Immigrant Stories: Escaping from a nightmare
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Intro: When Ana Ariza was 5 years old, war broke out in El Salvador. For the next 10 years she and her brothers and sisters grew up in the midst of what often seemed like a nightmare. Finally, when she was seventeen Ana’s mother was able to get visas for her children and bring them to the United States.
Now, 15 years later, Ana is married and has two children of her own. Here she talks about leaving and returning to her homeland.
Ariza: I came to the United States in 1995, legally. My mother came in 1985. During that time, the civil war was going on in El Salvador. That’s why my mother came to the United States. She was trying to help us to get out of there. That was her main goal, to get us out of the war. Meanwhile, she was praying that we didn’t get killed and that she would be able to bring her children and her parents to the United States to be safe.
Gallacher: Did you want to come to the United States?
Ariza: I didn’t want to leave my home to tell you the truth. It was really sad. I wanted to stay with my grandparents and be in my home. It was hard to leave my home.
Gallacher: Do you remember the day you left?
Ariza: Yes. The day we left it was a very rainy day. There was no transportation and we had to walk for four hours to get a car and go to the airport. My grandpa took us, walking all the way down. While we were walking he was giving us advice. He was telling us how to obey the laws and how to behave. He was wishing us good luck and he said he was hoping he would see us again.
It was really sad because I grew up with my grandparents and for me they were everything. To me it was like something was taken out of me, like part of my heart. Then I got here to the United States and for a whole year all I did was cry, morning and night. I didn’t cry when I was working or at school but when I was at home I felt alone and sad. All I wanted to do is go back to El Salvador.
Gallacher: Were you safe in El Salvador?
Ariza: Not really but I wanted to be with my grandparents.
Gallacher: Have you seen your grandparents?
Ariza: Yes. After we were here three years we were able to get them legal papers. Now they are able to come every six months.
Gallacher: Have you been back to visit with your children?
Ariza: Yes, but they don’t like it because my grandparents don’t have the same resources that we have here. They don’t have a car or a refrigerator. It’s dirty there. They don’t like the mosquitoes either. There are a lot of mosquitoes. My kids are American. They don’t like El Salvador. They think that just poor people live down there. That is really hard for me.
My husband’s parents live in the city and my kids just want to stay there with them. They don’t want to stay with my grandparents. That’s hard because I want to spend time with my grandparents in their village. My kids don’t like the village. It doesn’t have grocery stores where they can go buy whatever they want right away. My grandparents have to travel forty-five minutes to go to the grocery store.
Some day my kids will appreciate that life like I do now. I didn’t know how happy I was when I was living there until I got here. Here you have to worry about paying your mortgage, your bills, you need to work so you can succeed.
Gallacher: Was there a time when you started to feel like the U.S. could be your home?
Ariza: Yes, after a year, after I went back to El Salvador. I realized then that America was a better place for me to start a life. It was hard though, because I didn’t feel like I belonged to here and I didn’t feel like I belonged to El Salvador either. But then, life goes on and good things come along.
I realized that I had to make up my mind to stay. My country is really poor. There are no jobs there. All you can do is work and farm all the time. But when you come to America and start making money then feel that you have to be in America.
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