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A Tragic Journey

I am going to tell you my sad story, the Calvary that I suffered in order to arrive in the UnitedStates of America. It was the Way of the Cross.

Everything happened when gangs of delinquents in El Salvador killed my first son, Ignacio, who was 23 years old. It was this painful circumstance that made my husband and I and our other son immigrate to the United States. This same gang of robbers was looking for my family in order to kill us. In order to leave El Salvador, I had to take out a loan of 6,000 colones ($500) on my little house. Because of this, if I do not pay the money back by January 15 they will evict my mother from her house.

We left El Salvador on August 19th of 1996, nearing Mexico on August 21 on a boat. Mexican policemen caught up with us in the middle of the river, stopping our passenger boat. They arrived in a smaller boat and told us all the undocumented had to move onto their boat. Then they began to insult us, beating all of the men with their guns. The police hit our son in the face with a gun and blood ran out of his mouth. They hit my husband on the back and took all the money we had with us. They did the same to all the group; we were nineteen people of different countries. The Guatemalans had four big duffle bags of clothing and when the police stood up to continue beating them, with the weight of the clothing and of all of us, the boat in which they were, sank.

Ten people drowned, among them my second son, Gonzalo, 22 years old, leaving three orphans who are my grandchildren. At this moment they are homeless.

When all this happened, my husband and I decided we still had to continue our journey. When we arrived at Matamoros at the end of November, since we were completely out of money, I had to beg, going with a man on all the buses, singing, singing, in order to collect money for food and to continue our journey. We didn’t know there was a house of refuge in Matamoros.

Rio Grande

We crossed the Rio Grande on November 29.

Arriving in Brownsville we met up with a coyote who offered to take us to Houston for $800. As we didn’t have this money, he took us to his home so that from there my husband could comunicate by telephone with his family so they would send money to pay for the trip.
His family asked him to wait a few days so that they could get the money together.

In the meantime, the coyote took everyone out of his house in the mornings to wash cars in order to earn money so that we could eat. He left me in his house so that I could do the housework. It wasn’t until Monday that my husband’s brothers sent him $1,000.

Where is my Husband?

Every day the coyote had taken my husband to Western Union to check on the arrival of the money, but each time in the evening he brought him back. It was only this last time on the Monday that he received the money that he did not bring him back. The coyote came home alone.

I asked for my husband and the coyote answered furiously, telling me that he never wanted to see this dude here in his house again. I told him to take me where my husband was and he took me to a pool hall where my husband had washed cars, telling me that he was there and leaving me there in the street.

I asked if my husband was in this pool hall. A man told me that he had gone in a brown car with a woman and three men, where supposedly he was going to sleep. But at about midnight this brown car came back with only two men and a woman. I ran to them, asking for my husband. They answered that they had taken him to a house about five houses from where the coyote lived. When I asked them to please take me there, they told me they it was very far for them to take me where he was. I, weeping, offered them the three dollars that my husband had given me before he left me in the morning–all that I had–if they would take me there. They told me they would, because they felt sorry for me, that something might happen to me in the street there where it was very dangerous at this hour. My husband had told them that I was pregnant. For this reason they took me where supposedly they had taken him. The driver got out and said to the men who were there, “Here comes the wife of the man I just left here.” I got out of the car, asking two men who were there where my husband was. They told me he had left to look for me because he was afraid for me to be alone in coyote’s house. I waited at this house for his return. He never returned.

I thought Immigration must have picked him up and returned him to Matamoros. I searched all day Tuesday and didn’t find him. It wasn’t until Wednesday that I went to the Sheriff. It was he who told me they had shot my husband to death on Monday between midnight and the morning. The Sheriff did nothing about the fact that the coyote murdered my husband for $1,000, even though it was obvious.

The Sheriff himself, knowing that I had nowhere to go, himself took me to Casa Romero (Ozanam Center) operated by the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Brownsville. If we had known this house existed, my husband would not have died.

At the morgue they told me I should not look at my husband’s body because it was so disfigured from the bullets in his head. I never saw him again.

I could not leave the area until I knew what they were going to do with my husband’s body. I waited until his family was able to pay so that his remains were returned to El Salvador, where his mother received him. His body was sent back on December 21.

Now I find myself alone without my husband and without the only two sons I had. In the pain and trauma of the death of my husband, I lost the baby I was carrying. I have four grandchildren as a remembrance of my sons. For this reason, I gathered my courage. I don’t know from where it came, except from God our Father.

I could not retrace my steps and flee back. My grandchildren, my mother, my aunt who are now my family depend on me and I am their only hope.

I thank the people who have helped me, especially Sister Fatima Mary in Casa Romero who gave me her unconditional help and had a Mass celebrated for my husband. The other guests of Casa Romero all supported me and prayed with me. And thanks to Casa Juan Diego, this house of succour and assistance which gives all help and protection to immigrants.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XVII, No. 1, January-February 1997.