Seeking a Better Future (El Salvador)

Dina Hernandez is from the department of Morazan in El Salvador.

We were 7 children in total and we lived with my mom and dad. My childhood was very sad because the children in El Salvador didn’t know the difference between living like an adult and a child, because we had to work like adults. I didn’t really have a childhood because I had to work so hard for a long time.

Since there were no good or adequate paying jobs, my family and I had to live in poverty.

There was the Salvadoran Civil War in the 1980’s when I lived in El Salvador. I was once in the middle of a firefight between two groups but I was too scared to move! (laughs) I could’ve died! What if a soldier saw me and thought that I was an enemy? It was super dangerous. We also had to pay attention to where we were walking because there were mines on the ground.  

I left because of the poverty and I also left because I had two children and I had no help from their fathers. So I left to the U.S. so I can earn money to help raise them. If I did that, then they would have food, clothes, shoes, and everything they needed to survive and live a healthy life.

I was very sad because I had to leave my children. Of course I was also sad because I had to say goodbye to my parents and it was especially sad to say bye to my dad.

I heard that there were jobs in the U.S. and that people changed their lives over there. I wanted to get a job in the U.S.A. and save money to buy a house in El Salvador.

When I left, I was 23 years old. I came here with two of my brothers and we got split up on the way there. I came here on the bus, car rides, and walking. The people who helped us get to the U.S.A. were good and kind people because they let us shower, gave us food, and helped us get to different places safely.

We had to go through the desert without even knowing what was waiting for us there. We were not prepared and we had no protection for the weather because we didn’t know. It was really cold at night and really hot in the day. There were also dangerous and weird animals there that could kill us. Since we had no protection from the weather, we got really sick and had bad colds. There were times where we had to hide and not make noise, but it was hard not to because we were really sick.

When I had to walk across the desert with my brothers, I got one of my feet hurt and I couldn’t walk. The guide who was in charge told my brothers to leave me behind, but they helped me walk anyway. After we had finished our walk across the desert, we were ready to get picked up and taken to our families. We a saw a van that we thought was going to pick us up. But it was actually “la migra”! We tried to run away but the police officer threatened to shoot at us and so we stopped because we were scared of getting shot. Then we went to the police station and they scanned our fingerprints to know our identities. We said that we were from Mexico and they believed us and they ended up sending us back to Mexico. When they left us in Mexico, there were people waiting for us. I don’t know how they knew where we were going to be (laughs) but they knew. Then we went back to the same place where we were originally supposed to be picked up. Then we went to our families in a car.

I felt really relieved that I finally got to the U.S. I was really happy because I was with my older brother and sister that I had not seen in a long time. I started to work in a sandwich shop on the second day I got here because my sister was somewhat like a manager there. I had to adjust to English and it was really hard for me, because I had to know how to communicate with people in my job. But it wasn’t that hard because I went to adult school and it helped me learn English.

Moving here impacted me in a good way because I was able to work and take care of my kids so that they can have a better life. It was good because I learned another language, English. It was also good because my kids were able to go to school in El Salvador and have clothes and school utilities.

If I didn’t come to the U.S.A., I wouldn’t have a good life and I would be poor and suffer a lot because of the living conditions there and the work. My children would not be able to go to school because I would not have the money to help them. We would not also have enough money to buy food, clothes, and shoes. We wouldn’t have happiness.

The story of Dina was written and recorded by her son.

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