A young mother’s journey
In this heart-wrenching Cuéntame, we bring you the story of a young Guatemalan mother who fled from her country to escape domestic violence.
After enduring years of trauma, at the age of seventeen, this Guatemalan mother traveled from Guatemala across Mexico, until reaching the United States where she sought asylum with her at the time eight-month-old son.
Five years later, her asylum request was accepted.
This is her story.
I only went to school for three years — I went to first grade and second grade but stopped going after third grade because when we would get home, my mom would scold us. She would say we were old enough and that we needed a husband — that we only went to school to waste time and what we really needed to do was work.
My mom was always mad at us, yelling at us — she was never happy. On rare occasions, I saw her laughing, it would make me so happy because I knew she was happy with us, even if it was few and far between.
How I wish she would have hugged us at least once, but I don’t know why she never did.
Maybe when we were little...
She would sometimes kiss my little sisters, but from the age of five and older, it stopped. I don’t know, she just wasn’t the same. The only time she seemed happy was when we had money. My dad would work but he would use the money to drink - a lot.
I was eight years old when I started to work.
One day, when my siblings had gone to work somewhere else, my mom sent me to get fruit with my dad. When we got to the property my mom had sent us to, my dad tried to rape me — I was eight years old.
I didn’t know what was happening, I just felt fear. He had already touched me in the past. I told him that he was my dad, that he shouldn’t do that to me because I was his daughter. He grabbed me roughly and wouldn’t let me go so I told him I was going to tell my sister and we were going to call the police on him.
That’s when he let me go and got up.
He told me that’s all we were good for and we couldn’t do much else, that we would never make it far because the only thing we were good for was to be with men. I was little but I don’t know why I can’t forget that. That caused me to be fearful.
I would leave my house to go to work. I felt good being around other people rather than at my house. I still wanted to be close to my mom, but it wasn’t the same anymore.
Then I met my son’s father. When I met him, he spoke to me kindly. He was older than me, but I’m not sure how much older.
Once I moved in with him, he told me I had to put up with whatever he would do to me because he had given money to my dad in exchange for me.
“You have to put up with whatever I do because you’re my woman, you’re mine,” he said.
His sisters would treat me really poorly and say I couldn’t do anything — he would too.
Later when I got pregnant, only his mother would show me a little support but then when my son was born that stopped — everything changed and my son’s father found another woman.
When my son would get sick he would refuse to take him to the hospital; he would tell me to ask his mom to cure my son.
One day he tried hitting me — that’s when I finally decided to leave. I hid my son’s papers and left.
I didn’t even know where to go, I just didn’t want to be there anymore, nor with my mom but she ended up calling me. She told me to go home, that my sister had heard what happened and that she was going to help me go to the United States.
My sister told me it was better in the U.S., that here I would have a better life with my son, so I found a man who lent me some money to make the journey.
A Mexican man helped me cross from Guatemala into Mexico by pretending to be my dad. I felt safe traveling next to him — I don’t know why but I trusted him and, well, he helped me with my son.
He traveled with me across Mexico until we finally reached the U.S-Mexico border. He said that was a far as he could take me.
“Here you’re still in Mexico,” he said, “but at night someone else will cross you into the U.S.”
“Once you cross over to the order side, you’ll be in the United States,” he added.
I climbed a ladder to cross over the border fence and was tied from under my arms. The other man who helped me cross into the U.S. was drunk — he smelled like beer.
When I had reached the top of the fence he told me to jump, but when I tried to jump, I felt like I was going to drop my son because I had him tied to my back. So I decided not to jump, instead, I climbed down the fence.
I came down little by little, slowly, but I felt like I was hurting my stomach like I was scraping myself, but I endured the pain because I didn’t want my son to fall.
Once I reached the ground, the man, from across the fence, yelled at me he told me I was a really stubborn woman.
‘Why didn’t you jump,’ he said, already on the U.S. side, I answered that I couldn’t let my son fall.
I took the rope off and he left.
Once I was in the U.S, I don’t know, I felt good but at the same time, I felt scared because I was alone in a place where there was nothing.
There were no sounds, there was nothing — that’s when I felt fear. I asked myself, “What am I doing here?” and my son started to cry. I started to try and comfort him but nothing would calm him down.
“Where do I go?” I wondered; you couldn’t see anything.
But I thought, “Well I’m here already.”
Once my son calmed down I got on my knees to thank God and ask him for help.
I had been told that I had to turn myself over to Border Patrol but didn’t know if they would come for me. I asked God to guide me on where I should go and what I should do.
I just started to cry and shake from fear because it wasn’t cold.
When I looked around I saw a car but I didn’t want to walk out to the road because I’d heard stories of what could happen, so I waited on the side of the road until the car stopped.
It was Border Patrol — I felt relieved.
They started talking to me but I couldn’t understand because they were speaking in English. But then an agent that spoke Spanish arrived and told me they were going to detain me. They asked me where I had entered from and I told them over the fence. “With the baby?,” they asked, and I told them yes.
Once they put me in the car I felt a sense of peace — I felt relaxed.
Once I started to live in the U.S., my mom would call me often to ask me for money.
Once I earned what I owed the man who lent me money to cross, I sent it to my mom and she paid the money back, but she would keep calling me, telling me she needed money because she was sick.
So I would send her money, but then I started to think that I had to also look out for my son and myself.
I made this journey for my son.
If I didn’t have him who knows how my life would be.
I don’t know if I would be here because when I was in Guatemala, there were many moments where I thought that if I was dead I wouldn’t have to go through what I was going through. But once I had my son I knew I had to keep moving forward. I knew that I had to do everything I could to succeed — for him.
And well now I see he’s getting bigger I thank God, and all the help I’ve received here.
Now, he’s big and I’m getting ahead we’re seeing things in a different light, and he gives me strength. Before when I would get home from work really tired my son would hug me, now that he can talk he’ll ask me, “Mommy you’re home from work. Are you tired?”
I answer back yes and he says, “aw, my love.”
I want what’s best for him and I’ll always want that — I want him to have everything I couldn’t.