Submitted by Kathia Granados
I used to always look through the window of my house in El Salvador and watch the little kids
running and playing around outside. They looked really happy, but when I stepped outside my
door I could see the gangs coming to the street with all kind of drugs and with guns in their
pockets so they could be prepared for “anything” that might happen. When I would stare out my window, I would think about all the girls that had been raped and about how every teenage boy would have to join the gang in order to not be killed himself.
Two different gangs control the country, MS and 18. The are several conflicts between those
gangs. People that belong to a street controlled by 18 cannot come to the street where the MS
is or vice versa. I remember one time I was walking to school when I saw four guys from the
gang came up to one of my classmates (a guy) and start talking about join the gang. They told
him that he would get money from stealing from people, but he said no. They tried to hit him, but he did not let them, and he ran back to the house. That was the last time I ever saw him. I have known nothing about him since that day. All I know is that people who do not join the gang get a punishment, the death punishment.
Every day on my way home from school, guys from the gang yelled things at me like “I want
you to be mine”, “You look so fine”, “I am going to kidnap you one day”, “I want to kiss you” and I could not say anything to them because it was too dangerous. I was scared that they would do something to me and my family. I couldn’t go to the police because they would not do anything since they always have people from the gang that work there.
Although I did not live with either my mom or my dad because they abandoned me when I was
younger, I lived with my grandmother. She and I used to watch tv and movies while laying down next to each other in bed. I could tell by the way she treated me like I was her daughter that her love for me was beyond a grandmother’s love. She always cooked for me and took care of me when my parents were not there. She even gave me her food when she did not have something to eat because she preferred me to grow up healthy.
Even though we had difficult times, she always taught me to be a better person and to always
give the best of me. She taught me the world was hard, but if you remain strong you can get to
where you want to be. She taught me that all the good things are hard to get but worth it. Her
strength helped me when I decided to moved to the United States so I could have the
opportunity to change my future. I had to leave the person who never abandoned me in order to be safe from gangs and danger. Even though I’m not with her now, I remember her love and the good times we shared like when we went to the beach and we ran into the water because it was a hot day and we ended up losing our flip flops, watching them float away.
When I crossed the border to The United States migration officers were all over the place. I am
a minor so they put me in a cold room for 2 days while they could get more information of me
and send me somewhere else. The immigration settle houses were taking care of me and other
kids who like me crossed the border. I remember seeing the cars racing on the streets and I just
looked and stared at them because I felt like I was outside running wild. I cried a lot because I
missed my family and I could not see anyone. All the memories of my grandmother, my aunt
and my cousins were in my mind and I could not stop remembering all those things.
Two months later I got out. Everything looked different to me. It might be because I had two
months without going out and just being in one place, the malls were amazing I was even
impressed by the streets and the cars.
The country just blew up my mind. I could feel how my body was shaking and I started crying.
I was so excited to start up a new life and do all the things I had been waiting to do without
worries. I had to start learning a new language (English) because I had to communicate with
people. Laws and regulations are completely different as they are in El Salvador but I am
getting used to. I did not know anything about taxes and how they work, it was like a completely new world to me.
Although I am a refugee it is really hard for me to do something like getting a license, going out of the country, getting loans, apply to FAFSA, and some others things. I try not to give up there because there is always a solution that would set up my goals and take me where I want to me so I can become a professional.
Submitted by Kathia Granados
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