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Javi’s Story. The Journey

In this journey I will play with my life, to live or die, but for love a person will summon up supreme strength.

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Javi in Salvadoran church

Young Javi Reyes honors his graveside promise to his Dad to work to provide a better life for his mother and sister. Photo provided by family.

Life without father

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The situation of my family is becoming very hard. It has been one year since my dad’s death. My mom is not a professional. Her little home store, the pequena tienda, is not covering the family expenses. I am getting bad grades because I am also working in the store. Who is going to help us?

The violence in our town is also increasing. The gangs are fighting each other and are killing  young people without any reason. Several of my friends have been murdered. They have forced people to pay money for keeping their stores open. I am scared.

Screen grab from television announcement by Salvadoran gang leader of a truce for Easter weekend in 2016.

The violence continues. Screen grab from televised announcement by Salvadoran gang leader of a temporary truce for Easter weekend in 2016.

I have also been thinking about a promise that I made in front of my dad’s coffin. I committed myself to providing a better life for my mom and sister, to see them happy and not suffer.

I have made the final decision. I will go to the United States to fulfill the dream of a better future.  I don’t see any alternative. I can live with my mom’s brother who has lived in New York City for 10 years, though I have not seen him for a long time.

In this journey I will play with my life, to live or die, but for love a person will summon up supreme strength.



The journey begins

Wednesday, October 16 2012

I woke up at 4:30am to begin my journey.

My mom and sister are awake already. Mom made me chocolate milk with cookies for breakfast. While I was eating, they waited to tell me a last goodbye and give me a last hug. It is so hard to see them cry for me, and I cannot not stop the tears from my eyes.

I will travel through Guatemala towards the Mexican border. My mom promised eight thousand U.S. dollars to a Mexican “coyote,” a guide for crossing borders illegally into the United States. So expensive! I will meet the coyote in Guatemala.

I hug them and then a pickup truck arrives outside of my house. When I get to the truck, I see an old man, 50 years old, in the driver’s seat.

As we left, I see my mom and sister raising their hands to say goodbye. Right then, I wanted get down from the truck, but I cannot turn back.

I ride in the truck for about four hours, and soon after 9:00 am we arrived at the Lempa River on the border of El Salvador and Guatemala. A large, old black man was waiting there with a 14 year old girl named Susana, who is also traveling. We will have to cross the river to continue into Guatemala.

The man gives me a rope. Susana is on my back, because she is too small to stand in the fast river current. I cross the river in about 20 minutes. After arriving to the other side, another car is waiting for me and the girl. I notice that every time that we switch from one car to another car, the driver gives money to the other driver. It feels like we are being sold.

Eventually, we get into a big bus, which we ride for seven hours, crossing the entire country of Guatemala.

Now, it is dark, and I am looking at the stars. I can see my father there.

Lempa River. Photo: Settit Beyene

Lempa River. Photo: Settit Beyene

Friday 19, October 2012

This morning, the coyote wakes me up at 5 AM, because we have to cross the Usumacinta River to get to the Mexico side. This river is bigger than the first river that we crossed, maybe 80 feet across, and the current is fast.

I am using a rope again to cross the river with Susana on my back. When I get to the middle of the river, I have to walk on tiptoes.

After thirty minutes of crossing the river I finally touch Mexican soil. However, there are police in the area. Susana can’t run anymore, so I put her again on my back and run into a cornfield to hide for forty more minutes.


Guatemala Mexico border

Migrant crossing at Usumacinta River

I have asthma, so my lungs are burning and I can hardly breathe. I collapse in the middle of the field. But the coyote grabs my hand and pulls, and I grab the girl’s hand. We finally reach the highway where a van is waiting to take us to a hotel called “Los Viajeros” (The Travelers). Thanks to God, they did not see us.

The room is comfortable, with a soft bed and a TV. What a contrast! Susana and I eat the spicy beans with eggs and rice that are provided. It seems that everything is going well. I feel very hopeful, because I know that God is with me. I can do it!

-- with assistance of Pauline Dolle

Next: Falling into the hands of a drug cartel.


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