Seeking Better (El Salvador)

Chalatenango, El Salvador (by Marvin Solis)








I began the interview by asking my mother something I have asked about many times before – about her life in El Salvador.

“Well I grew up very poor, my family did not have much. However we were happy, what we had made us happy, and even though we lived in poverty we still were able to enjoy our lives”. I could tell that she was recalling the hard times of her childhood, however very clearly remembers the good parts of her childhood as well.

I then asked her what made her decide to leave her homeland and come to the United States. She explained “ In my country I was nobody, I felt like I had zero self worth and so I decided to risk what I had to try and become somebody in the United States”.  This was difficult to hear coming from her, as my whole life I have viewed my mother as confident and optimistic. I had no clue some of the early struggles she had to go through in order to find herself.

I asked her about the journey coming to the United States, she explained to me that she was unable to get papers to come into the United States at that time. She also explained to me that El Salvador was just coming out of a brutal civil war that destroyed families and devastated the country. She said that to this day she has images and memories implanted in her head of those times. Without having papers to legally cross the border into the United States, she was forced to go through a very risky route. She initially flew from El Salvador to Mexico. Where she then crossed the border on foot, with the help of a coyote. She explained that the process was hard, but she had it better than many other people. She explained to me how her sister went to pick her up at the border in the state of Arizona. Her sister then drove her up to Mountain View where my mom had a place to sleep. I asked my mother if it was difficult finding work, she said “Actually I had it pretty easy, my sister took me to work with her the day after I arrived. I shortly after started working for a cleaning company.”

I asked about other challenges she faced when coming to the United States, she quickly responded “ well the first challenge was the fact I could not speak any english, I felt like I did not fit in because I could not speak english. I also felt very homesick the first few years as life in the United States is a lot more solitary than what I was used to back in El Salvador”.

When she spoke of these challenges, I asked how she overcame them. She told me that the language barrier is something she still struggles with. She said that her english is not great but that now she can hold small conversations and can communicate effectively in english. She said she learned a lot of her English in school when she payed for language classes, however she wishes she would have gone to school for longer than the 2 years she went. I asked her how life in the United States compares to El Salvador and she had this to say, “ I think life in El Salvador is more peaceful and in many ways better.

In the United States the only thing anybody is worried about is working and making more money”. I asked if she had any regrets about her decision. She told me that she doesn’t because she knew of the sacrifices she was making before she came to the United States. She also told me that she is proud of her accomplishments and that her main goal was to give her kids the most opportunity in life.

I asked her if she believed she made the correct decision coming to the United States, she didn’t hesitate and said “ One hundred percent I believe I made the right decision. I have a wonderful family and have accomplished more here than I could have ever in El Salvador”.


I knew very little about my mothers childhood coming into the interview and so learning about her life at roughly the same age as me right now was fascinating. I think this also puts into perspective how lucky I am to have what I have. I have opportunities all around me and I have much more support than my mom ever had.


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