. To be friendly and to take care of themselves and if they want to achieve their goals, to take initiative and make good decisions. That education is very good and if you have a problem, talk to older people. I hope you follow my advice, and the advice of others, because they have seen what you’re going through. I hope you will be OK.

I thank the people who allowed me to express myself and to write this, thank you for allowing me to learn about the newspaper El Tecolote and know how it works.

Writer: I.

Age: 16

From: Atlacomulco, Toluca, Mexico

I have goals and dreams that my parents and family are helping me achieve. Now I can be with my family. But I am also separated from other people who are important to me.

I live in a somewhat safe place where I can work towards a career to get ahead and help my family. My parents came to the U.S. first and my brother and I were in Mexico, until we thought it was time to be together.

I arrived to this country by plane and then by car. I am happy to meet more family that I didn’t know before, and because I lived through many experiences from which I learned from. For a moment I had to be alone. I have spent my entire life with my brother and at that moment, when I came, I was separated from him. I passed with people, some of whom treated well with me, but also others who did not.

The church is what helps us when we have problems. School groups are also very important because they help you develop many skills. Having a counselor helps to let off steam through words. Share what you think, it helps.

Writer: K.

From: Yucatan, Mexico

For me, being a migrant is fighting and looking for a better future. It’s very good to be able to study in a good school to be able to improve and develop my skills in order to have a better future.

I migrated seven years ago from other places. I started to build my life, for pleasure and for the desire to learn of new places. Then I returned to the U.S. to fight for a better future.

The first time I came to the U.S. was when I was eight years old because I did not know my father. It was because of him that I came. After that, it was to learn of new places. Then I decided to stay in San Francisco, to continue my studies, to get good grades, have a better future and to be able to reach all of my goals. I want to become a doctor or nurse so that in the future I can help others, help the Latino community.

Writer: E.D.F.S.

Age: 15

From: Honduras

I am from Honduras. In my country, life was difficult. Now I am in the U.S. I arrived in December 2018. I came because I had needs. I feel happy to be in another country because I have more opportunities.

I would tell everyone to look for a program, such as one that helps you learn English, for example, or ask for help at school, or to look for a group for young recent arrivals to learn the language or meet new people who help them not to feel alone, and to feel that they can do everything they set out to do.

Writer: S.

Age: 18

From: Honduras

Illustrations by students participating in the MigrantEs project, hosted at Accion Latina on March 6, 2019.

For me, a migrant is a person who is brave and a dreamer, like me. Brave, because I endured hunger, pain walking alone without knowing anyone, all to achieve a dream. Mine is to graduate and be someone useful for my community or my country and for the people around me. Dreamer because when you have dreams, you challenge yourself to achieve it. My biggest dream has always been graduating.

I am in a country with more opportunities to achieve my dream. That “there are no resources” is no longer an excuse. No, I am studying and involved in activities that inspire me to move forward.

When I left my country a year ago, nothing was easy. But what kept me going, as I said before, were the goals and dreams that I wanted to achieve. And I said to myself, “No, fight. Fight for what you want. There you can achieve everything, just strive a little bit more.”

I came because of difficult situations in my country, to achieve something I dreamt of, something that was already inside of me. Also, because of the danger, threats of bad people in our country. My trip here was not easy. I suffered but I did not give up. When I crossed the river towards the U.S., the boat nearly capsized, and I thought, “Here I die.”

It was difficult because death, the more I walked, the more I felt it: without eating, without drinking water for two days. It is not easy, and I wonder how young children endure so much pain. It’s terrible because we young people want to achieve our goals or to achieve what we want. We do great things and we don’t focus on what’s difficult, because we know after all of that, there will come a day that we will enjoy.

But to come to this country is not just to arrive, you have to carry your dreams and goals. Because it is not easy to leave your family or your customs. The reason I came was my aspirations and the danger that was in my country.

I was sad for what I left behind, but happy for what I came to look for. Happy, despite so much suffering on a journey where the only thing that presents itself is death. But what you have inside is stronger than the appearances or what your mind tells you. When I arrived, I said: “Wow, my dreams will be fulfilled.” And I thought about the other people and I said, “I hope everyone has the same opportunity that I had.”

Something that helped me out a lot was my school. When I arrived in this country, my school was one of my greatest support systems. Most of all the teachers, because the language barrier was one of my great challenges, because I did not understand anything. I went to my teachers and classmates who knew English and Spanish.

My advice is that if you have friends who know both languages, and you are new to this country, please ask for help, because it is not easy when you arrive. Having difficulties like these, the school you attend and your classmates you have are the perfect complement to help you. I know it’s not easy, but speak with your friends, teachers and share your problems. I’m sure they can help you as they helped me.

And if you have some other needs when you arrive in this country, visit programs in the Mission. There, there are groups and organizations that can help you. Please do not stay silent, here you have many benefits and rights, that help you and defend you. So do not stay quiet, whatever your problem may be. Talk, you’re not alone!

Finally the life of the migrant is difficult, risky, complicated. We suffer, we cry and we believe that everything will come to an end because we feel that our strength is exhausted. Thank God we are here, that’s the important thing, that we have the opportunity to continue to reach for our dreams.

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