Originally published in English by Lincoln High School’s student newspaper, the Cardinal Times (February 12, 2021)
My name is Joel Reyes and I am from Honduras. I will tell you about my journey emigrating from my country to the United States.
There are times when one desires to accomplish every one of their dreams that they have in mind and meet their goals of helping their family move forward. A better future for my family and me was what I desired. When I was seven years old, I started working because I knew what my family was going through financially at the time and I had decided to help with a little money. As the years went on, our situation remained the same and we did not see how we would triumph over our difficulties. December arrived, the time to be with family, together and united—my aunt was already preparing the tamales and torrejas for New Year’s, and we spent Christmas as a family, happy about the new year that was approaching.
The celebration was going well, until on December 29, news arrived that would take away our excitement to welcome the new year with joy. My father had passed away that very night. It was news that broke all of us into a thousand pieces. We had to accept that he was going to rest in peace and that we would never see him again. I had to gain strength to continue fighting for my family and each of my goals, but as time went on, our situation did not improve, and when we got to 2019, I had gotten to the point where I had to work all day long and study at night. It was barely enough. Still, I was always sure that I would succeed in life.
As the months went on, I no longer wanted to be stuck in the same struggle. One Sunday, I was selling at a market. Standing next to big sacks and surrounded by the smell of vegetables, the idea of emigrating to the United States crossed my mind. It was quite a difficult decision to make. It was even more difficult to leave my mother and little brother behind, but I had to accept the opportunity and decided that I was going to emigrate to the US.
Later that week, I told a cousin that I was going to emigrate and he replied with sadness on his face that he wanted to go too. I was moved because I would no longer have to travel alone. During that week and with the proceeds from the sale of some beans, I managed to collect 5,000 lempiras. It was little, about $200, but with that money, we had enough to leave Honduras. Our trip was set for Tuesday, May 28, something exciting but simultaneously sad for our families. When Monday arrived, I had to prepare the things that I was going to travel with that day. I put deodorant and a lot of underwear in my backpack. I also included a sweater for the cold.
My mother was working, and by the time she got home at five in the afternoon, I had everything ready to go. Saying goodbye to my mother broke my heart, and seeing her cry was very difficult for me, but I could not turn back because I did not want to continue in the same situation. She looked at me with a sad face and told me not to leave her abandoned. I gave her a big hug and told her how much I loved her before I left for my cousin’s house because I would sleep there before leaving the next day at dawn.
It was 4 a.m. and we were ready to leave and take the risky migratory path. We took the first bus in Siguatepeque and I looked back with tears in my eyes, remembering the memories of this place. Getting on the bus was the hardest moment of the whole trip because when I traveled to San Pedro Sula, I had always gone with my mother to visit her family, but that day she was not with me and it made me sad to know that I would not see her again. I had to gather up my strength and give it my all to be able to fulfill my purpose of reaching the United States. The bus would take us to San Pedro Sula, which was where the bus terminal for getting to Guatemala was located.
The moment we arrived at the terminal, we went to buy a whole roast chicken. It was the most delicious thing in the world—and the last food made in Honduras that I ever tasted in my life. It was what we were going to bring with us to eat on the way. We boarded our bus at 9 a.m. and left for Guatemala. Hours passed and we arrived at the border at 5 p.m. I had to go around the border crossing because I would be undocumented in Guatemala and could not officially register myself. There was a little road that could be used for a few, basically a toll. We arrived at a place called Chiquimula, where we stayed to sleep in a house that helps immigrants, and they provided us with food and a place to rest.
At dawn, we left for our next destination of Santa Elena, which took us eight hours to get to by bus. When we arrived, we rested for the hour before our next bus left. Tears started rolling down my face once again at the thought of having left behind my family. I called my mom for the first time since I had left Honduras. I trusted in God that I would make it to my destination.
It was time to take the next bus that would take me to the Mexican border and it was a long six hours. The trip had been quite complicated, but I was in Los Naranjos on the Mexican border, where we had arrived in the course of the night. There was nothing to cover us and we looked for some cardboard from the hardware store across the street and slept under a covered area. Those were moments of sadness and we were hit by a big storm that soaked all the clothes we were wearing. Damn! What luck.
The next day some people told us to give them 100 Mexican pesos to take us to Mexico and we agreed to what they said. While we went to Mexico, we had to go in a boat for two hours down the river. In the river, we saw crocodiles of all sizes. They looked like demons. I was very afraid that one of these ferocious green animals was going to follow us until we were able to get to Mexico. In Mexico, the situation was already more complicated because we had to be more careful because of everything we would have to face from then on.
When we were in Mexico, we arrived at a certain point with the people who had taken us to that place. After that, we spent at most an hour with those same people, but then I had to take another road with my cousin and we had to walk to find the train tracks.
Well, that’s it for now. I hope you liked this first part and I will wait for you in the second installment where I will tell you about my journey through the streets of Mexico, the mountains of Texas, the detention centers, all the way up until my arrival in Oregon.
Translation by Lucia Aballay and Alex Haddon.